If you need to grow food in a short time, these fast-growing vegetables are your best bets! Here are 12 different vegetables you can grow in less than 60 days, along with the best fast-maturing varieties to look for!
In this season of empty store shelves, and anxiety about the supply of food, more than ever, I'm hearing from readers a need and desire to grow food at home - and grow it quickly.
I totally understand. It's alarming to walk into the store feel suddenly at the mercy of the supply chain. Having food in the garden, and preserved fruit and vegetables in the cellar goes a long way to putting a feeling of peace and security in our hearts.
If you're feeling eager to get seeds in the ground, and anxious to start harvesting as soon as possible, these 12 vegetables are ones that you can plant today, and be harvesting in less than 60 days.
See how ANY of these varieties can help squeak in a second crop, even in Maine:
It's important to pay attention to the variety of each vegetable that you choose. Keep in mind that some carrots are ready for harvest in 48 days - others in 85 days! There can be a big difference in the number of days to maturity from one vegetable variety to another.
In my notes below each vegetable, I've suggested some of my favorite, reliable, early maturing varieties for that kind of vegetable. Next to each suggested variety, you'll see the number of days to maturity. With proper conditions and care, that's right about how many days it should take from when you plant the seeds, to when you're harvesting your first crop.
I hope this list encourages you that a garden can very quickly turn a good harvest!
Fast-maturing vegetable varieties that are ready in 60 days or less
I LOVE cooking with Asian greens. They're so flavorful and robust. Every year, I try a couple of new varieties, but one that I always keep coming back to is Joi Choi - it's my all-time favorite.
Suggested early varieties of Asian Greens: Tatsoi (45 days), Joi Choi (50 days), Shuko (45 days)
Green beans are one of the most important crops I plant for our family. They're easy to grow, and almost unbelievably productive. They're a great way to grow a lot of food in a limited space. We enjoy them fresh, and can dozens of quarts to store for winter. For a quick harvest, you'll be looking for "bush beans" rather than "pole beans". Those are great too, but they'll take longer to reach maturity than the shorter bush beans.
Favorite early bush bean varieties: Jade (56 days), Provider (50 days), Royal Burgundy (55 days), Gold Rush (54 days)
Beets are one of those wonderful vegetables that can be eaten entirely - both leaves and roots. I enjoy beet greens even more than spinach, and roasted beets are just heavenly. Pressure can them for a delicious taste of summer, all winter long.
Early beet varieties: Chioggia (55 days), Early Wonder (48 days), Kestrel (53 days)
No matter how many carrots I ever plant, my family always wishes I planted more! This year I'm planting more than ever, and we'll see if I can finally succeed in growing as many as we want.
Carrots are sturdy little plants that you can plant early in the season, 2-3 weeks before your last expected frost. So if you go with one of these extra-early varieties, you'll be enjoying fresh carrots before you know it!
Store extras in the cellar, buried in tubs of sand or sawdust, or pressure can them.
Fast-maturing carrot varieties: Coral (55 days), Mokum (48 days), Amsterdam #2 (55 days), Yaya (58 days)
Cucumbers are a heat-loving vegetable, so you can't start them first thing in the spring, like you can with carrots or lettuce. But as soon as the weather warms, they'll grow quickly and give you a good harvest.
All of the early varieties below are great, but I especially love Ronda, which I've found to be productive, and good for just about any purpose, from salads to sandwiches to pickles.
Early cucumber varieties: Socrates (52 days), Ronda (50 days), Lagos (45 days)
Chard is another workhorse vegetable, that will always have a place in my garden. The great thing about chard is that you can start it early, and the same plants will give a generous harvest continually right until the ground freezes. It's not sensitive to heat like lettuce, and won't bolt when the weather turns hot, like spinach.
I had chard plants that I harvested from for almost exactly 5 months straight last summer. There are still bags of chard stuffed into every corner of my freezer, and I have no doubt it will last us until we're harvesting fresh chard again this spring.
My all-time favorite variety is Bright Lights - it's in the photo above, and the colors really are that bright!
Early chard varieties: Bright Lights (56 days), Fordhook Giant (50 days)
Lettuce is probably the first vegetable that comes into mind when most of us think of spring vegetables. It can be planted early, and doesn't mind partial shade, so it's a very forgiving vegetable for the early growing season.
Nearly all varieties of lettuce will be ready for harvesting in less than 60 days - some much earlier than that. The varieties below are ones I grow and love, but almost any kind of lettuce will provide a good early harvest.
Early Lettuce Varieties: Optima (52 days), Winter Marvel (52 days), Lollo Rosa (58 days), Jadeite (50 days)
I've lumped all kinds of peas together here, because there are varieties of each that are ready for harvest in 60 days or less. My favorites are the snap peas (Sugar Ann is just to die for!). My father in law especially loves shell peas, and I'm looking forward to growing some for our family Sunday dinners this year.
Snow peas are wonderful as well, and that's what my family grew when I was a kid - Oregon Giant is a good tried and true variety.
Whichever kind of pea suits your fancy, you can go ahead and get your seeds planted early! Peas don't mind the cold at all, and are always the first crop that I plant. I actually just planted mine this week!
Early phell pea varieties: Strike (52 days), Topps (56 days)
Early snap pea varieties: Sugar Ann (58 days)
Early snow pea varieties: Oregon giant (60 days)
Does anyone really love radishes? I've included them in this list, because they're easy, prolific, and grow SO quickly. But even at 40 years old, I'm still working on loving them. Below are some varieties that I enjoy in moderation. If you have a radish variety that you just love, will you share it with me? I want to love them, I really do...
Early radish varieties: Cherry Belle (25 days), French Breakfast (26 days), White Icicle (30 days)
Spinach grows best in the cool shoulder seasons of spring and fall. I often plant it in the fall, sowing it in the area where I've just finished growing snap peas. While I love the flavor of spinach, I tend to grow more chard and kale, because they're so tolerant of temperature changes.
Recommended early spinach varieties: Bloomsdale (42 days), Oceanside (45 days)
Summer Squash & Zucchini
If you're looking for one vegetable that will give you an almost unbelievable amount of food in the shortest possible time - plant zucchini. If you can get your hands on Green Machine, it's so early and so productive, it's like a miracle plant. Black Zucchini is another old standby that does well by me year after year.
I don't plant as many summer squash, because I prefer zucchini, but those are early and highly productive as well!
Favorite early summer squash: Saffron (42 days), Sunburst (52 days)
Favorite early Zucchini: Black zucchini (50 days), Green machine (45 days), Cocozelle (53 days)
I'm not sure which I love more - turnip roots, or their tops. They're both delicious, and the fact that you can eat (and store!) both parts of a turnip makes them a wonderfully efficient plant for a small garden.
I especially like preserving turnip greens by pressure canning them, just like spinach, and think they hold their flavor the best, out of all the kinds of greens that I've canned.
Favorite early turnip varieties: Gold Ball (45 days), Purple Top White Globe (50 days)
I pray that this list leaves you feeling encouraged that you can truly get some seeds in the ground right away, and have a harvest to look forward to before you know it!
A quick note about sourcing seed: I usually order from Fedco, and all of these varieties are part of their current offerings. However, I do see that some of these varieties I've recommended have sold out, and I know that many seed companies are facing greater-than-usual demand. I have a list of my favorite seed companies here, which should help as you're sourcing seeds. If you'd like to recommend a good source for any of these varieties, please feel free to leave a note in the comments below.
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