It's the end of June, and by now the first round of summer crops should be ready to enjoy. Whether eaten fresh or preserved for later, there's nothing tastier than a first-of-the-season delight you planted yourself.


Late June yields many early crops. Knowing when to harvest is the key to success.

  • Snap beans should be picked before the seeds look enlarged, while they're still tender. Stringless beans become fibrous if they stay on the plant too long. Make sure pods are uniform and tender. Wash beans shortly after picking by rinsing with cold water. Dry beans thoroughly on a screened table, then refrigerate in a waxed cardboard box, for up to 5 days. You can easily make a vegetable drying table by setting a clean window screen on top of a crate or plastic container. Set it in a well-ventilated area, spreading harvest across the screen to dry.
  • Cucumbers probably haven't reached slicing size yet, but the small ones will be ready for pickles. Because you'll need to get on the ground to harvest vine crops, be sure to use knee pads or a small cart to save wear on your joints. Cucumbers should be harvested 3 times a week when fruit is growing. Letting the vegetables get too big will prevent more cucumbers from forming. Wipe clean or wash in water. They can be stored for up to 2 weeks at a temperature of 40-45º.
  • Summer squash that are 2-3 inches in diameter and up to 7 inches long are the ideal size to harvest. Pick them every 3-5 days. Handle gently because summer squash bruises easily. Wipe clean with a damp cloth and store for up to a week at 40-45º.
  • Spinach should be harvested when leaves are 6-8 inches long. Pull larger, whole plants from the row. Outer leaves of kale should be broken off when they are 8-10 inches. New leaves will continue to grow.
  • Turnips are ready when the roots are 2-2 1/2 inches in diameter.
  • Kohlrabi can be harvested when the bulbs reach 2-4 inches across, but some of the giant cultivars can reach 8 inches without becoming woody. 
  • For lettuce, remove the outer leaves from leaf or head varieties when they are 4-6 inches long. New leaves will form and provide a continuous harvest until the weather gets hot. 

In early July, you can harvest beets when the roots are 1 1/2-3 inches across. Cut off broccoli 6-7 inches below the heads, after they are fully developed. Peppers should be picked when fruits reach the appropriate color and are firm. The roots of carrots should be at least 3/4 inch in diameter before harvesting. However, they can stay in the ground until just before heavy frost if you want to keep them for storage.


The herb garden should provide a bountiful harvest throughout the summer months. For the best flavor, harvest leaves before the plants flower. Remove the flowers as they develop. Cut leaves and stems early in the day, when the leaves are dry, and cut only what you need. Note: kitchen shears are great for cutting herbs. Pinching off the tender tips will keep plants compact and full. This is especially beneficial for basil.

Break off the young and tender chive leaves at the base throughout the season. Dill provides both leaves and seeds. For pickles, cut the fruiting top with several inches of stem. Cut the greenery for use in salads and dips. Harvest long-stemmed herbs like parsley, rosemary, lavender and cilantro when the leaves are 3-4 inches long. Cut stalks at ground level and the younger interior stalks will get more sun and have room to grow. Mint leaves can be pinched off as needed. Placing the stems of your freshly-harvested herbs in a glass of water will allow them to keep several days in the refrigerator.



The most plentiful fruit of early summer is the strawberry. The Great Lakes region is blessed with many pick-your-own farms. If you are fortunate enough to have your own strawberry bed, here are a few tips. Pick the fruit often, being sure to remove overripe berries, which could contribute to disease and insect infestation. When harvesting, cradle the fruit in your hand and pinch stem between thumb and forefinger, twisting fruit to remove. Be sure to get the caps along with the fruit. To keep the fruit from bruising, place picked fruit in shallow containers (quart or pint sizes). After picking, store the fruit by cooling the containers immediately in the refrigerator. Do not wash the berries until ready to use them.

When cool, fruit may be stored in vented plastic bags up to 4 days. A handy tip for removing the stem is to push a drinking straw from the bottom end of the berry through the top. The stem will pop right off! This is an entertaining way for children to help prepare the berries. After stems are removed, wash the berries thoroughly by rinsing under running water.

Stone fruits

Cherries and other stone fruit will be ready to harvest in mid-late July. Harvest fruit when mature, before it begins to fall off the trees. The best way to determine ripeness is to taste it. Sweet cherries should be picked with the stems, if you do not plan to use the fruit within a few days. While picking, gently place fruit into containers to avoid bruising. Other stone fruits, such as peaches and plums should be harvested without the stems. Grip the fruit in your hand to pick rather than using fingers, which will bruise the ripe fruit. Stone fruits will only store for a short period of time, usually a few days to 2 weeks. Do not store bruised or blemished fruit, because it won't keep well. Place in perforated plastic bags to maintain high humidity.

Raspberries and Blackberries

Raspberries are ready in mid-July and blackberries are generally harvestable later in the summer. They're best picked in morning or evening, avoiding mid-day sun. Use two hands to pick, one to hold the plant and one to remove the berries. Handle gently and place picked berries in a very shallow layer in containers. Refrigerate in loosely covered containers for up to 2 days. Do not wash until ready to use.

When it comes time to preserve your crops, Fleet Farm carries whatever you'll need: dehydrators, canning equipment, freezer bags and containers.