Are you behind on getting your garden going, live in an area with a short growing season, or are you just needing some instant gratification from your garden? If so, this list of the fastest growing vegetables is just what the doctor--er--gardener ordered.
Believe it or not, you can start reaping the benefits of your hard gardening work in literally just 20 days--and you won't be eating only leafy greens!
This year, we got our big garden in a little late and I live in a Northern state, so I really needed only the fastest growing veggies for our modified lasagna gardening adventure. In fact, we bought nearly everything on this list--and we're already starting to eat some of them!
What Are Fast Growing Vegetables?
By definition, anything that matures in 60 days or less is considered to be fast, but many of the vegetables on this list will be ready to eat much sooner than that--some you can eat in as little as 20 days!
Keep in mind that maturity date is not the date from planting, but the date either from when you see the first true leaves or the date of transplant.
What Are True Leaves?
The first 2 leaves that sprout from a seed are the result of the seed splitting, but they do not resemble the real leaves of a plant. It's the next set of leaves that are the first true leaves.
When these true leaves appear is when your countdown to maturity starts.
Maturity is when plants are ready to be picked for their traditional size.
Ways to Speed Up Growing
It's not just the plant type that matters when aiming for a quick harvest. There are some other things to keep in mind that will affect how quickly your plants grow.
Pick the Right Variety
Different varieties of the same vegetable mature at different times.
For example, a climbing variety of a vegetable will take longer to mature than a bush variety. Varieties called "early" should also mature quicker than others.
Check seed packets and information online to find the fastest maturation dates. It makes a huge difference!
Healthier Plants = Faster Plants
Bottom line: healthier plants grow more quickly. And the health of plants depends on a variety of factors. If you want your plants to shoot up even faster, you'll want to provide them with a quality growing environment.
Things you can do to help your plants along are:
- amend your soil with nutrients (think compost, organic fertilizer, compost tea, or other methods.
- keep pests away (use natural means whenever possible)
- keep them watered
- of course, keep weeds away
- plant when the ground is warm. Starting seeds indoors can help with that!
- keep them in the sun! While some of the following plants are vegetables that grow in shade, typically the more sun the better when you are aiming for fast growth.
15 Fastest Growing Vegetables
This list of speedy veggies has everything you need from leafy greens to root veggies and more--some are for your summer garden and some are fall garden vegetables.
Note that even though these plants already grow fast (and most of them are truly easy to grow vegetables as well), there are some out of the ordinary ways to get a harvest earlier than usual!
Did you know? Those "baby carrots" in the store aren't really young carrots at all? That's right--they are actually sculpted carrots!
You can, however, skip the sculpting and grow your own baby carrots in about 50 days, or full size carrots in about 70. Shorter varieties grow faster than long ones. "Black Spanish", "Danvers 126 Half Long" and "Little Finger" mature faster than most varieties.
If you want something fast to grow, try radishes! Radishes are ready to harvest anywhere from 22 to 50 days after planting.
Growing tip: Plant radishes close to other larger slower growing plants like tomatoes. By the time the larger plants are large enough to cast a lot of shade, you'll likely already have harvested 2 crops of radishes!
Cucumbers are another super fast and prolific veggie. Set up a trellis (we used a cattle panel) or give them plenty of room between planted hills, because they like to run.
Dwarf or compact pickling varieties, like "Miniature White", "Monika", "Chicago Pickling", and "Early Fortune" are really quick with a maturity of 50-55 days!
There are just so many types of greens, this list would be way too long if I listed them all. Think bok choy, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, Swiss Chard, kale, tatsoi, mustard, arugula (aka "Salad Rocket" or "Garden Rocket"). Basically anything leafy.
Early Harvest Tips: You can either plant greens as directed for larger heads, or plant them thickly and literally start harvesting as sprouts or microgreens as soon as they pop out of the dirt--5-7 days after planting! Baby greens will take a bit longer. Mature leafies are usually ready in 30 days-ish, but some can take longer.
Spicy Leafy Early Harvest Tip: Spicy greens like arugula, mustard, mizuna, mibuna, and tatsoi are milder when picked earlier in their growing cycle. So you can enjoy an earlier harvest if you aren't a fan of the "heat!"
Squash and Zucchini
Zucchini is not only a prolific grower, but it's also one of the fastest. Some 40-55 day varieties are "Desi," "White Scallop," "Crookneck Early Golden Summer," "Cocozella Di Napoli," and"Bennings Green Tint Scallop," to name a few.
Early Harvest Tip: Squash flowers are edible and fall off before fruit appears. Gather them and fry for a lovely treat.
Sprouts, Cress, & Microgreens
Typically you would grow these indoors but you can grow them outdoors too. Here's your quick guide to these super fast veggies:
- Sprouts are actually germinated seeds.
- Cress is the first "true" leaves that we addressed above
- Microgreens are when the plants are around 2-4 weeks old
Okra only takes about 50 days to mature from plant date so it's a fast option too!
Although it takes about 6 months to produce full size onions, you can enjoy green onions much sooner. These only take 3 to 4 weeks to be ready for harvest.
While climbing beans take longer, bush beans mature really quickly. I planted two varieties this year--Royal Burgundy and Provider. And we just picked our first beans--45 days after planting! "Cantare", "Calima", and "Purple Dove Bush" are quick growing too.
Snow peas are a quick grower that I just planted--they should be ready to harvest in about 60 days, while "Tom Thumb", "Alaska", and "Little Marvel" that mature in 50-60 days. I planted both snow peas and Tom Thumb this year.
Early Harvest Tip: Did you know that you can eat pea leaves and tendrils, too? Pick some here and there way even before the peas are ready--they actually taste like a pea! There are actually some varieties (like the "Oregon Sugar Pod") that are grown for their massive amounts of tendrils as well as their peas.
This might be a surprising addition to you, but broccoli typically ready to harvest in only 60 days or you can harvest smaller heads sooner.
Broccoli rabe can be harvested as early as 40 days after planting!
Turnips are really an underrated crop.
Early Harvest Tips: Plant turnips thickly and harvest for baby greens and/or baby turnips super fast, or farther apart for full-sized roots in about 60 days. Greens will be ready in about 40.
Another idea--plant thick, then harvest some as babies and leave the rest to grow to maturity. I'll be planting some turnips as well shortly.
Want southern turnip greens only? Leave the roots in the ground and keep harvesting the green continually! The roots will get woody, but the greens are great!
Did you know? Beets and Swiss chard (Leaf Beets) are actually different varieties of the same plant? Beets are raised for their large roots and leaves--whereas chard is raised for its leaves and stems.
Early Harvest Tip: You can harvest beet microgreens in about a week, leaves in about 30 days or the roots of most varieties in about 50-60 days. Like turnips, you can plant more thickly and harvest as baby greens and baby beets, plus you can harvest a few leaves here and there from adult plants.
This unusual root vegetable is another speedy addition to your garden. It comes in white and purple varieties and should be ready to harvest in about 50 days.
Shocked to see tomatoes on this list of fastest growing vegetables? Don't be!
Most tomatoes take longer but if buy cherry or plum size tomatoes like "Chocolate Pear," "Rosella," "Sunrise Bumble Bee" or "Napa Rose Blush," you can have tomatoes in 2 months or less!
Now that you've got your list of fastest growing vegetables at the ready, it's time to get planning and planting.
So grab your seeds and get growing (and eating)!