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Impatient? Tips for a quicker vegetable harvest

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 8:09 p.m.

Speed the harvest with simple tips

Vegetable gardening is an exercise in patience. Sweet potatoes can take more than 100 days to ripen; some tomato and watermelon varieties require five months.

But there are ways to shorten the wait.

The easiest is choosing plants that taste best when harvested young.

“The one thing you will miss out on with speedy growing is bulk, but what you will get in return is layers of flavor; a sprinkle of hot and peppery micro-green radish here, a sweet and nutty, barely cooked new potato there, a garnish of cucumber-y borage flowers to finish a dish,” writes Mark Diacono in the new “The Speedy Vegetable Garden” (Timber Press). “These are the crops that will mark out your cooking as distinctly and unquestionably homegrown.”

There are many ways to jumpstart the growing season so you can be harvesting a meal while other gardeners are just beginning to turn the ground. Among them:

• Choose the warmest site possible if you're planting early. “Even a small change in temperature can make a difference during spring and fall frosts,” says Jo Ann Robbins, an extension educator with the University of Idaho.

• Use enclosures. Covering plants moderates temperature, wind and humidity.

• Start vegetable plants inside from seed, and transplant them eventually into the garden.

• Warm the soil early. “Throw a piece of black or clear polyethylene over the soil in early spring, pin it down with tent pegs or bricks, and wait,” Diacono says. “The sun will warm it and excessive water will be kept off, leaving it in a fantastically workable state a few weeks later and conducive to quick plant growth.”

Final winter antiques show is March 10

The final Westmoreland County Antiques Show of the winter season will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 10 at the Greensburg Hose Co. No. 1, 6 McLaughlin Drive.

More than 30 dealers will be displaying everything from military items and sports memorabilia to old crocks and vintage jewelry.

Admission is $1. Early admission from 6 to 8 a.m. is $8. Details: 724-216-9200

IKEA plans special BYOF event

IKEA is encouraging customers to BYOF (Bring Your Own Friends) on March 9 when stories nationwide will offer several special perks, activities and giveaways.

The event is part of the IKEA Live Improvement Project that is designed to offer consumers suggestions to make a positive impact on their homes and lives.

IKEA Pittsburgh in Robinson will be giving away five $200 gift cards during the day. At 1 p.m. there will be a Life Improvement Seminar on “Empowering Women, Artesian Cooperatives that Transform Communities.” Anupama Jain of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will discuss the inspiration behind the museum's latest exhibit, “Empowering Women.”

From 1 to 4 p.m., a home-furnishing expert will be available to discuss customer's specific design challenges. There will be free food samples throughout the day.

Register for the event at and then print out coupons for a free breakfast, $5 off a purchase at the Swedish Food Market and a free blue bag.

— Staff and wire reports

Send Homework items to Features in care of Sue Jones, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, D.L. Clark Building, 503 Martindale St., Pittsburgh, PA 15212; fax 412-320-7966; or email

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