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We live in a day and age where instant gratification is the norm. Therefore, when it comes to gardening, sometimes we want and expect the same. Unfortunately, as a general rule, you can’t speed up the natural world. Plants live and die by the seasons, day length, sunlight and climate. That leaves us gardeners sowing seeds, planting plants and ultimately waiting in order to reap the rewards of our efforts.
Most vegetable gardeners know the great joy and excitement when they finally harvest and taste that first ripe tomato of the season. Fortunately, not all vegetables take so long to mature and produce a harvest. But if instant gratification is more your speed, try planting some of the following fast-growing vegetables in your garden this year. You’ll be eating fresh and tasty homegrown produce in no time!
1. Radishes. For the fastest-growing radishes you’ll want to stick with spring radishes. I’ve had great success with “French Breakfast” radishes in my own garden. These are seeded directly in the garden in the spring and take about a month to mature. You can even eat the tender radish sprouts in salads or on sandwiches if you need to thin your crop, or if just can’t wait the full month until the root is mature.
2. Turnips. Spring turnips have really taken off in popularity the past few years, and for good reason. They are tender and sweet and can be eaten cooked or raw. “Hakurei” and “Tokyo” turnips are two of my favorite varieties, both taking about a month to mature. Don’t forget about those turnip greens! They are delicious tossed into soup or sautéed in a bit of butter on the stove.
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3. Salad mix. Salad mix is a great option for fresh salads all spring and early summer long. If you are looking for the fastest producing mixes, choose those containing only leaf lettuce. With days to maturity right around one month, and the ability to harvest multiple times from one seeding, salad mix is a win-win choice!
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4. Kale and other leafy greens. When choosing quick-growing leafy greens, the options are many. Baby kale, Swiss chard and arugula are a few of my favorites. These are also crops that you can harvest and let regrow for multiple cuttings. Days to maturity depend on specific varieties, but tend to average around 40 days at their baby size. If you don’t get around to harvesting them when they are young, they are equally delicious fully grown.
5. Green onions. Many people would agree that no meal is complete without a touch of onion. Come spring, green onions are a go-to allium available fresh from the garden. If starting these from seed, you can seed about 10 seeds per transplant cell to make for easy harvest of a full bunch when the time comes. Beth red and green varieties are available, with days to maturity averaging about two months.
6. Snap peas. A favorite of many a spring gardener, snap peas taste as sweet as candy when harvested at their peak of freshness. In some climates, you can manage both a spring and fall crop, but they always seem to taste a bit sweeter in the spring. Most varieties will need trellising and will mature in about two month’s time.
7. Spinach. Spinach loves cold weather and can even be over-wintered in some locations. Sold in both smooth and savoyed leaf varieties, spinach takes about a month and a half to reach harvest size. This is another green that can be harvested multiple times from the same plant, and will continue to regrow until the temperatures get too hot.
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8. Bush beans. Bush beans are a great season long garden choice, performing well in spring, summer and fall. “Provider” bush beans are my personal favorite for consistent and productive yields. Bush beans do not need trellising, but they do benefit from regular harvesting to maintain productivity. If you end up with more beans than you can eat, they are easy to freeze for future use. Days to maturity for bush bean varieties averages about a month and half.
9. Baby carrots. So much tastier than those found in the grocery store, baby carrots such as the variety “Napoli” take about a month and a half to reach maturity. Spring and fall carrots will taste the sweetest, and seed germination is much easier to achieve in cooler temperatures. With that being said, once germinated, carrots are able to grow all season long.
10. Pickling cucumbers. Not only are pickling cucumbers great for making pickles, but they are equally tasty sliced on sandwiches and into salads. Pickling cucumbers take about two months to reach maturity, and prefer slightly warmer soil temperatures, making them great for summer-long harvests. Many pickling cucumbers do not require cross-pollination, making them great options for balconies and greenhouses.
It’s obvious from the above list that options abound for quick-growing garden vegetables. While there’s nothing tastier than waiting for the first taste of a vine-ripened summer tomato, with proper seed and transplant selection, you can be feasting from your garden in virtually no time!