It’s harvest time in Alaska. Wait wait. I’m not saying you should rush out and take down your gardens right away. A freeze is certainly not imminent. It’s just that you just have food and flowers that need to be picked and enjoyed.
There are a few reasons why you should be harvesting that go beyond just enjoying the benefits of your bounty (flowers around the house, snow peas in that fried rice, fresh tomatoes with that basil, and a bit of Mozzarella). You don’t really need it anymore, but I’ll give it to you.
The first reason to start harvesting now is that it’s time to do it. Yes, we have plenty of growing season left, but there are plenty of things in your gardens that you need to get when they’re ripe. Start with the radishes that get too big and your kohlrabi if it approaches the size of a baseball. Once they get too big, they both get pulpy. Oh, and don’t forget the rhubarb which may actually be past its prime.
Then there are flowering mustard plants, flowering lettuces, flowering chard and spinach. These are grown for their green parts and although the flowers and pods are generally edible, once they start to appear the leaf parts don’t taste any better! Sometimes they stop growing. Harvest them while they are edible.
I guess a lot of flowers fall into this category. Once most bloom, that’s it for the season. Things like peonies, irises, lilies, delphiniums belong in vases unless you’re trying to collect seeds.
Next are the plants that you actually need to harvest to keep them producing for the rest of the season. I have already written about the need to constantly pick snow peas and snow peas for more to appear. Don’t let them develop large peas inside these pods. Broccoli is another plant that will produce again if you just cut off the flowers and not the whole stem.
We might as well include indeterminate tomatoes in this batch. They are the winegrowers. Harvesting the fruit before it is overripe promotes flowering of the vine. If you have the right variety, strawberries will also produce more flowers if you pick the fruits as they ripen.
Likewise, removing spent flowers from annuals usually forces them to produce new ones in their quest to produce seed. We call it dead heads, but you and your plants might be better off “harvesting” them before they run out so you can bring them inside and enjoy. This has the great advantage of encouraging the plant to start producing the new flowers earlier.
Oh, and don’t forget your basket plants. Pelargonium, fuchsia and begonia will continue to bloom if they don’t eventually go to seed. You can cut back the lobelia and if your petunias aren’t self-dead, you’ll have to do the chore.
Thinnings count as harvests. There are two ways to thin. You can simply cut all the necessary seedlings to give the others, all at once, all the room they will need to produce. Or, and this is my suggestion, thin gradually increasing the space between plants over time. This way you can eat the thins and they will get bigger each time you lose weight. It works especially well with carrots, lettuces and beets. In fact, any vegetable that needs to be pulled out to make room for neighbors.
Jeff’s Alaska Gardening Calendar:
Alaska Botanical Garden: Register. www.alaskabg.org
Water: One inch between you and Mother Nature per week. Two wouldn’t hurt. Get those raspberries.
Willow Garden Tour 2022: Five major gardens, plus artists, pottery and woodworking at various locations. Saturday, July 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Download the tour map and directions at willowgardenclub.blogspot.com.