When to Harvest

You’ve spent all spring and summer working hard in your garden—now it’s time to reap what you’ve sown.


When to Harvest PotatoesPotatoes

Harvest spuds after most of the vines have died, when skin is firm, and before ground temps drop below 40°F; otherwise, starches turn to sugar, ruining the taste.


When to Harvest RadishesRadishes

  • Harvest when roots are 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
  • Shoulders pop up through the soil when the radish is fully grown.
  • If left too long, roots become woody or pithy.

When to Harvest Summer SquashSummer Squash

  • Pluck these when your thumbnail can easily puncture the rind.
  • For zucchini and other long-fruiting types, harvest them at 6 to 8 inches long.
  • Bigger than 8 inches, these varieties lose their sweetness and too many seeds are formed.
  • For smaller, scalloped types, harvest at 3 to 4 inches in diameter.

When to Harvest PumpkinsWinter squash

  • Harvest when fruit is mature (your thumbnail does not readily pierce the skin).
  • Leave a 2-inch stem to avoid storage rot, and harvest before a hard frost.

When to Harvest TomatoesTomatoes

  • Depending on variety, harvest at full color and when they are firm.
  • An overripe tomato quickly loses its firmness.
  • “Some varieties have green shoulders when ripe, so they are not always one single color,” says Leung.
  • If you pick underripe tomatoes, set them away from direct sunlight, ideally in a bowl with a banana to continue the ripening process.
  • Never put them in the refrigerator—cold temperatures spoil the flavor and texture of your homegrown tomatoes.

Check out our 10 tips for growing awesome tomatoes and our Beginner's Guide to Home Canning.


When to Harvest WatermelonWatermelon
Look for these indicators of ripeness: The tendril closest to the fruit’s stem withers and browns; the belly turns cream to yellowish in color; and when you tap the fruit, you hear a dull, hollow sound.

Yum! Check out this recipe for Tomato Watermelon Salad!