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Harvesting Your Gardens

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
August 23, 2017        
Source:  Beth Berlin, Extension Educator-Horticulture
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton, & Morrison Counties

Harvesting Your Gardens
By Beth Berlin, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (8/23/17) — Late August and into September are often a very bountiful time of harvest for your vegetable gardens.  Harvesting at the correct time will result in the best produce and minimize waste due to being overripe or insect damage.  Here are some tips you may find helpful when determining when to harvest and how to store.

There are three major types of storage classifications to consider when storing your abundant harvest. Cold and moist is 32-40°F with 95% relative humidity; cold and dry is 32-40°F and 65% relative humidity; cool and dry is 50-60°F and 60% relative humidity.

Onions are ready to harvest when the tops turn yellow or brown and fall over.  Be sure to stop watering when the tops fall over, if you continue to water after this point you are decreasing its storage potential.  Other tips when harvesting onions include leaving the onions lay in the garden for one clear day. Use tops of ones to cover the bulbs of the others so they do not get sunscald.  Cure at room temperature for 2-4 weeks before storing to prevent rot. During this curing process the neck should become dry and doesn’t slip and the outer skin of the onion should become papery. Leave the papery skin in place for protection until you are ready to use the onion.

A few root crops to highlight include carrots, which should be harvested when tops are one-inch in diameter; store without tops in a cool moist location for up to 8 months.  Potatoes should be harvested when plant has died back; store in cold and moist conditions out of sunlight, cure at 50-60°F for 14 days before storage; will keep up to 6 months. Beets should be harvested when they reach 1.25-3 inch diameter and stored in cool and moist conditions for up to 5 months; store without tops.

Peppers and tomatoes should be harvested when they reached desired size and color. They are best stored in a cool spot at 55°F in a perforated plastic bag for 2 weeks. Peppers will keep for a few days in a refrigerator; however tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator.  Peppers will develop pitting if temperatures are 45°F or lower.

Harvest winter squash when shells are hard and before a frost. Depending on the variety they will store for 2-6 months in a cool and dry location.  Pumpkins should also be harvested when shells are hard and stored in a cool and dry location, but they are sensitive to temperatures that reach below 45°F.

For a complete list of harvesting and storage recommendations visit

If you have canning or preservation questions call the Extension’s Answer Line at (800)854-1678, Monday-Friday from 9:00am-12:00pm & 1:00pm-4:00pm.

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