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Scheduling produce care and harvest

 
Posts: 15
Location: No. California, East Bay, Zone 10a
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Although I'm not a garden beginner, this is sort of a beginner type of question.

How to set up a daily schedule for harvesting from the garden and immediately using the produce for the most nutritional benefit?


After 14 years in this location, I'm really getting my garden infrastructure finalized and getting much more organized about starting plants, growing food, succession plantings, etc. Now I'm going to be producing even more vegetables and fruit. In the past, always behind, I'd do a huge harvest, a huge processing into cooking and freezing and pickling, and it took a lot of time and a lot of work to process each batch, and sometimes some of it would have to go into the compost because I just couldn't manage to do it before the produce faded. I've been re-reading some of the Colemans' books, but couldn't find ideas on this topic. I do have some great timesavers of cooking produce, storing immediately in mason jars which seal, and it keeps fresh in the fridge. Same for the denser parts of a salad mix, only cold.

For instance today, I have time for harvest, but not time for food prep. But I really need to harvest, so I'll stash it in the fridge, losing nutrients. The reality is that I don't have time to do more than minimal prep 3x/day. I do have time to prepare from scratch 2x/week, so I make a lot each time and eat pre-made from scratch food all week.

The weather is getting warm now, so I'll have a morning routine of watering and surveying the garden. Time to add the next steps.

How do you do it?
 
pollinator
Posts: 116
Location: Vancouver, Washington
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Excellent question, Janice! I struggle with  that every year. Right now, my cabbage has bolted, and my carrots, spinach and Swiss chard are starting to. I look at my garden and think I should have picked all of these earlier. When I can, freeze or dry food and then eat it later, I think it would have been better fresh. And each year, I renew my commitment to grow less so I can eat it fresher and pick it fresh so I enjoy it more. I don't have the answer. I am posting my reply to commiserate and so that I know when some people who do know the answer post what they do!
 
steward
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One way to look at this is that no matter how long it has been picked, the produce that comes from the garden is so much fresher than what is at the grocery store.

I personally would pick from my garden and enjoy it when I can even if it is fresh, frozen or canned.

Carrots at the grocery store might have been picked anywhere from one month to one year.

I remember that tomatoes are picked three months before they get to the grocerystore and these were picked green.
 
gardener
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Location: South of Capricorn
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I think it's an endless rabbit hole of a question. Even if you think you have it sorted, one flukey weather event or bug attack or sprained ankle can send it all sideways. I don't think I know anyone who even as a seasoned gardener doesn't call in help/send out bulletins asking for people to come and take some tomatoes/zucchini/whatever off their hands once in a while.
I know personally what works for me is
-trying to reserve some time regularly, even/especially when my money job is nuts-- and being religious about it when I need to. A few weeks ago I had to turn down multiple weekend things because it was time to rip out the summer garden/prep the beds/put in the winter garden in line with the moon planting schedule that I find really makes a difference with these winter crops, and I took a lot of flak for skipping some social events. But if I don't have garden time during the week, my weekends are reserved, and the same goes for food preserving when necessary. Some things just can't wait.
-investigating the best way to store things
-**keeping things on the plant/in the ground as long as is viable** (this is a personal challenge for me sometimes; I'm experimenting with more new crops that store better out in the field vs. crops that need picking every day, for example)
- the opposite is also true, like Jen mentions-- sometimes it's better to pull something out earlier than I'd prefer versus have it bolt. Or rip out something scraggly that probably won't yield much more, in order to get started on the next succession. I always feel bad ripping out the last okra, when I probably could have gotten one more meal, but needs must. In an ideal world I'd leave them all in the ground for seed, but I'm not in an ideal garden and I need turnover!
-with time, I get better at triage and estimating how much time I need, and I put stuff on my calendar when it's time-dependent, like the situation mentioned above
- like Anne mentioned, remembering that big picture, it's better to have my own veggies in the fridge for a few days than to buy some that came from far away.

We all do the best we can, and I think it's fair to say that we all balance a bunch of things.
 
pollinator
Posts: 146
Location: Southern Ontario, 6b
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As I plan each year, and build up the permaculture plants, I keep trying to find more things and ways to eat/preserve stuff earlier.
What can we eat in the spring? Early June? We are far enough north that the bulk generally comes in aug/sept/oct, so as much as I can get us eating before then is helpful.
I chose my pear trees in the old place so they would have staggered ripening times, and that was vastly helpful. Summercrisp may not be the most exciting pears, but they are tasty, cook well and were typically ready before mid August. I'm totally getting another one for our new place.
I read about taking cabbage heads early, like mid/late June and then they set multiple, smaller ones for a second late harvest. It supposedly gives a net higher production but even if it's close, getting half of the crop early has value. I'll be trying it this year.
We'll start eating our kales by June. We love pea greens and very young green beans. Radish and kohlrabi tend to be fast growers and done early. Garlic scrapes are a big winner for us. I like to run them through the blender and freeze in pucks for garlic butter, soups and sauces. I'm putting in lots of squash so it's possible squash blossoms and baby squash will be on the menu.
We also try to have recipes that work for things like green tomatoes. In a bumper year, I have made the call to do a big batch of green tomato pickles or mincemeat to keep us from drowning in the ripe crop.
Also, food prices are nut here so at least I can always donate extras and know that they are helping others out.
 
gardener
Posts: 807
Location: Ontario - Currently in Zone 4b
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Most things can be preserved simply by rinsing them and tossing them in freezer bags in he freezer.

Sure, blanching them first might be better, but oh well. Good enough.  Summer is busy and our AC does not keep up with canning! I don't toss things in the fridge until i have time to deal with them, i toss them into the freezer. I dont even label them since i can see what things are, and make sure i've used it all up by late spring. In harvest season i try to pick daily as i wander the garden and just keep ongoing bags i close as i fill in the freezer.  Particularly things that arent enough of for a meal now, but over time, will amount to something. Most "summer crops" come into peak production here between mid August and early sept. 4 weeks, if we are lucky. There is no chance i'd be able to properly can it all!

Whole tomatos, frozen are a treat to make fresh tomato soup with in the winter when i have more time. I might even take them out of the freezer mid summer if i get it in my head to do a big batch of tomato sauce. Chopped frozen peppers make an easy start on winter dinners. Whole hot peppers. Grated or just chopped to fit in a bag zuchini. Basil. SO MUCH RHUBARB. Raspberries. Cooking greens. Whole green beans. Garlic scapes. Etc, etc. Sometimes if i'm cooking I'll put an extra portion of whatever mixed veggies i prepped into the freezer. But mostly, freeze now, prep later.

Don't overpack the bags (which makes them split when you go to use the food) and you can rinse the bags out and reuse next season and get stuff out of them without heating the plastic.

I also try to stagger harvests with variety choice and planting dates. My rows are mostly 4 feet long. Last frost is in a month and I already have 5 rows of carrots in the garden from 2 sowings, and am planning on another couple this week, and more later on. I do this for most things because i really cannot do big harvests or big planting days.

I grow a lot of storage crops which are far less fussy and time sensitive.
 
pollinator
Posts: 418
Location: West Linn Oregon, USA zone 8b
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I expect that when/if we get an actual yard instead of our current patio where we grow everything in pots this will become more of a problem.  There's only two of us so we eat things as they become ready.  My two pots of radishes are almost all harvested, we use them in salads and the leaves in either salads or sauteying with other vegitibles.  We just play it by ear and haven't had much waste yet of unpicked things.  As I grow more things I learn more about how each behaves and how to maximize what I have.  For instance last year spinich bolted faster than I thought it would, things like that.  But now I know I need to watch it better, we still used the leaves even so and they tasted good in salad, and in spinich artichoke dip.  There's a part of me that is looking forward to having enough of anything to have too much and have to give it away to friends and family.
 
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