Fast Vegetables for Impatient Gardeners

by Ken Lain, The Mountain Gardener

Supplement your vegetable garden with these fast-growing vegetables, and you will be picking fresh vegetables in just a few weeks.

Arugula (Eruca vesicaria) has a slightly peppery flavor. Because its roots are relatively shallow, arugula can be grown in containers. Seed emerge in under 14 days and fully ready to harvest by the end of the month.

Bok choy (Brassica rapa) is quick-growing type of Chinese cabbage. You can grow baby bok choy, which is less than 10 inches, and standard bok choy, which grows 1 to 2 feet. It is best planted in partial shade, although it can handle full sun in spring. Realistically harvest in 45 days.

Broccoli rabe (Brassica ruvo) is called broccoli raab or rapini and resembles broccoli. This vegetable grows best in full sun and is ready to harvest in 50 to 60 days. It bolts fast into flowers, so harvest the clusters as soon as they appear.

Cress (Lepidium sativum) is popular for its peppery flavor and ease of growing; flavor is better when grown in spring, autumn. Sprout cress seed in shallow trays lined with wet paper towels. Sprinkle the seeds over the surface and cover with plastic wrap. Germinates within a couple of days; harvest when leaves are about 2 inches.

Kale (Brassica oleracea) is one of the most cold-tolerant plants; can be grown throughout the year here. Proper irrigation is important because drought bitters the flavor.

Mustard greens (Brassica juncea) also need consistent water; they will turn unpleasantly bitter if allowed to dry. They can tolerate light spring frost. Like lettuce and other greens, mustard greens are sensitive to heat and do best in early spring or given shade during summer months.

Radishes (Raphanus sativus) are one of the fastest-growing vegetables. They can be harvested three weeks after planting. Thin seedlings once they’ve sprouted. Just sprinkle the seeds outdoors where you want them to grow.

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a nutritious vegetable that grows quickly in cool weather. Plant in 6-plus hours of sun; ready to harvest in 4 to 6 weeks.

Turnips (Brassica rapa) are an old-fashioned vegetable that provides a great harvest. They are among the least fussy when it comes to temperature and garden conditions. Pick roots when they are tender, around 2 to 3 inches in circumference; harvest leaves when they are young.