1st time gardner needs advice on when to harvest
Our first time gardening has so far been very successful. Our tomato plants have nearly reached my shoulder! The cilantro is thriving; the basil is the size of a bush. I'm fine harvesting the herbs when needed for cooking and have been systematically pinching off all the herbs' flowers. But have no idea when to start cutting off the veggies. I've attached a pic of our green beans. We have 3 bean plants and one of them seems to have grown beans! When do we start harvesting? I'm so excited, even if it yields 3 beans to start with.
How exciting! I can't believe your cilantro is thriving at the same time your tomatoes and beans are ready to pick. Cilantro hates the heat or so I've heard. Your beans are ready for picking. When they are close to the width of a pencil or slightly larger is about the right time to pick. If you wait until the individual beans inside the pod are very noticeable, you'll lose quality and the plant will slow down. Your tomatoes obviously need to stay on the vine until ripened, but most other vegetables, say beans, squashes, eggplant, cukes, the taste is best at a smaller size. Plus the more you pick, the more your plants will produce. Happy gardening! Watch out, you just might get hooked.
You can pick the beans at whatever size you like, from very tiny to large enough to require shelling. They are very good when they are tiny but you don't get much "bean for your buck". I agree that pencil size is about right. You will probably find that you need more than three bean plants. Maybe try growing some pole beans next year if you don't have much space.
Tomatoes, for me it depends on how the plants are doing and whether vermin are bothering them. I will frequently pick them when about a quarter of the tomato is still slightly green and let them finish ripening on the window sill.
The more you pick the basil, the more you'll get (and no flowers). You can rinse, dry, and freeze the leaves if you have too much to use right away. They won't be super pretty to put on a margherita pizza whole or to use as a garnish, but they will taste just fine in sauces, marinades, dressings, etc.
I hate the flavor the cilantro gets once it even thinks about flowering so no advice there. I've left mine to just do its thing. I want to see if I can get coriander seeds from it.
I would also add that since this is your first time gardening, look out for the dreaded tomato hornworm. If you notice chewed leaves or the telltale droppings, start looking directly above the droppings. They can be hard to see, as they are the same shade of green as the plant. Google for an image.
I thought of this post this morning when I pulled a 4" long, at least 1/2" thick hornworm off of a tomato plant. I just pulled one off a couple days ago on the same plant. I had been looking for droppings on the leaves and didn't see any. Just happened to be stooped down to see how dry the soil was when I noticed the miniscule green grenades on top of the mulch. Aha! Seems I forget about the green grenades every year. Of course, when you see them, you know without a doubt there is a fat hornworm somewhere near the top of the plant, almost always directly above the droppings. They are especially hard to see when they are attached to a stem.
For most things, better sooner than later. I think those beans look just about ready now. Generally speaking, don't wait around for veggies to get as big as ones you sometimes see in stores. Bell peppers, squash, okra, cucumbers - these are all better when they are smaller rather than gigantic, IMO. Tomatoes, of course, are best ripened on the vine and tomatillos develop inside the papery outer shell so I wait for them to almost fill the shell before picking. For root crops, like radishes, beets, turnips, carrots, etc., be sure to thin them ( you can eat the thinned ones, including greens) so that they have room to grown.