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12+ of the Fastest Growing Crops for Your Vegetable Garden

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Sometimes, there’s no time for patience. These fast growing vegetables are perfect additions to the garden when you’re afraid spring planting season has passed you by. 

Some of these work well in container gardens, too!

heirloom tomatoes in a wooden box

Fast growing vegetables for a late start garden

Maybe spring passed you by in a whirlwind and you find yourself gazing at a vegetable garden space that’s bereft of an actual garden. Or perhaps you had an unsuccessful start due to poor weather or spotty germination. Don’t give up now – there’s still time to plant if you choose fast growing vegetables. 

Plenty of crops mature in a two-to-three month time frame, giving you a chance to plant and harvest vegetables before frost hits. Choosing fast growing vegetables for your garden beds is the solution to a late start garden. Those of you with a later frost date have even more leeway; in the past, I’ve even planted tomatoes in early July and harvested a decent crop in September and October.

Those listed here are some of the fastest growing vegetables you can plant in your garden. 

red radishes with greens in a stack: one of the fastest growing vegetables you can put in your garden

Fast growing vegetables: root crops

Radishes

These ruby-colored roots are one of the fastest growing vegetables and ready for the table in just 30 days. When it comes to a harvest-in-a-hurry, radishes win hands down.

I’ve recently discovered the Rat Tail Radish which is grown for its seed pods rather than the root. The pods are green and crunchy and taste just like radishes, but instead of pulling up the plant to net a single radish, the pods keep coming. They’re a great addition to salads.

Beets

Plant beets now and you’ll be ready to make fermented beet kraut in just a couple of months. Bonus: thinning your row of beets after they sprout nets beet greens even sooner.

Fruiting vegetables that produce quickly

Cucumbers

Some cucumber varieties will start producing in just two months. These cucumbers are ready in just 48 days!

Beans

These legumes love the heat of summer and some varieties are ready in just 50 days. This means that you can plant them well into the summer months and still get a harvest. If you don’t have a trellis for climbing beans, plant bush beans. They stay compact and can even be grown in large containers.

Summer squash

Yes, you still have time to send your neighbors into hiding with unending gifts of squash from your little vegetable garden. Crookneck, scallop, and these cute little Ronde De Nice squash all start producing in 50 days.

Tomatoes

Yes, tomatoes are even a possibility at this stage if you opt for cherry tomatoes. Some cherry tomatoes ripen in just more than two months time. With any luck, you’ll have a chance to taste some of those tangy sweet fruits before winter sets in. And don’t discount larger varieties or Roma tomatoes, though it’s unlikely that you’ll harvest many ripe tomatoes in a short window of time. Even if you’re too late for a crop of lush, ripe tomatoes, green tomatoes are the basis for some good stuff, including my family’s favorite, chow chow.

arugula, tomatoes and olives on a pizza

Fast growing vegetables: greens

Arugula

The narrow, spicy blades of arugula — also known as rocket — are another one of the fastest growing vegetables you can plant. Sow them thickly in the ground or in a container and snip off what you need to add extra flavor to your salads. We like to add it to pizza hot out of the oven.

green swiss chard leaves in a wooden bowl

Swiss Chard

This is one of those great vegetable garden gifts that keeps on giving. Plant now and in 60 days you’ll have big stems that you can cut as you need them. Earlier than that, you’ll be able to snip off some of the green leaves.

Green onions

Mildly flavored green onions are not necessarily a particular variety of onion, but rather the result of when they’re harvested. Any type of onion can be harvested when they’re young and used as green onions. Plant onions from seed or simply stick the cut off roots from your latest bunch of green onions in the ground. In a month or so you’ll be able to snip off what you need.

green lettuce with purple highlights, growing in a shade garden

Lettuce

Opt for leaf lettuce varieties and you can start harvesting in about a month, and continue doing so for weeks. Grow it in containers to keep the slugs at bay.

Spinach

As soon as a spinach plant’s rosette has half-dozen leaves or so, you can begin harvesting. Use this technique to allow the spinach to keep growing so you can harvest continually.

Bok choi

This Chinese cabbage has dark green leaves and big white ribs. It’s commonly used in kimchi, but great added to stir fries, too. Plant it now and you’ll be harvesting this fast growing vegetable in 30 days. You can begin harvesting the outer leaves as soon as  they mature.

young basil plant from above

Basil plants

One the basil plants reach 6-8″ high, you can start harvesting leaves for adding to soups, sandwiches, and Italian dishes. A half-dozen basil plants will net enough leaves to make and freeze pesto to keep you in green goodness throughout the winter.

Choosing the fastest growing vegetables for your garden means that even if you’re starting late, you can still harvest a crop this year!

radishes and zucchini -- some of the fastest growing vegetables you can grow

Originally published in June 2016, this post has been updated.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

12 comments… add one
  • Sonia (foodiesleuth) Jul 9, 2013, 7:48 am

    We planted and are enjoying French Breakfast radishes and bumper crop of tomatoes from just one ‘super tomato plant’! The ‘currant’ tomatoes are just beginning to show up – not sure why they took so long to start producing…The spinach and lettuce did great and its over with for now…letting some bolt to get our own seeds. We have eggplant almost ready to harvest and the green beans are just beginning to show up…I love our garden!

    • Kris Bordessa Jul 11, 2013, 8:54 am

      Sonia, is “Super Tomato Plant” the variety? I’d be curious to know what you’re growing to get a bumper crop!

  • Sheryl Jul 10, 2013, 8:12 am

    I had no idea things could sprout up and grow so fast! I so wish I had my own vegetable garden. My dad grew one when I was growing up and it was always so special to be able to pick our salads and other veggies right from the garden.

    • Kris Bordessa Jul 11, 2013, 8:55 am

      Do you have room for a simple container garden, Sheryl? Even a pot on a balcony will net salad for a couple of months!

  • Alexandra Jul 10, 2013, 10:31 am

    I bought what I thought was climbing beans at the market, put up the metal climbing structure and waited. They don’t climb! So, encouraged by your post, I will now plant seeds in between the non-climbing variety.

    • Kris Bordessa Jul 11, 2013, 8:55 am

      That’s they way – outsmart the garden. 😉

  • Vera Marie Badertscher Jul 10, 2013, 12:06 pm

    Love your pictures, but I can only dream of planting these things in southern Arizona right now. Our farmer’s market carries totally different produce than more temperate climes. However, you can envy us in the winter when we can grow lettuce and tomatoes outside all winter.

  • Donna Hull Jul 10, 2013, 4:39 pm

    I don’t have a garden but just up the road a farmer from me, a farmer has an unmanned produce stand. The veggies are in coolers with prices already marked. I put the money in the slot of the money box and take the veggies I paid for. Tonight we had a salad of fresh from-the-farm swiss chard, kale and lettuce that tasted so much better than grocery store greens.

  • Laura Jul 11, 2013, 4:13 am

    You’re giving me hope. This year’s garden has been a wash so far. Seedlings carried away by weeks of heavy rain, plants eaten by deer and rabbits, some rows have only one surviving vegetable plant. A lone broccoli looks mighty sad. I’ll keep replanting, although last night’s tornado watch and flash flood warnings were pretty discouraging…

  • merr Jul 12, 2013, 4:41 am

    Like Sheryl, I, too, did not realize you could actually plant later and still have a nice yield.

  • Laurene cook Jun 2, 2017, 3:30 am

    This information is very nice, but I live in Florida and our growing seasons are different. It would be nice if you could put info in there for us in the south

  • Carol Jun 2, 2020, 3:45 pm

    I am so excited for all the veggies to be ready. I may add radishes now that I know they grow fast, I thought it was too late. Thanks for the tip

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