Does it matter in what order you pick your vegetables? You'd better believe it! Consider how long each one takes to harvest, wash, and clean, and how fragile it is. You certainly don't want to pick your delicate lettuce first (even if it takes the longest) and let it sit around for two hours while you harvest everything else. Some small things, such as parsley or beans, can be harvested first and put in the refrigerator or cooler. String beans take a long time to harvest but take up little room. You might also have a small amount of spinach — enough to fill up a shopping bag or two — so that could fit in the cooler as well.
Root vegetables take a little time and have to be cleaned, but they don't take up much room and can be left in water. Have an extra pail or two, or an old ice chest. Styrofoam picnic chests can be purchased very cheaply, or you can make your own by gluing a few sheets of styrofoam together and putting them in a heavy plastic bag. Fill with water, drop in a chunk of ice, and you're set with storage for root crops for hours.
Lettuce will be the bulkiest of your crops. You'll probably have case after case of several varieties. If you have a real problem keeping things cool while you harvest, try digging a ground pit big enough to store several crates. The ground is very cool if you go down four to five feet. The ideal one would have a side entrance and an earth cover. You'll find it also serves a special purpose in the fall and winter for storing root crops with protection from freezing. If it's close to your garden area, it will be just as handy in summer as in winter.
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