We still have some warm season vegetables that we will plant in the garden this season, but eggplant and okra like hot weather and can wait a few more weeks. This week we need to check over our garden and see what is ready to be harvested.
We planted our turnips, carrots, and beets from seed back on February 17th. These all take about two months to grow to harvest, so now is the time to check to see if they are ready. Turnips are ready when they are the size of a tennis ball. A large part of the root is often visible above ground, so it is usually pretty easy to tell when turnips are ready. While turnips will continue to grow if left in the ground, they develop a strong flavor when the weather turns hot, so it is best to pick them as soon as they are big enough.
Beets are ready when they are about the size of a golf ball. This is another root veggie that is visible by just looking at the base of the green, or you can sweep a little bit of the soil away to see how big they are. It is important to not let beets get too large… if they do, they get woody, and hard to eat.
Carrots are a little more difficult to tell when they are large enough. Sometimes you can see the root slightly above ground, but most of the time the carrot is hidden underground. Usually, you just have to pick one and see how big it is. It is important to note when you planted the seed and adding the “days to harvest” listed on your seed packet to determine a date when you will check to see if they are big enough. Because there is an element of surprise when picking carrots, this is a great time to involve young children in the garden and develop an appreciation for gardening and eating vegetables. Kids get so excited when they pull up the green part of the plant and there is a huge orange carrot underneath. Plus, kids eat vegetables that they have a part in growing.
Another veggie that kids love to pick and eat are peas. We planted these on February 3rd, and they are ready to harvest. It is easy to tell when peas are ready. The pod becomes plump, and you can see the shape of the peas inside. These are fun for kids to pick, because if you are not eating the pod, you do not have to wash these off. Just pick, shuck, and eat the peas, right there in the garden. Yum! Do not leave ripe peas on the vine too long. They are sweetest when they are small, and if the pod starts to turn yellow, they will be starchy and dry. If your peas get over-ripe, they are best left for a soup. At my house, peas do not last too long. I shuck them, and they are usually eaten raw that same day. The sugar in peas turns to starch quickly, so it is best to eat, freeze or can them within a day or two.
Elsewhere in the garden, our tomato plants are growing quickly. If you stake your tomatoes, remember to tie them to the stake every 10 inches. Also, check for suckers every few days and pinch them off.