Quickly-Maturing Vegetables to Grow
Here are five super-speedy vegetables that produce a harvest in just a few short weeks! They’re perfect for filling in gaps in the garden, especially as older crops get harvested. You’ve done so much work, so why not get the most from your garden?
If you’re a beginner gardener, it’s satisfying to see vegetables grow quickly. For greens and radishes, you can harvest the early leafy greens within two to three weeks! (Just leave a few plants to grow to their full size for a bigger harvest later.)
Also, as a gardening season progresses, gaps will inevitably start to appear in your garden as plants are harvested. It’s a bad idea to leave those gaps as the bare ground will attract weeds and be prone to erosion during summer storms. Plus, it’s a wasted opportunity to grow another crop! You’ve done so much work preparing the soil and establishing your garden, sprinkle some more seeds to yield a fresh harvest of veggies?
But you don’t need to leave gaps at all, even if you have plans for fall crops later on. With plenty of heat and long days in summer, some plants require very little time to go from sowing to harvest time.
We’ll look at five of these super-speedy vegetables that go from sowing to harvest in very little time at all.
Sowing to harvest: 25 days
Radishes are one of the fastest vegetables, taking just three to four weeks to reach harvest time. They’re also exceptionally easy to grow.
Seeds can be sown into prepared ground or pots of potting soil. Sow the plump seeds very thinly, spacing them about one inch apart. Sowing small batches every few weeks until the very end of summer will give you a continuous crop of the peppery roots. The seedlings will pop up within three to five days. If necessary, thin the seedlings so the roots have enough room to expand.
You can harvest the radish greens (and thinnings), too!
Keep the ground free of weeds, and water in dry weather. Harvest the roots before they get too large, when they can turn woody in texture and become overpoweringly hot.
See the Almanac’s Radish Growing Guide.
2. Salad Leaves
10 to 15 days to harvest: grow microgreens
15 to 20 days to harvest: baby arugula and pea shoots
25 to 30 days to harvest: baby leaf lettuce
30 to 35 days to harvest: baby kale and swiss chard
30 to 45 days: loose-leaf salad
Ever-versatile salads present a symphony of leaf shapes, textures and tastes ideal for livening up meal times. Grow individual varieties or create your own salad blend by mixing two or more varieties together before sowing. Suitable salads include lettuce, mustards and other Oriental leaves, kale, and arugula.
For the quickest results, sow a mix of salads sold for repeat, or cut-and-come-again harvesting. Sow the seeds very thinly into drills spaced around 6 to 10 inches apart. Cover the seeds back over then gently pat the surface of the soil down. Water along the rows then keep the soil moist and weed free as the seedlings grow. If summers are very hot in your area, you may need to wait a few weeks or use shade-cloth to reduce temperatures for germination and good growth.
Harvesting can start just three weeks after sowing. Take two or three outside leaves from each plant at any one time. This allows the remaining leaves to grow on and provide another cut in a few days’ time. Cut little and often for best results.
See the Almanac’s Growing Guides to Lettuce, Swiss Chard, and Kale.
3. Bush Beans
Sowing to harvest: 60 days
The quickest pods in town, bush beans, can be sown immediately after a previous crop to give a speedy picking before the end of the current growing season. Taking just two months from sowing to pod production, these trouble-free beans are a must – and kids love them!
In summer the beans can be sown directly into the ground or into pots of potting soil. Poke the seeds into the soil so they are 10 to 16 inches apart. Sow a batch once a month until the end of summer. The short, bushy plants will soon come into flower.
Pick the pods every few days, as they appear, so that you are always enjoying them while they are still smaller and more tender. Regular picking encourages plants to continue forming pods. Savor the beans lightly steamed with a curl of butter and a grind of the peppermill.
See the Almanac’s Growing Guide to Beans.
Sowing to harvest: 50 days
Carrots are not the most obvious speedy vegetable, but choose a quick-growing finger-sized variety and you can expect sweet, crunchy roots in just six weeks.
Sow into pots of potting soil, spreading the seed thinly over the surface, then cover with a thin sieved layer of potting soil. Or sow the seed into drills spaced about 6 inches apart, cover back over, and water.
If you have pests (carrot fly), a row cover will help. Once the seedlings have appeared, thin them on a rainy day when there will be fewer carrot flies about, or on a still, cloudy day to about an inch apart. Water afterwards to settle soil back around the roots.
Pull up the tender carrots while they are still young, if necessary using a border fork to first loosen the soil.
See the Almanac’s Growing Guide to Carrots.
Sowing to harvest: 30 days
The smooth, succulent leaves of spinach are extraordinarily versatile. Use them in salads, as a key ingredient to quiches and flans, or stirred into risottos or pasta dishes. Start it off once a month to enjoy right up until the first frosts.
Sow into rows about a foot (12 inches) apart. Set the seeds an inch apart then thin the resulting seedlings to roughly 8 inches apart. Plants can quickly bolt in hot weather, which causes the leaves to turn bitter. Prevent this by sowing in light shade during the heat of summer and by always keeping the ground moist.
Cut the leaves away using a sharp knife or scissors. Don’t let the leaves get too big, and remember to harvest little and often. Later sowings can be covered with a row cover or tunnel to help growth along as the weather turns cooler.
See the Almanac’s Growing Guide to Spinach.
For more information on planting vegetables, here are all of our free Vegetable Growing Guides.
Preparing the Ground
Sow your super-speedy crops into well-prepared soil. This simply means ensuring that the soil has enough nutrients to support healthy growth and has the right texture to encourage even germination. In most cases all that’s needed to prepare the ground is to sprinkle on a top-up of organic fertilizer before raking the soil surface to a fine tilth.
All of these super-speedy vegetables can also be grown in pots of good-quality, multipurpose potting soil.
Learn more about preparing your soil for planting.
Protecting Against Pests
While our quintet of super-speedy vegetables will have little time to attract pests, do take a few precautions. Carrot fly has already had a special mention. Use the same row covers protecting your carrots to guard against flea beetles on radishes and some salad leaves. Slugs can decimate seedlings, so set up beer traps or shady retreats such as an upturned grapefruit shell, then collect up and discard any slugs you find.
It’s perfectly plausible to sneak in some super-speedy vegetables even up until surprisingly late in the summer. Try some of these quick croppers and get ready for a bonus harvest in next to no time. We’d love to hear what other super-speedy vegetables you recommend for your area, so why not drop us a comment below and tell us.
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I started planting some veggies from seed. My cucumbers & radishes are already coming up, should I put them in a bigger seeding pot? and when is a good time to put in the ground? Last year I had what I thought were big plants of squash,so I put them in the ground & after a few days they died
Cucumbers are a very fragile plant when it comes to temperature, so you’ll want to wait to plant them outdoors until you’re certain that no late spring frosts will occur. Cucumbers also can be difficult to transplant, so we would recommend leaving them in whatever pot you have them in and just transplanting directly to the garden when the time comes. Do so very gently, as you will not want to damage the cucumbers’ roots. Learn more about cucumbers here.
As for radishes, they are a cold-tolerant crop, so it’s generally recommended to seed them directly in the garden. Once your radishes start coming up, plant them outside in containers or the garden so that their roots can develop undisturbed. Learn more about radishes here.
I live in middle Tennessee. I have always just grown radishes in the Spring mixed in with carrots to help keep our hard clay soil broken up for the carrots as we are not huge fans of radishes. Of course the radishes grow like crazy but our carrots were kind of bitter. Maybe was the type of carrot. By mid June it is too hot for spring veggies but bush beans and Southern peas like purple hulls do very well and grew quickly. Okra grew fast for me and stands our hot summers very well!
We look for short-season varieties in all crops, due to uncertain weather on our little mountain homestead. We grow all of the veggies mentioned, plus onions, potatoes, and sometimes edible flowers like calendula, chamomile, evening primrose. (Tomatoes on the other hand, take a lot of care up here!)
While full-size onions might not have time to mature, they are very tasty when young - the tops for "green onions" or pesto, the young bulbs can substitute for scallions or leeks. Likewise, "baby potatoes" are very tasty, and sometimes a stray tuber will put up a new plant the following year. This is also a good time to deliberately plant crops that will overwinter, like fall annual flowers, garlic, walking onions, or parsnips.
One thing I discovered about radishes - if you plant too many and they go to seed, the green seed pods are very tasty in salad, and can make good mini-pickles (they have a little bit of that hot/horseradishy 'bite').
Also, chickweed (stellaria media) and lamb's quarters may volunteer in those empty spaces - these are choice edible weeds. Chickweed is great raw in salads or pesto. Lamb's quarters should be lightly cooked, great substitute for spinach in hot dishes like spanikopita or pastas. Amaranth greens are also edible. I tend to trim these rather than uprooting them, to keep them producing tender vegetative growth and crowd out less-tasty weeds.
Super-hot here on Long Island's North Shore. Beans grow extremely well and carrots, too. My radishes NEVER develop, no matter what, so I no longer grow them. Nasturtiums - flowers and leaves - are delicious,bright and amusing in salad, and grow very well. Once it's mid-August, we can usually get a decent crop of peas for the fall.
I was able to easily grow a variety of red, pink and white radishes this summer, but 1.5 miles away, my dad has never had any luck growing them. Who knows! (I'm in VA, near DC.)