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By October 14, 2017 0 Comments Read More →

Quick Growing Veg

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A ‘3-months max’ garden.

Elizabeth McCorquodale sorts out some of the fastest-growing vegetable varieties for your plot and your plate, with our brief for a maximum three-month waiting time

Although we might not necessarily all think of gardening as a year-round affair, we do generally regard it as a pastime that fills all of the warmer months. But what if you are going to be away for part of that time, or perhaps your life is scheduled to hot up just when things usually get a little busy in the garden – for a faraway family wedding, for instance? Or what if, like me, you are simply impatient, and want to get results in double-quick time?

In that case, you really need to set your sights on short-term croppers, but that doesn’t have to mean restricting yourself solely to the salad crops.

There are others – and quite a lot of them, in fact – that don’t take months of growing to provide you with results. There are dozens of plants out there that will go from seed sowing to table in less than three months, and a whole lot more – if you are really stretched for time – that will start cropping even sooner. Of course, there are also many more that will take even less time – the meaty, six-inch super-shoots, for example, grown from broad beans, peas or sunflowers, among others, as well as smaller shoots and sprouts. But if time really is short, and you still want to grow your own vegetables, rest assured that there is plenty of choice available.

QUICK-GERMINATION TECHNIQUES

Some plants really do take a toe-tappingly long time to show any signs of life. Waiting for the first little shoot can be frustrating, but you can shorten this time considerably by perfecting your germination techniques, and by making sure that each plant has just what it needs to encourage it to grow away quickly. Begin by reading the seed packet carefully, do what it says – many seeds have quite particular desires and demands – and provide the correct temperature, and adequate moisture and ventilation. At this stage, bottom heat in the form of a heated propagator is almost always appreciated, and can encourage germination many days – and in some cases even a couple of weeks – earlier than would happen without the additional heat. Some seeds, however, are just cool-weather crops, and any heat will retard their emergence, or even stop it all together – the trick is knowing which is which.

It is true that each seed comes with its own little starter pack, all tucked up within the seed coat, but as soon as that coat splits, soil conditions exert a huge influence on how quickly and strongly your plant takes off and becomes established. Provide a well-drained, peat-free, moisture-retentive medium, and ensure it is deep enough to support the plants once they have germinated and sent down roots. Plants with a taproot, such as carrots, turnips and radishes, should be planted in trays or pots with plenty of growing space – any cramping at this early stage will result in a deformed root later on, and will certainly delay cropping.

Plants with taproots, such as turnips, should be given space to develop in the early stages.

Begin feeding your seedlings as soon as they emerge, and continue all the way through to harvest-time, paying special attention to their requirements (including water) if you are growing your plants in containers, baskets or raised beds.

Bright, but not burning sunlight (or LED lights, if greenhouse or windowsill space is in short supply), and an air temperature that is just right for the individual variety, will just about complete the picture. If you provide all this at the very beginning, your plants will be bursting with vim and vigour by the time they emerge, and will grow quickly and strongly.

Raised beds and cold frames can provide enhanced growing environments.

Let’s start off with the super-speedy crops – the sort of things you can easily raise in a maximum of just a month or so. There are, of course, the usual suspects: mustard and cress, and cut-and-come-again salad crops – these are always a valuable addition to any vegetable garden all year round. There are many salad mixes that claim to start cropping in as little as three weeks, but this is only if conditions are ideal. Some of these do best in containers, and some are happy on windowsills, but others (those that will last for a long time if planted out in the garden with some afternoon shade) will take a little longer to become established – no matter what it might say on the seed packet – but they will repay you many times over with a long and productive season.

Salad crops are a welcome addition to any veg plot.

If a plant is an early cropper it may also be fairly quick to go to seed, or to grow tired and fade away given the slightest excuse. The trick is to avoid stressing such plants in any way. Leafy greens such as spinach, leaf beets and rocket, cut-and-come-again salad mixes, and beans and courgettes can all be kept going by constant and careful harvesting, together with a little TLC. They aren’t, by any means, high maintenance, but they do know what they like, and they do insist on it if they are to thrive. In the case of leaf vegetables, keep on picking the outside leaves from all your plants, cutting them with care to avoid damaging the remaining leaves, and they may well go on cropping until the first frosts (or even later in the case of leaf beets and the more hardy varieties of spinach).

A veg box with the right mix could keep you going for much of the summer.

Beans and snow peas will also keep on cropping as long as you keep on picking the beans and peas while they are still young and immature. As soon as you allow pods to mature on a plant (and different varieties have different tolerances to how assiduously you have to pick to keep them going), the plant will think its job is done, and will promptly stop producing. Spinach and other cool-weather crops will appreciate a shade cloth over them if the weather is very hot and sunny, and will repay this small trouble with a long and productive season.

Crop snow peas regularly to keep them cropping.

Variety, when it comes to early productivity, is very important. Bush or dwarf varieties of beans and peas, and winter and summer squash, will all produce earlier than climbing varieties, simply because they don’t have to grow so much before reaching their productive phase. Many of the dwarf or ‘baby’ veg will also start producing far earlier than their full-sized cousins because they reach maturity faster, and many cultivars that are recommended for square-foot gardening will be perfect for the quick-cropping garden, as these plants are chosen precisely because they grow so quickly and produce prolifically.

Baby corn will be an early cropper.

The following chart provides an at-a-glance idea of which veg will provide a viable crop within just three months or less, together with the recommended varieties.

VEGETABLE VARIETY DAYS TO FIRST HARVEST  

RECOMMENDED CULTIVAR

 

Aubergine 50–60 from transplanting Dusky, Fairy Tale
Beans – broad 70 from sowing Express, and one or two others
Beans – bush 40–60 from sowing Blue Lake, Speedy, and many others
Beans – runner 55 from sowing Hestia
Beetroot 50–60 from sowing Sweetheart, Early Wonder
Broccoli – sprouting 50–60 from sowing Kabuki
Cabbage – leafy 50 from sowing Greyhound
Cabbage – baby heading 50 from sowing Gonzales
Carrots 30–90 from sowing Paris Market Atlas, Amsterdam Forcing, and many others (as baby carrots)
Cauliflower 70–80 from transplanting Freedom
Cucumber 50–70 from sowing Burpees Champion Bush, and many others
Kale 50–65 from sowing Dwarf Green Curled, Cavolo Nero
Kohlrabi 40 from sowing Rabi Logo, Korfu
Leafy greens, mustard greens 30–45 from sowing Giant Red, Tendergreen, Komatsuna, and many others
Leek – baby 70 from sowing Zermatt, Tornado
Lettuce – cut-and-come-again 21 from sowing Many speedy mixes

 

Lettuce – leafy heading 45 from sowing

 

Salad Bowl, Lollo Rosso

 

Lettuce – ROMAINE-TYPE 40 from sowing

 

Little Gem

 

Okra 50–60 from sowing Annie Oakley, Dwarf Green Long Pod, Emerald, Burgundy
Onions – spring or salad 35–60 from sowing White Lisbon, Apache, and many others
Oriental greens 40–60 from sowing Mizuna, Pak Choi, Joi Choi, and many others
Peas – maincrop bush 45 from sowing Tom Thumb
Peas – mangetout / sugar snap 65 from sowing Oregon Sugar Pod, Sugar Bon, and many others
Peppers – sweet and chilli 60–70 from transplanting Redskin Dwarf, Hungarian Wax, Cardinal, Sweet Banana, and many others
Radish 20–40 from sowing Cherry Belle, French Breakfast, and many others
Spinach 45 from sowing Bloomsdale, and many others
SQUASH – SUMMER 45–60 from sowing Bambino, Eight Ball, Bush Baby Marrow
courgette – SUMMER 45–60 from sowing Scallopini
PATTYPAN – SUMMER 45–60 from sowing Pattypan, Peter Pan, Sun Beam, Total Eclipse
CROOKNECK 45–60 from sowing Early Crookneck, Yellow Crookneck
Squash – winter 90 from sowing Hooligan, Honey Bear
Sweetcorn – baby 90 from sowing Minipop
Swiss chard and leaf beets 55 from sowing Rainbow, Collard Greens, and many others
Tomato 50–70 from transplanting Sungold, Bush Beefsteak, Tiny Tim, and many others
Turnip 40 from sowing Tokyo Cross, and many others

 

A pattypan squash could provide a meal just 45‒60 days after sowing.

HASTY HINTS FOR TURBO VEG
  • Beware when looking at many ‘sowing to harvest’ charts, as some plants such as aubergines and larger peppers might produce their first fruit within the three-month window, but they generally start off fairly slowly. If you are in a hurry, it may be better to purchase pepper, aubergine and chilli plants rather than starting them off from seed, as germination can be rather temperamental. If time is really of the essence, leave all the hit-and-miss germinators to the experts, and concentrate solely on starting off those seeds that you know you can rely on.
  • Buying grafted pepper and tomato plants will speed things up even more.
  • Beware when reading ‘planting to harvest’ times on seed packets, as they usually refer to ideal planting conditions – if time really is of the essence, err on the side of caution and add a couple of weeks just to allow for the vagaries of the weather and soil conditions.

 

 

                                                                                                                    

 

About the Author:

Ruth Tott is the publisher of Home Farmer Magazine, and together with her husband, Paul Melnyczuk, Editor,is founder of the company. But her background is far removed having specialised in Costume History with a Post-Grad diploma in Museum Studies to boot. A far cry from looking after chickens, growing veg and making bread!

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