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Oct. 23, 2021 | Saturday
Editorials and Opinions
Growing Together: September a busy time for harvesting vegetables
Squash. (Joanne Young photo)

Joanne Young
Special to The Lake Report

I just love this time of year! There is less humidity, lower temperatures and fresher air.

There are also many chores in the garden to get done. September can be a busy time in the garden for harvesting vegetables, with many crops just reaching their peak in the coming weeks. Here are just a few of the vegetables that are commonly harvested in September and October and how best to tackle it.

Spanish Onions

The proper time to harvest Spanish onions is after the leaves turn yellow and the stems bend over. I am reminded of my childhood when helping out in my Grandpa’s garden and our family’s large vegetable garden.

We were often asked to walk down the rows of onions, and using our feet, we would go along and bend over the onion leaves. I never understood at that time why we did this, but now, knowing the science behind how plants function, it all makes sense.

When the leaves of the onions are still green, all the food that the plants have created from the sunlight during the summer months is still in the leaves. When the leaves begin to yellow, this is the time that the stored food in the leaves begins to travel down into the bulb. This means that by waiting for the leaves to yellow, you will have larger, and more solid onions.

Carefully lift the bulbs out of the soil using a garden fork, and leave them to dry in a warm, dry spot for two weeks before storing them in a cool, dry location such as a cold cellar.


This year seemed be a bumper year for tomatoes. If you still have tomatoes left on the plants that haven’t ripened up yet, it is best to remove some of the leaves so that the sunlight can hit the fruit and help them ripen quicker. If your tomatoes haven’t ripened by the first frost, you can pick them green and place them in a warm spot out of direct sunlight and they will slowly ripen.


Potatoes can be ready to harvest anytime from late August into October. To know when your crop is ready, wait until the foliage starts to turn yellow and wither. It is then that the tubers will be full-grown. Carefully dig them using a garden for,k trying not to damage the potatoes. Potatoes that are nicked and bruised before storing will not store well, so make sure that you use those ones first. Once dug, remove as much dirt as possible and leave to dry for a few hours before storing in a cool (5-10 Celsius), dark place over winter. A cold cellar is an ideal place.

Squash and Pumpkins

Winter squash, such as butternut, spaghetti and acorn squash, can taste bland and watery and will not store well unless you allow them to fully ripen on the vines. It is best to wait until the plants die back and the shells become hard. If the plants receive a light frost, this can improve the flavour of the squash because it will turn some of the starch into sugars. This is also true for pumpkins. Store in a cool place.

Cabbage and Cauliflower

When the cabbage heads are firm, take a sharp knife and cut the stalk just below the head. Fresh cabbage always has the best flavour, but late season varieties will keep well in a moist, cool place (like the refrigerator) for five or six months. When harvesting cauliflower, cut just below the heads but include the first couple of whorled leaves to help protect the florets.

Happy havesting!

 Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at