From the ground up: Learn when to harvest certain foods from garden

Learn about cover crops Thursday at Coe College

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The sun is shining more than 15 hours a day this time of year but when you are farming or gardening or landscaping, there never seems to be enough time to realize all your plans. When it comes to the bigger projects, well, those are the easiest to put off. However, if you measure your progress year by year, or season by season rather than day by day, it can help you understand the successes you have had and bring you more motivation and encouragement to continue realizing your dreams for your yard and garden. Inspiration is everywhere — you just need to look for it.

This week, with the gardening season in full swing, we tackle the question — when can we harvest the food planted in your yards and gardens? In many cases, the answer is different if it is the first season for that crop. Richard Jauron, horticulturalist from Iowa State University Extension & Outreach answers this question.

Q: What are the harvest waiting periods for vegetables and fruits?

A: As gardeners plant their vegetables and fruits, they anxiously look forward to their first harvest. For some vegetables, the wait is short. Radishes may be ready to harvest in 20 days. However, some small fruits and tree fruits should not be allowed to bear fruit for a specific period of time. Any blossoms that form during this period should be removed to allow for maximum vegetative growth, resulting in higher yields in later years. Asparagus also needs to be well established before plants are harvested. The harvest waiting periods for several vegetables and fruits are listed below.


No asparagus spears should be harvested during the first growing season. Asparagus can be harvested over a three- to four-week period during its second growing season. In following years, asparagus plantings can be harvested until early to mid-June.


After planting rhubarb, it’s best to wait two years (growing seasons) before harvesting any stalks. Rhubarb can be harvested over a four-week period in the third year. In the fourth and succeeding years, stalks can be harvested for eight to 10 weeks.

Tree Fruits

Remove all fruit that form on apple trees and other tree fruits during the first three growing seasons.


Remove all blossoms that form on blueberry bushes during the first two growing seasons.


Remove any flower/fruit clusters that appear in the second year. Depending on the vigor of the cultivar, the first harvest of grapes should be in the third or fourth year.


During the first growing season, all the blossoms should be removed from June-bearing strawberries. Check the strawberry plants once a week and remove the blossoms by pinching or cutting. Flower production on June-bearing strawberries should stop by early July.

Remove the flowers on everbearing and day-neutral strawberries for six weeks after planting to allow for good plant establishment. Later flowers may be allowed to develop into fruit.

The establishment period for some vegetables and fruits is critical. If not harvested or allowed to fruit during this period, they should reward you with bountiful crops for many years.


“Boost Soil Health with Cover Crops,” 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Coe College’s Cherry Auditorium in Peterson Hall. Sponsored by Iowa NRCS & the Soil & Water Conservation District. Learn how diverse cover crop mixes can boost your soil health from Ohio farmer Dave Brandt and Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation agronomist Ray Archuleta. Topics include designing cover crop mixes, cover crop management systems, soil function demonstrations and field demonstrations. Free.

“Prairie Gardens” 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Ely Public Library, 1595 Dows St., Ely. Master Gardener Doug Smith talks about our prairie heritage, how to construct one, chose plants and care for them.

“Backyard Chicken Basics,” 7 p.m. Thursday at Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. $7 to $10. Registration required by 4 p.m. Wednesday. Covers the basic information needed to raise hens in urban and suburban areas. Participants will receive a certificate of completion that enables them to get a permit to legally keep chickens in Cedar Rapids.

Bring Nature Home: Vegetable Gardening for Kids, 10 a.m. Saturday at Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. Learn about seeds, plants and easy vegetables for families to grow and enjoy together. Each child will leave with seeds for a veggie garden. Register by 4 p.m. June 7. $15.

Questions on gardening, land use or local foods? Contact Michelle Kenyon Brown, community ag programs manager at Linn County Extension,

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