How to know when to remove Summer vegetables from your garden
February 17, 2019
Are the plants in your Summer vegetable garden ready to be removed? I am often asked “how do I know if my tomatoes should be removed?”
Over time you will begin to recognise the downhill slide of your seasonal favourites and when to remove them to make room for something else.
If you mostly answer “yes” to these questions – it is time to remove the plants.
I have summarised the signs that is time to remove some of the most common vegetables grown in home vegetable gardens in Summer below with pictures to guide you.
It is not a great idea to leave vegetables in the garden past the time they are most productive as they tend to be disease prone and that can then spread to other plants in the garden.
Do take note that the beginning of a new season is not always the right time to remove a plant from the vegetable garden. The weather patterns of that particular season may be conducive to the plants and you enjoying an extended season, or a much shorter one. Take note of the variations you experience in your region.
I commonly have Summer vegetables growing and producing through to the mid or end of Autumn. I usually skip planting Autumn vegetables because my Summer plants are still abundant. They are my favorite vegetables to harvest so I leave them as long as they are productive.
Some plants are also suited to being dormant over a period of time and will regenerate the following year – see the notes on capsicums below.
If you are planning on maximising your Summer harvests give your plants a generous feed with compost and maintain water to help keep them productive.
Not listed alphabetically, but most importantly!
Tomatoes are ready to be removed when the stems of the plants turn from green to brown and generally look at little battered. Leaves turn yellow or brown and flowers are no longer produced, or they drop before setting new fruit.
There will be no new growth on tomato plants and will become sparse looking. The plant shown below is ready to be removed. Wait to harvest any fruit that is still ripening on the plant before removing it.
Basil will produce flowers when nearing the end of it’s life. The leaves will change colour, loosing their deep green colour and softness. New leaf production will slow or stop. The stem of the plants will also become blackened.
Beans will begin to get yellow or brown leaves when they are ready to be removed. As with tomatoes, they will cease producing new flowers and growth will stall. They may show signs of mold as the weather cools, especially if it has been wet.
The picture below shows my beans are ready to be removed after I’ve harvested the last of the vegetables.
Capsicum will drop flowers, or the flowers will not produce fruit. The stems of the plant may also brown and look dead, a good sign it’s done! The branches tend to become stunted and the leaves lose their deep green glossy appearance. Note: Capsicum plants can be cut back by about a third and left in the garden over winter. They will regenerate in the following Summer if winter conditions are not too harsh. They do look like a dead stick over the period but if they survive, new growth will appear in Spring. I regularly leave capsicum and chilli in the garden over winter instead of removing them.
Similar to beans, the leaves will begin to discolor and droop. They may show white speckles or yellowing. The number of fruit developing will decline and those on the vine may shrivel or stop growing. The stalk at the base of the plant will wither and brown. If the plant is mostly dis-coloured leaves and no new fruit, it is time to remove it.
Lettuce will get taller and the leaves will change colour, becoming almost waxy in appearance. The taste becomes bitter and the leaves are not as crisp. If left too long they will produce flowers and seed. If you have the space, it is a good opportunity to allow this to happen with a few plants. The seed will drop and germinate when conditions are well suited. The lettuce in the picture below has suffered heat stress and not enough water, contributing to it’s early demise…
Zucchini is ready to remove from the garden when it stops producing new flowers and fruit. The leaves will often be impacted by powdery mildew if there has been some wet weather, this year there has been none so the leaves are yellowing and the base of the plant showing signs of wear.
I hope these notes help you to identify the right time to remove your Summer plants.
If you are keen to start planning for Autumn but need some guidance the Vegetable Garden Workbook can help guide you through each season. Read more about it here.
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