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Harvesting Crops: Hydroponic Grow Tips for Gathering your Greens

Harvest time is exciting. Make sure you do it right. Harvest time is exciting. Make sure you do it right.


Like every other step in the growing process, harvesting is all about precision. Follow these tips to get the most from your finished crop.

Research Your Crop

Observation is critical. Start your research by checking websites for similar plants, and consult other growers who have worked with the same cultivar.

Harvest Factor X

Temperatures, nutrients and plant health can all affect the harvest schedule, so timing may vary by a few days from one harvest to the next. Once you have worked with the same strain for three or more harvests, you will be able to recognize colors and fragrances that indicate ripeness.

Subtle is the Teacher

Even plants that stay green through harvest will change color slightly. Green Zebra tomatoes start out green and are harvested after they have matured to a slightly different green. Growers familiar with this strain can see the change from green to bright green, because experience has been their teacher.

Learn the Difference

Use a loupe or microscope to view subtle changes in color. Harvest one third of your garden while the rest grows for three more days. Harvest another third, and then let the last few plants grow for another three days. Now you have three different harvest times to compare, so you will know when to harvest the next crop.

Rinsing for Clean Crops

Stop feeding your plants one to two weeks before harvest. Keep watering, but omit the nutrients. If you keep feeding in the days before harvest, the stored fertilizers will still be in the plant when you consume it, drastically reducing quality.

Quality Factors

Highly inoculated, low-NPK compost tea is a great addition to the rinse cycle. Beneficial bacteria and fungi will break down nutrients in the root zone so leftover plant food can be rinsed away.

Chelating agents put a non-stick coating on fertilizer salts. When chelates are used in the rinse week, salts become loosey-goosey instead of stuck to roots or soil. Those salts can then be rinsed away with water.

Filtered water should be used over chlorine-rich tap water. Chlorine can diminish yield and quality.

How to Do It

On day one of your rinse cycle, give your garden twice the normal amount of water combined with compost tea.

On day two, give your plants water. Begin using the chelate rinsing supplement on the third day. This step should be done with at least twice the required amount of water for optimal flushing.

After introducing the chelates, simply rinse the growing medium with filtered water for the next five or more days.

Drying Slowly

For the best possible taste, herbs must be thoroughly dried.

You may think your sage is dry after three days, but the stems will hold moisture that your fingers can’t detect. Let it dry another three to four days before storing it in a clean mason jar.

Air, light and bacteria are the enemies of dried herbs. Seal your herbs in glass jars with airtight lids, and keep them tucked away. Bacterial damage results from moisture, and it smells terrible! Thoroughly dry the plant matter and periodically check stored herbs for dampness.

Storing Your Harvest Treasure

Often the best flavor and potency is achieved after a harvest has been on the shelf for a few weeks or months. Some growers will consume a harvest before it can achieve the complex aromas and flavors that come with age. Try to store some samples for two months, six months and nine months. With experimentation you can isolate the ideal age for your particular variety of herbs.

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Neil Young knows a thing or two about a good harvest.
Last modified on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 18:32

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