Fast Growing Vegetables - Grow Food in as Little as 3 to 4 Weeks

Garden = grow your own fast food

These fast-growing vegetables will get food on your table in as little as 3-4 weeks. From sprouts and microgreens to the more traditional garden vegetables, you'll find my favorite fast-growing vegetables (and fruit) in this post.

Grow your own food in as little as 3-4 weeks with these fast-growing vegetables

Many people garden for pleasure. Some want to raise their favorite variety of tomatoes or the beans that have been grown by their family for generations.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase I might earn a small commission, but it doesn't affect the price you pay. Read my disclosure here for more info.

Others want fresh, organic food for their families.

And still others want to grow enough food to feed their families all season long and to preserve for the year ahead.

And many gardeners raise vegetables for more than one of these reasons... maybe even all four.

Many folks also garden to save money. 

True, if you jump in with both feet and buy all the things to build a complete raised bed garden, soil to fill those raised beds, trellis materials, transplants, soaker hoses, tools and more all at once, you won't see a return on that money for a long time.

But if you approach gardening with a frugal mindset, you can save money. A lot of money. You can build a raised bed garden for almost no money like I did.

Or use containers that you already have on hand. Buckets, used pots from plants you've bought in the past, kiddy pools, even cat-litter buckets. (Be sure to drill holes for drainage in whatever you use.)

And you can raise food fast.

Uncertain times

I know the world is an uncertain place right now. Store shelves were pretty bare last year, and in some places we're experiencing that all over again. 

No one knows what the future holds, and many people have started gardening so they can be sure they'll have food on their tables in the months to come.

Food security does a great deal for our peace of mind. You can learn more about starting a kitchen garden and increasing your food security here.

Nature's fast food: sprouts, shoots and microgreens

Are you wondering what you can do NOW that will put food on your table fast? How long does it take to grow food?

Don't assume you have to wait till summer or fall to harvest your vegetables; you can grow food much faster than that. 

There are plenty of fast-growing vegetables - and some fruits too. Some food plants are ready to harvest in as little as three to four weeks!

Don't have room for a garden? You might be surprised. Scroll down to the bottom to see what vegetables you can grow in a tiny garden and my suggestions for vegetables that grow well in containers.

Grow fast food

While it's true you'll have to wait several months for ripe tomatoes, watermelon, corn and so on, there are plants that will produce food quickly.

For the most part, these plants will thrive in cooler weather too, so the time to plant them is in late winter to early spring, or even in the fall.

Many of these "faster" plants don't care for hot weather. Once the temperature warms up, they'll to go to seed and your harvest is over.

But by then, the warm weather plants are beginning to produce, so while you're planting these faster-growing cool weather crops, plant slower-growing plants at their appropriate times too. (You'll find 9 vegetables that grow well in warm weather here.)

These warm-season plants will grow alongside your fast-growing plants, ready to provide fresh vegetables later in the season.

Let's take a look at the plants you can start right now and have food on your table in a month or even less.

The fastest vegetables to grow

Certainly the fastest foods you can grow are sprouts and microgreens. Bonus: you can grow these indoors, at any time of year.

Grow fast food in your own garden

You've probably heard of sprouting seeds in a jar. That's definitely the fastest-growing food!

You can also sprout organic broccoli seeds in soil, which works extremely well and provides fast, nutrient-dense food in just five days. This method takes slightly longer than sprouting.

Alfalfa, clover, lentils, mung beans, pea shoots and sunflower seeds are often sprouted this way too. Mary's Heirloom Seeds sells sprouting seeds here.

Growing microgreens is similar. Microgreens are also grown in soil, but are harvested in about 3-4 weeks.

Vegetables that grow fast in the garden

Cool season crops - those that are planted in the ground in spring - are fast-growing and can be harvested quickly in as little as three weeks. Most can survive a light frost.

How to grow food in as little as 3-4 weeks (sprouts are even faster!)

It's helpful to know the average last frost date for your area so you'll know when to plant your seeds. To find your average frost date, check out Dave's Garden and enter your zip code.

Seed packets have planting directions printed on the back. Most cool-weather crops are supposed to be planted "when the soil can be worked." 

To test your garden's soil and see if it's "ready to work," grab a handful and squeeze. If it holds together in a ball, the soil is too wet to plant in. If the ball disintegrates easily, the soil is less moist and you can plant your seeds.

Check your seed packets for the best time to plant in relation to your last frost date. I've included some basic guidelines below, but the packets will have more specific information for those particular seeds.

Greens grow fast, so plant them often

Greens are easy to plant and easy to grow. You can plant several crops in succession so you'll have a longer harvest.

Sow a second planting two weeks after the first, and maybe a third planting two weeks after the second. You'll have fresh greens all season by doing this.

Grow a spring garden for fast food

Most greens can be harvested in one of two ways:

  •  - You can cut off the more mature leaves and leave the rest of the plant to continue growing, OR
  •  - Cut all of the leaves about an inch above the ground and let the plant grow back.

The first method will give you a continuous harvest; the second will yield two or three harvests of greens.

Buy fast-growing seeds

To find the varieties that will grow the fastest, check seed packets and catalog listings for "days to maturity." 

When buying seeds, look for names such as "Early Scarlet Globe Radish." That word "early" is a good indication that it's a short season variety.

The ready-to-eat estimate I'm giving is just that, an estimate. The variety you're growing may take longer - or be ready sooner. Your weather, your soil and your location might also make a difference.

I buy my seeds from Mary's Heirloom Seeds. Mary sells only heirloom, non-genetically-modified seeds and I'm extremely happy with the quality and germination rates of the seeds I've ordered.

8 fast growing greens

Arugula - ready in about 20-40 days. You can begin planting arugula as soon as the soil thaws in spring. Like lettuce, you can cut leaves as needed and let the rest of the plant continue to grow.

Bok choy - harvest leaves after 21 days or the entire plant in 45-60 days. Plant seeds near the date of your last average frost.

Kale - harvest baby greens in about 25 days. Set out kale plants 3-5 weeks before the last frost date; you can start seeds indoors up to five weeks before transplanting to the garden. Kale requires a lot of water while growing or it will taste bitter.

Mustard greens - baby greens are read to eat in about 25 days. Plant early in spring; it can tolerate a light frost. Mustard needs a lot of water while growing or it will taste bitter. Mustard does not like hot weather and is best planted in early spring. Depending on where you live, you can try growing mustard in the shade later in the season.

Lettuce - ready in about 30-60 days depending on the variety grown. Begin planting two weeks before the last frost date. Grow looseleaf lettuce varieties for the fastest harvest. By cutting off the outer leaves as needed, the remaining plant will continue to grow and provide a longer harvest.

Mesclun - ready to harvest in about 35 days. Plant after the danger of frost has passed. Mesclun is a mix of greens that will grow well in both your garden or in containers. Harvest leaves as needed.

Spinach - ready in 37-45 days. Sow spinach directly in the soil 4-6 weeks before your last frost date. Soak seeds in water for several hours before planting for faster germination. Spinach loves shade and lots of water. Baby spinach leaves are sweet and tender - don't let your plants grow for too long.

Chinese cabbage - ready in as little as 50 days. Plant 4-6 weeks before your last average frost date. Chinese cabbage prefers cooler temperatures. If you live in a hot climate you can try growing it in the shade.

Grow fast food in a spring garden

7 fast-growing vegetables 

Green onions - ready in about 20-30 days. Plant onion sets or plants when the outdoor temperature is supposed to remain 28°F or higher. Leave some in the garden to mature for summer onions.

Radishes - ready in as little as 21 days. Sow radish seeds directly in the ground, 4-6 weeks before the last frost date. Thin seedlings to 3-4" apart so they'll have space to develop. Water well to prevent them from tasting hot and peppery.

Beets - greens are ready to harvest at 30 days; the beets at about 40-70 days depending on variety. Plant beets 2-3 weeks before the last average frost date.

Turnips - greens are ready to eat in 40 days; turnip roots in about 60 days. Harvest the roots when they are about 2-3" in circumference. The roots can be cooked in stew instead of potatoes.

Green beans - ready in about 40-65 days. Beans are frost-sensitive, so you must wait until the danger of frost has passed before planting them. Bush beans produce earlier than pole beans.

Snow peas - ready in about 60 days. Can be planted early (as soon as the ground thaws, about 4-6 weeks before the average last frost date) and take about ten days to germinate.

Summer squash and zucchini - you might be surprised to see this on the list of "fast food." While squash and zucchini must be planted later than the others - after all threat of frost - they can be harvested after about 35 days. Pick and eat squash when they are small for the best flavor. They grow super-fast so check the plants daily.

Fast-growing fruit

Strawberries are one of the fastest-growing fruits. Ever-bearing varieties will often produce berries the first year; June-bearing strawberries will bear the year after they are planted. You'll need to purchase plants rather than seeds. Once they begin to flower, you'll have ripe berries in about 4-6 weeks.

If you're short on garden space

You can grow vegetables even if you don't have much room for a garden. Some vegetable plants are space hogs, but others are more considerate.

Spring's cool-season greens and vegetables are nature's fast food.

Here are some suggestions for vegetables to grow in a tiny garden, and vegetables that are well-suited to growing in containers.

If you want to grow your own healthy salad ingredients, I have 8 secrets to a successful salad garden here, including a list of plants that are well-suited.

Are you reading this in the summer, too late to plant in spring? You can also plant these fast-growing vegetables in the fall! Here's when to start a fall garden.

Check out Mary's Heirloom Seeds when placing your seed orders. Mary carries over 700 varieties of open-pollinated, heirloom, non-GMO seeds. You can read more about Mary's Heirloom Seeds in this guest post she wrote for us.

Do you want more help planning your garden?

Check out my workbook Plan a Successful Garden! This ebook includes worksheets to help you discover:

  • The best location for your garden
  • The type of garden you want to grow - in the ground, raised beds or containers
  • What to grow (that's the fun part!) depending on where you live
  • And much more!

To learn more click here...

More gardening information

Check out all this helpful information from some of my fellow homestead and gardening bloggers to get your garden started:

How to Choose the Best Garden Space from The Self-Sufficient HomeAcre

Choosing the Best Garden Seeds from Homegrown Self-Reliance

How to Preserve Homegrown Lettuce from Grow Where You Sow

Theme Gardens – How to Cultivate Fun, Flavor & ‘Buzz’ from The Farm Wife

How to Establish a Fantastic Edible Food Forest Easily from 15 Acre Homestead

Step by Step Plan to Get Your Seeds Started for a Spring Garden 
from Bloom Where You're Planted

Here's to a great garden season, and lots of fresh food on your family's table!

For more self-sufficient posts like this, subscribe to my weekly-ish newsletter The Acorn and join me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest. I'd love to see you there!

You can grow food in as little as 3-4 weeks, and sprouts in even less time! This list tells you what to plant and when, and approximate harvest dates too. Start gardening and grow your own food!


Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram | Subscribe