To some, harvest time may conjure images of farmers working the fields night and day, orchards a buzz with workers at the end of the season but for the Calgary home gardener or urban mini-farmer it can start in April and end in November. I’ve heard people say we have two seasons – Winter and not Winter. I like to think we have Summer and not Summer.
Harvest time really depends on the crops you are growing and how long it takes for them to bare fruit. As you’ll be wanting to feed yourself, friends and family throughout the year you’ll probably be growing a lot of different crops. Before investing in seeds, I always look at their ‘days to maturity’ – this will give you a good idea (and in some cases a very exact idea) of the gamble I’m taking and when I’ll be harvesting.
For me, the first harvest signal is in early Spring with the arrival of asparagus and chives, followed by mesclun greens and radishes less than a month later. Throughout the Summer it’s a constant bonanza and keeping up with the bounty becoming a problem (a good problem). Fall is a shit show of things coming on line and cleared areas being re-planted with cool weather loving plants again (that you first enjoyed in the spring) compounded by root vegetables, squashes and alike. With Winter-loving and frost-friendly collards such as Kale, Cabbage and Brussel Sprouts marking the near-end of the garden’s productivity cycle.
I don’t harvest everything at once and believe the best place to store food is in the ground where it is growing. Certainly, potatoes, beets and carrots are picked as I need them. Some crops such as onion (which are technically biennials) can be picked, eaten and enjoyed at anytime in their lifecycle.
What have you got to lose!