Itching to Plant Something? 6 Fast-Growing Vegetables For The Restless Gardener
Late summer is a transition time in the vegetable garden for northern hemisphere growers. Many spring-planted crops have petered out or maybe they are sulking in the heat, waiting for a bit of cool autumn weather to start producing again. If you’ve started seeds for broccoli and just can’t wait to plant something In the garden, try a few fast-growing vegetables.
Exactly which vegetables you can grow will depend on your hardiness zone. Make sure a particular crop can be grown in your area at this time. Lettuce can be seeded in New York right now but not in Louisiana. Whatever it is, choose an early-maturing variety. Also, a bit of afternoon shade would be welcome.
Of course, before planting the soil should be reworked by loosening and the addition of compost. Add organic fertilizer if soil tests show a serious nutrient deficiency. Some folks are big proponents of layering compost with no tilling or reworking; this has much to do with the fact that tilling disturbs earthworms which naturally loosen soil and perform mixing.
I think layering is fine as long as the soil is not too compacted. Vegetables, especially root crops, need deep, friable soil. Newer soils will often need to be loosened with some form of tilling or turning. But older, well-maintained garden soils have excellent tilth. Raised beds are great for achieving this.
Here are six fast-growing vegetables to plant for that time between seasons, or if you just have a spot that you want to fill. The minimum number of days to harvest certain varieties is shown.
Beets (48 days). Both the roots and the leaves are edible. The beet is a close relative of spinach and chard. It’s OK to harvest the nutritious and tasty young leaves after they have put on a good flush. More leaves will grow until the beet is big enough to harvest the root. Beautiful shades of red, white, and orange can be grown for culinary uses or even livestock fodder.
Arugula (30 days). An unusually strong leafy green valued for its rich, spicy taste. Garden-fresh arugula is an excellent addition to salads but can also be used In cooked dishes. It makes a great leafy groundcover for landscaping beds. The flowers and seeds can be eaten too.
Bush beans (50 days). Snap beans or “green beans” are an easy crop that also improves the soil by “fixing” nitrogen from the air. Beans don’t need a lot of fertilizer. Choose the bush type over the pole type for a quicker harvest (although it may be true that pole type offer the best taste).
Carrots (58 days). Baby carrots or finger carrots are smaller varieties that are ready for harvest in the shortest time. Grow some of the larger varieties too so you an experience their delectable taste. Contrary to some opinion, carrot tops are edible, although intake should be limited due to high alkaloid content.
Lettuce (25 days). Leaf lettuce (as opposed to heading types) is great for continual harvest. Baby leaf lettuce can be ready in less than a month after germination. Pick the outer leaves and let it keep growing, or harvest it all at once while the next round of lettuce is growing. Sow seeds every two weeks If you have the space.
Radish (25 days). The spicy crunch of radish is a welcome addition to salads. Radishes are also useful for breaking up soil crust; plant them next to carrot seeds and harvest before they compete with the carrots. Radish can also be used as a trap crop to draw pests away from a more desirable crop.