It's been a great fruit season and now's the time to pick the late summer fruits and berries. But how and when you harvest can make all the difference.
Let's start with peaches. Whether yours grew big or small, harvest when the background color of the peach skin turns from green to yellow. They can still be hard or slightly soft when squeezed.
For plums, wait until the color changes completely to purple, red or yellow depending on the variety, and when the skin is soft when lightly pressed.
With fall raspberries and blackberries, wait until the fruit comes off easily with a slight tug. Of course, taste testing is the sure way to know when they're at their peak.
Apples on the south side and outside of the tree will ripen faster than those on the inside. The best indication of ripeness is when the flesh turns from green to white and when the apple comes off the tree with an easy twist.
Finally, pears are a little different. They're best harvested when fully formed but not ripe on the tree. Look for the background color to change from green to yellow, when they begin dropping on their own and the fruits easily separate when twisted.
Now for this week's tip: if you have fields with milkweed you're leaving for the monarch butterfly, it's best to wait until September or October to cut them back. In August, new young shoots of milkweed are sprouting and are egg-laying sites for the adult monarchs. Cutting fields too early eliminates this vital food source for the caterpillars.