When you're starting an edible garden, it can be discouraging to wait for your homegrown bounty to be ready for harvest. Watermelon, tomatoes, and peppers are notorious for long growing seasons.
The solution: Plant some fast-growing vegetables to tide you over while you're waiting for the rest of your crops. Start these plants early in the growing season, then get ready to harvest your vegetables in about eight weeks. If you sow a few seeds every other week, you'll have a continuous supply of fresh produce from your garden all summer long.
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Arugula has a great, slightly peppery flavor that makes it delicious in a salad or as an alternative to basil pesto. More versatile than some of the other greens listed here, you'll appreciate having arugula in your garden.
Arugula is also sometimes called rocket, not because of how quickly it grows, but because the name is derived from the Italian word for the green, ruchetta. Sow the seeds directly in the ground and cut the leaves when they're ready to harvest. If you continue to grow arugula through the summer months, try growing it in a shadier spot so you can prevent it from going to seed too quickly.
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There are several varieties of Asian greens, including bok choy, yau choy, and gai choy. Often the seeds are sold in an "Asian green" mix and all of them can be planted directly in the soil in early spring or late summer for a fall garden. Pick the leaves individually, or cut the entire plants, especially when they grow in a bunch, as with bok choy.
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Also called broccoli raab or rapini, rabe resembles broccoli but it is actually more closely related to turnips. The trick with broccoli rabe is to harvest the clusters as soon as they appear because they will open to flower fast. The leaves and stems of broccoli rabe are also edible and taste best if harvested young.
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Chinese cabbage forms delicious, firm heads of greens that can be harvested within a few weeks. It is sensitive to heat, so it does better in part shade if you try to grow it through the summer. Otherwise, enjoy the fresh greens during the spring and fall. Chinese cabbage doesn't transplant well, so use a peat pot or other biodegradable seed starter if you start the seeds indoors.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Cress is another unique green that is popular thanks to its peppery flavor and ease of growing. It's often grown throughout the winter as a delicious year-round microgreen. Sow seeds directly outdoors and harvest as soon as leaves are about 2 inches in size. You can sow successively each week for continual harvest, but when the weather turns hot you may find the peppery taste gets too strong.
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Kale is one of the most cold-tolerant plants on this list of fast-growing vegetables and in some gardening zones it can be grown almost year-round. Kale is easy to start directly outdoors, but it needs plenty of water, as drought will make it bitter. Harvest leaves from the outside of the bunch and continue to let the plant produce for several weeks.
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Mustard is another green that has to be kept well-watered, as it will turn unpleasantly bitter if allowed to dry out. Like lettuces and other greens, it is sensitive to heat and does best in early spring and after mid-summer, or when given some shade during the hottest times of the year.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Truly one of the fastest-growing vegetables to tuck into your garden, radishes are a must-try. They are perfect for kids' gardens because of how quickly they grow. Try planting heirloom radishes for unique colors, shapes, and flavors.
Thin seedlings once they've sprouted so the roots can grow without constraint. Don't bother trying to start radishes indoors either––just sprinkle the seeds outdoors where you want them.
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Turnips are an old-fashioned vegetable that provides a great harvest for the home gardener. Both the leaves and the roots can be eaten, although not every variety excels at both simultaneously. Turnips are one of the least fussy plants on this list when it comes to temperature conditions, and can be planted through the entire growing season in many gardening zones. Pick roots when they are tender––at around 2–3 inches in circumference––and harvest leaves when they are young.
Choose a few different varieties of these fast-growing plants and see which ones do best in your garden. Then, enjoy your homegrown harvest all season long.