Though summer has only just begun, when it comes to the growing season, we are nearing the halfway point. The heat is getting more intense and the rows are overflowing with greenery, teasing with their hints of delicious food just waiting to mature. Some are only getting started after seeing their friend’s lush food garden, others want to get in some ‘last minute’ extras. Depending on what USDA zone you are in, growing fast food in the garden is still possible!
A fan asked about “fast growing foods that require little prep to grow and/or eat.” I thought it was a great idea! I already knew some of the items that are listed below from growing them in my own garden. I went online to the Farmer’s Almanac site to learn about several others. Please keep in mind that some of the plants listed below will not do well in your particular Zone in the middle of the season. Foods such as lettuce, kale, and other greens prefer cooler temperatures but not freezing and should be planted as part of an Autumn garden.
30(ish) Days or Less
Lettuce, Spinach – Most lettuce varieties (and some spinach) will have harvestable leaves around 30 days after planting the seed. You want to pick them from the outside to the inside. Depending on the variety, leaves are good once they reaches 3-4 inches. Don’t pick too much or the plant will not continue to grow as well.
Radishes – Plain ol’ regular radishes are very quick growers. They take anywhere between 25-30 days before they are large enough to start harvesting.
Herbs – Many herbs are ready to be picked as soon as there are enough leaves to harvest without killing the plant. Suggestions include: basil, cilantro, oregano, parsley, dill, mint, fennel, and sage. BONUS: These also grow inside very well.
Other Leafy Greens – Most leafy greens can be picked well before ‘maturity.’ Usually within 4 weeks of sowing the seeds.
Green Onions – Growing green onions is extremely easy once they are established. Because the seeds are sowed to shallow, it is important to keep the top couple inches well watered. Letting it dry out too much will kill off the fragile sprouts. The sprouts will also wither and die off if left in direct sun (high heat) for too long. They prefer it cooler.
45 Days or Less
Bush Beans – Beans grow incredibly fast for the amount of food you can harvest off a single plant. Picking actually encourages more growth and the plant will continue to produce until it gets cold.
Kale and Leafy Greens – Some greens take a little longer than the 30 days, such as Kale. Most all leafy greens (not head varieties such as cabbage, iceberg lettuce, etc.) are matured within 60 days. Before that happens, the baby leaves are incredibly tasty and sweet!
Summer Squash – This one can be tricky but it is possible to get small squash to eat in around 6-7 weeks.
60 Days (Or So)
Baby Carrots – While the full carrots takes much longer, sowing a row or two of carrots will yield you some tasty baby carrots to enjoy in about two months.
Peas – Peas grow incredibly fast and, like the green beans mentioned above, whenever you harvest, the plant will continue to produce flowers that turn into pea pods, just perfect for picking!
Turnips – Turnips are slightly different in that the root itself takes a little over two months to mature but their leaves are edible and ready in about 45 days.
Cucumbers – If in the right conditions, cucumbers will be harvestable roughly 50-70 days after planting. The smaller varieties tend to work best for a shorter growing season.
Beets – The entire plant is edible, just like turnips. It only takes 55-60 days before the beets are mature and ready to harvest! Get ready to do some pickling!
Baby Onions – Onions prefer the cooler temperatures so this one is a little bit on the fence. After about two months though, there should be small bulbs formed, giving you baby onions to enjoy! Don’t forget the green onions you can harvest while they grow, too.
Many of the goodies listed above will also work for a Fall garden, too! There are more varieties out there than listed above but you get the general idea. Even if you are on a budget and/or limited to growing in containers, you can do this!