When it comes to your garden, did you know there is an ideal time of day when you want to harvest most of your produce? Plant physiology changes throughout the day, based on temperature, water availability, plant maturity, and even with the presence of harmful bugs and insects.
In general, the best time of day to harvest your produce is in the morning after the dew has evaporated from the leaves. This is especially important for plants that are more susceptible to fungal diseases. As the day progresses, the air and plant temperatures increase, and “field heat” that is stored in the crops must be removed quickly to improve flavour, reduce water loss (wilting), inhibit the growth of microorganisms, and improve storage qualities. If you can’t harvest all your produce in the morning after the dew has evaporated, we have a couple other suggestions to get the most out of your garden.
For leafy greens, we find harvesting is best from very early in the morning (you can even start before dawn) until late morning. An alternative is in the evening towards the end of the day. If the plants are looking dry and starting to wilt, you may be better off giving the plants a thorough watering and either waiting a few hours or postponing to the next day before harvesting.
For fruiting plants like tomatoes, beans, peppers, etc, the morning is generally the best time as well, though they are generally less sensitive to wilting during the day than tender greens. Try to remove their field heat as quickly as possible by bringing them to a cool location (ex. fridge if applicable), dunking them into a bucket of cold/cool water, or misting them to generate evaporative cooling.
Like all harvest practices, we recommend using a sharp knife to make as clean a cut as possible and in general not to harvest more than one third of the plant at a time (for leafy crops).