Wouldn’t we just love to have our vegetables ripen before the usual specified time? Well, good thing is there are ways to shorten the wait for a fruitful harvest.

An early harvest!

An early harvest!

It’s very much possible says Mark Diacono who gardens on a 17-acre plot in Devon, England. Here are a few excerpts from his new gardening book “The Speedy Vegetable Garden”: “The one thing you will miss out on with speedy growing is bulk, but what you will get in return is layers of flavor; a sprinkle of hot and peppery micro-green radish here, a sweet and nutty, barely cooked new potato there, a garnish of cucumber-y borage flowers to finish a dish. These are the crops that will mark out your cooking as distinctly and unquestionably home-grown.”

Timing is apparently key. “Be slow to harvest and you’ll miss their best moments. These are fresh, lively and zingy flavors, flavors that can either fade or become bitter and overly strong as the plant grows on toward maturity. Tomatoes, strawberries and apples all want to be left on the plant until they are fully ripe to get the fullest, lushest flavors out of them,” Diacono says.

“Vegetables are a little different. Many get woodier, less succulent and lower in sweetness as they grow more mature, so really are at their loveliest picked young.” This includes new potatoes, radishes, baby carrots, zucchini, miniature cucumbers, spring peas, turnips and beets.

Also, if you want to be making meals out of your own harvest earlier grow varieties that have shorter maturity dates. Most heirloom tomatoes need 100 odd days to develop whereas cherry tomatoes need only about 65 days.

Of the many ways to jump-start your harvesting period here are a few:-

-Plant in the warmest site in your garden if you’re planting early.  “Even a small change in temperature can make a difference during spring and fall frosts,” says Jo Ann Robbins, an extension educator with the University of Idaho.

– Using enclosures over plants is a win-win. By covering the plants you’re moderating key factors such as temperature, wind and humidity enabling minimal interference to the plants. “Air and soil temperatures are warmer, and the cover will conserve heat radiation from the soil during the night,” Robbins says in a fact sheet.

– Starting vegetables from seeds indoors while it’s still cold outside will help you get the most of the growing season once it becomes warm outside. When it is finally warm outside you can transplant your mini-vegetable plants outdoors, thus staying ahead in the race for a quicker harvest. “Research shows the older the transplants, the better they will resist cold weather,” Robbins says.

– Get pro-active and warm the soil in your garden early. “Throw a piece of black or clear polyethylene over the soil in early spring, pin it down with tent pegs or bricks, and wait,” Diacono says. “The sun will warm it and excessive water will be kept off, leaving it in a fantastically workable state a few weeks later and conducive to quick plant growth.”

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