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Gardening Advice & Tips for Irish Gardeners

The Weekend Gardener (Part 18)

The growing season is coming to an end and now with all the hard work done its time to reap our rewards in the vegetable garden. The Harvest is an exciting time as we get the pick and eat fresh a wide range of fruit and vegetables directly in our garden.

Different vegetables are harvested in different ways and at different times, and it is important to know the method in harvesting to ensure the best results. Some of the more difficult vegetables to harvest right are onions, potatoes and broccoli.

Weekend Gardener

When harvesting onions timing is important. If you don’t wait long enough and the onion bulbs has not fully formed then all your summers work could go to waste. Onion’s leaves must first turn yellow and fade before you can start harvesting. Generally onions are happy to stay in the ground until you need them but be sure to harvest all onions before the first October frosts. The best time to harvest onions is between late August and the beginning of October.

Harvesting Potatoes is tricky too as there are different types and each should be harvested at different times. Earlies are smaller potatoes and these are harvested first. As potatoes are tubers they too become bigger and better as their foliage dies down, so don’t harvest your potatoes until the tops of the foliage has begun to fade. Potatoes are hardy and can withstand a certain amount of frost but they need also to be harvested before any hard frost. Harvest rows of potatoes using a digging fork. Pry the fork under the potato plant, lifting the plant by its leaves. Inspect the harvest for two things: signs of pests and blight and check that the potatoes skin is firm and does not rub off the tuber easily.

If your crops has signs of pest attach or blight you should harvest the entire crop the save it and prevent the spread to the disease. If the skins of the potato is not firm then you should leave the potato to mature in the ground for a bit longer.

Broccoli can be difficult to get right also. Timing like never before is crucial. There is a narrow window where broccoli can be harvested. The time is when the flower heads are most dense and before flowering starts. If small yellow petals appear then the broccoli should be harvested immediately. The best time to harvest broccoli is when the individual florets start ti separate out and the flower head opens up. Within a few days the quality of the head starts to deteriorate. When harvesting just cut away the individual flower heads and allow the plant to develop additional side shoots and therefore more flower heads. But there secondary flowers are even harder to harvest as they run to seed a lot faster.

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