While many edible plants make you wait almost a full season to enjoy their healthy goodness, there are many fast growing vegetables you can plant and enjoy in just a few weeks. Here are some fast maturing veggies that can satisfy even the most impatient gardener.
Radishes are by far the fastest growing vegetables you can plant. Usually you can begin thinning radish sprouts a couple of weeks after planting, and enjoy your fresh radishes in about 30 days. Radishes are also a good choice for a child's first foray into gardening, since besides maturing so quickly, the seeds are large and easy for young hands to work with.
Radishes like cool weather, and can tolerate both light shade and light frost. If you can, plant your radishes in early spring—they'll grow bitter in hot summer weather.
Lettuce is another accelerated grower that enjoys cool weather, so it should ideally be planted in either spring or early fall. It grows best in full sun but can tolerate light frost, and needs lots of water as well as soil rich in nitrogen. Some lettuces, such as Romaine, can be harvested in as little as 30 days.
Similar to lettuce, spinach is very quick to sprout, and can be ready to harvest 28 to 45 days after planting. Like the other plants on our list, it's best planted in the spring since it can stand light frost. Spinach likes lots of space (so don't crowd the seeds) as well as nitrogen rich, moist, well drained soil. Since spinach plants tend to bolt and go to seed as the weather gets hot, you can extend the growing season by planting your spinach seeds in the shade provided by the leaves of taller plants.
Turnip greens can be harvested in as little as 40 days after planting. Take only a few greens at a time to allow the turnip root to develop and mature before harvesting it when it's three inches in diameter (approximately 60 days). Turnips prefer loose, well drained soil with lots of organic nutrients, and need plenty of water to prevent them from going to seed. While they can a be planted in the spring, they tolerate light frost well and cold fall weather actually makes them sweeter.
These should be harvested about six weeks after planting, while the beans are still thin and tender, (if you allow them to grow longer, the plant will begin to put its energy into helping the bean pods produce seeds). Unlike pole beans, bush beans grow well in containers, making them ideal for small gardens.
More Fast Growing Vegetable Tips
If you're new to veggie cultivation, check out our primer for vegetable gardening beginners, and dig into more ideas about easy crops to plant and fast growing varietals. If you've got some veggies already, you can even plant the scraps and start a kitchen garden with the cuttings. If you want to start from scratch, here are some ideas about where to get vegetable seeds, and how to store them for planting later.
If you're working with a small space, here's a guide to balcony gardening, and a selection of container veggie options. And in case you're short on outdoor space, here are some veggies that grow well inside.
If you're thinking about the long term, here are a few ideas about canning and preserving, and planning ahead to store your harvest, and even a literal handful of plants you can grow for use as emergency toilet paper!