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Low-order harmonics, third and fifth, of IR (1064 nm) laser emission have been produced in laser ablation plasmas of the metals manganese, copper and silver. The harmonics were generated in a process triggered by laser ablation followed by frequency up-conversion of a fundamental laser beam that propagates parallel to the target surface. These studies were carried out in two temporal regimes by creating the ablation plasma using either nanosecond or picosecond pulses and then probing the plasma plume with pulses of the same duration. The spatiotemporal behavior of the generated harmonics was characterized and reveals the distinct composition and dynamics of the plasma species that act as nonlinear media, allowing the comparison of different processes that control the generation efficiency. These results serve to guide the choice of laser ablation plasmas to be used for efficient high harmonic generation of laser radiation.