This is a wide-open topic, since so many vegetables and fruits require so many different things to be harvested efficiently and safely. It could be as simple as your hands and a basket or box; it could require specialized tools; it might even be useful to have a tractor. It really depends on your crop and the size of your farmstead.
- A set of garden shears will always come in handy. A good set will have strong, ergonomic handles and blades that stay sharp for a long time (or can easily be sharpened). A box cutter can help too.
- If you have vines that are a bit thicker, consider a harvesting knife. Designed to be held in one hand, this knife has a long, curved blade designed for quick slicing.
- While a handheld or long-handled spade is obviously a go-to, when it comes to potatoes, you may want to specialize with a potato fork. They vary from the long-handled, three-prong “grapes” (or graips) all the way up to a nine-prong fork with bulb-ends to reduce root damage.
- Up out of the dirt and into the trees, you can utilize ladders specifically designed to be placed in orchards – or, if heights aren’t your thing, there are telescoping fruit harvesters with baskets on the ends, so all you have to do is reach up and aim right.
- A garden cart or a wheelbarrow is a good investment for use year-round, but come harvest it may turn into your best friend. Produce can get heavy quickly, so take advantage of something with wheels.
- Produce bags, usually made of a mesh material, and baskets are must-haves for storing the fruits (and veggies!) of your labor once it’s off the vine/bush/stalk/branch. Bushel baskets are often round and made of a lightweight wood, with two handles.
- A sturdy pair of gloves is also a necessity, but make sure they’re flexible enough for you to pinch and pull the smaller-sized crops.
- And, it should go without saying, but here’s a friendly reminder: Comfortable shoes and the proper attire are also needed for a safe harvest. Depending on the size of your operation, you could be out in the garden, field or orchard for a while. Autumn is also a time when tick activity ramps up, so long sleeves and pant legs are required.
Before your goodies are harvested, though, make sure you have a plan for what you’re going to do with everything. With root crops, storage in a cool, dry place is usually sufficient for a while. With others, like tomatoes and peppers, a little extra work may be required. Learning how to preserve your harvest can be really rewarding – if you do it right. (We’ll cover that in a later post.) In the meantime, check out this video from the Food Channel on how to can tomatoes.