This time of year can be a very busy one in your garden. The harvest period means that a variety of your produce will be ready to pick. Harvesting can of course be a lot of fun. But it can also be a bit overwhelming. Especially if you have a productive garden but have not put adequate plans in place.
So to help you make sure that everything goes according to plan, and that you make the most of all the crops you grow, here are some tips for an orderly harvest period:
Plan What Will Be Harvested When
The first thing to think about is being a little more organised when it comes to planning your gardening year and preparing for various big harvests. It is important to understand when you should expect to harvest certain crops. Of course, in a garden, you can’t plan everything down to the minutiae. Things will be different on different years, with different weather conditions. One summer can be very different to the next.
However, you can plan your gardening year to make sure you don’t have any other major jobs to do during what are likely to be busy harvesting periods. You can also stagger plantings and take other steps to spread out harvesting over a longer period. This can make it easier for you to stay on top of things.
For example, I have quite a few apple trees, and so plan accordingly so I do not have too many other big harvesting or other garden jobs to do when those are likely to be ready.
Decide What To Do With Your Harvest Ahead of Time
While I do try to plan and spread out harvesting over the whole of the year, there are still inevitably times when I have to deal with a large number of fruits of vegetables at a given time. I have learned that it is vitally important, no matter how large or small your garden may be, to think about what you will do with your crops once you have harvested them.
Ask yourself whether you will be able to use them up right away, will freeze them, store them in a pantry or root cellar, or preserve them in other ways. Having an answer will mean that there is no sudden panic to get things ready when you harvest your home grown produce.
Gather Useful Recipes For Your Harvest
It can be a great idea, too, to gather recipes for key harvests ahead of time, so you have all the other ingredients you need on hand. When you are prepared you will find it a lot easier to manage abundant yields from your garden.
Be sure to find recipes which appeal to you, which can be used when cooking and eating crops right away. But consider also finding recipes which will help you make preserves to make sure that not a morsel of the food you grow in your garden goes to waste. Jams, jellies, chutney, piccalilli, pickles… there are plenty of different options to learn about and consider.
Thinking about recipes ahead of time can help make sure you have a more orderly harvest period.
Make Sure Storage Areas are Ready
Another thing to think about before the harvest is getting any storage areas ready. You don’t want to have to scramble at the last minute to find space to store crops over the winter months. A dedicated cold-store/ pantry is a wonderful thing, but even if you do not have one, there are a range of ingenious ways to make sure you have an area in your home which is suitable for cool food storage.
If you are freezing crops, clearing space in your freezer and cleaning it out can also be a good idea. Make sure you have room for the produce you wish to freeze to avoid any stress and hassle once the harvesting is complete. Eat up older freezer meals or produce to make space for the new.
Avoiding waste is important and the whole thing will be a lot less stressful if you have planned ahead and have suitable areas ready to store your home grown food.
Set Up A Washing Station and Prep Area
For a more orderly harvest period, it can be a good idea to think through the process of getting your harvest out of your garden and into your home. Commercial market gardeners often have dedicated outdoor washing stations and prep areas where they can sort and clean off produce before they take it into their property. And this can be a good idea for smaller-scale home growers too.
Set up a washing station and prep area close to your composting system and an outdoors tap and you could save a lot of time and effort as you bring in and prepare your harvests. You won’t have to make as many trips back and forth, and can streamline the process.
Invest in Tools To Make the Harvest and Processing Easier
When it comes to the harvest itself, having the right tools and equipment can often also make things a whole lot easier. A hands-free container worn on the body, for example, can make it easier to pick fruits and other produce in your garden. A fruit picker is excellent if you have apples, or other fruit trees. And a good garden fork makes it easier to manage the harvest of tubers and root crops, and other crops which are pried up from the soil.
There are also tools which will make it easier to process the food after picking. A fruit crusher really comes in handy for our apple harvest. And a mandolin can make it easier to slice a number of crops more quickly. Even making sure that you have invested in good kitchen knives can make a big difference.
Another area to think about is the tools that will allow you to preserve your food in different ways. You might consider a dehydrator, for example, to dry your crops without having to use your oven. You might also consider investing in canning jars, a suitable pan for water bath canning, and perhaps even a pressure canner if you want to can low-acid foods.
Do you have additional tips for an orderly harvest period? Have you had any harvesting nightmares, and if not, how do you make sure the whole thing goes swimmingly? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.