When you’re starting an edible garden it can seem discouraging at how long it takes for some fruits and vegetables to grow. Watermelon, tomatoes, and peppers are notorious for longer growing seasons.
So I always encourage new gardeners to be sure to plant plenty of fast-growing vegetables that they can harvest very quickly. Start these plants early in the growing season. Then, these vegetables will all be harvestable within 8 weeks of planting! In fact, if you sow a few seeds every other week you’ll have a continual stream of fresh produce from your garden for a while.
Arugula – A Popular Fast-Growing Green
Arugula growing in a small window planter for quick and delicious edibles. Juan David Osorio B. This veggie has been regaining popularity for the last 20 years, and with great reason.
It has a great flavor, slightly peppery, and is popular as a salad or alternative to basil pesto. Arugula is also sometimes called a rocket because of how quickly it grows. Sow the seeds directly in the ground and simply cut the leaves when they are large enough.
If you continue to grow it through the summer months, try growing it in a shadier spot so you can prevent it from growing to seed too quickly.
Asian Greens for Exotic Lettuce Alternatives
Bok Choy is a popular Asian green and grows quickly for a fast harvest. Courtesy of Jules There are several varieties of Asian greens, including bok choy, yu choy, and choy sum which are probably the most common.
Often the seeds are sold in an “Asian green” mix and all of them can be planted directly in the soil in early spring, or late summer for a fall garden. Pick the leaves individually, or cut the entire plants, especially when they grow in a clump as with bok choy.
Broccoli Raab (Rabe, Rapi) for Quick Broccoli Flavor
Broccoli Rabe is a fast-growing green. Naotake Murayama It’s also called broccoli rabi or rapini sometimes and while it resembles broccoli, it is actually related more closely to turnips.
The trick with broccoli rabe is to harvest the flower clusters as soon as they appear because they will open to flower fast. I recommend harvesting every other day. The leaves of stems of tender broccoli rabe are also edible and taste best if harvested young.
Chinese Cabbage is a Popular Green
Chinese cabbage is a unique garden green. Alice Henneman Chinese cabbage forms delicious, firm heads of greens that can be harvested within a few weeks.
It is sensitive to the heat as well so does better in part shade if you try to grow it through the summer, otherwise, enjoy the fresh salad greens during the spring and fall.
Chinese cabbage doesn’t transplant well, so use a peat pot or other biodegradable seed starter if you start the seeds indoors.
Cress is a Popular Microgreen
Cress is an Easy to Grow Microgreen. Rich Roberts Cress is another unique green that is growing in popularity because of the peppery flavor and how easy it is to grow.
It’s often grown throughout the winter as a delicious microgreen year round. Sow seeds directly outdoors and harvest as soon as leaves are large enough (about 2 inches).
You can sow successively each week for continual harvest, but when the weather turns too hot you may find the peppery taste gets too strong.
Kale – Not Just Ornamental
Kale is a decorative but delicious vegetable. Dwight Sipler Kale is one of the most cold-tolerant plants in this list and in some gardening zones can be grown almost year-round.
Kale is easy to start directly outdoors but will need plenty of water, as drought will turn the taste more bitter. There are many varieties of kale and some are more decorative than others. Harvest leaves from the outside of the bunch and you can continue to let the plant produce for several weeks.
Mesclun Mixes – A Colorful Lettuce and Greens Blend
Mesclun Mix for Fast Growing Vegetables. F Delventhal Mesclun is a mix of several greens and is sometimes sold as misticanza.
I love planting mesclun mixes and enjoying the unique, serendipity feel of the variety of greens that appear in the garden. Mesclun mixes can be planted in a section of the garden, or in a simple container garden. Harvest as needed and plant new seeds every 10-14 days for a continued harvest.
Mustard Leaves are a Zesty Garden Green
Mustard is usually grown for seeds and for leaves. Jessica Spengler Mustard is another green that has to be kept moist as it will turn bitter is allowed to dry out.
Like lettuces and other greens, it is sensitive to heat and does best in early spring and after mid-summer, or when given some shade during the hottest times of the year
Radishes are Fast Growing and Colorful
Radish Seedlings Will Appear Fast!. Justin Leonard Truly one of the fastest growing vegetables to tuck into your garden, radishes are a must try. They are perfect for kid’s gardens because of how quickly they grow and their bright colors. Try planting heirloom radishes for unique colors and flavors.
Thin seedlings carefully so the roots can grow without constraint. Don’t bother trying to start radishes indoors either – just sprinkle the seeds outdoors where you want them.
Turnips grow Quickly and Provide a Bounty
Turnips for fast vegetables in the garden. TheBittenWord.com Turnips are an old-fashioned vegetable that provides a great harvest for the home gardener. Both the leaves and the roots can be eaten, although not every variety excels at both simultaneously.
Turnips are one of the least fussy plants on this list when it comes to temperature conditions, and are planted through the entire growing season in many gardening zones. Pick roots when they are tender – around 2-3 inches around, and harvest leaves when they are young and tender.
Many of these are cool-season plants so you’ll find that in the hottest months of the summer, you’ll find that some plants like the broccoli, greens, and cabbage won’t do as well. I usually let the warm vegetables take over and then restart the cool season plants in the fall.
Northern zones may grow these well year-round so judge the plants’ performance according to your individual zone.
I encourage every gardener, but especially new ones, to add some of these fast-growing vegetables to their gardens.
The results are so quick they are very encouraging when the summer heat begins to set in and the weeds get tougher and bigger. And if you are trying to give gardening a fair shake try some of these – you only need 8 weeks!