Fastest Growing Vegetables - Growth Rate Charts, Early Yield Tips

If you are starting a new vegetable garden or replanting one after the end of Winter it is useful to know which vegetables will provide quick yields. Some plants such as radishes reach maturity within 20-30 days and can be fully harvested after this period. Other plants be trimmed to provide leaves and shoots on the way to the plant reaching maturity.

Turnips are a good example of this. Leaves can be harvested from the tops after about 25 days which the turnip roots or tubers are still growing. Of course, you need to take care not to take too many leaves as this may affect the growth rate of the tubers.

The same applies for bulb onions which may take months to fully mature. But you can start harvesting the greens within 25-30 days and the plants will continue to develop the bulb and to and produce more more shoots.

Or you may want top grow scallions and harvest the entire plants which mature within 20-30 days.

This article includes a chart of the days to maturity of common vegetables, lists vegetable that can be harvested early for leaves and shoots and provides tips and guides for getting early yields from vegetables.

Radishes grow very quickly and can be harvested after 20-25 days
Radishes grow very quickly and can be harvested after 20-25 days | Source
baby spinach leaves can be harvested very early when the leaves are small
baby spinach leaves can be harvested very early when the leaves are small | Source
Baby carrots grow very quickly and can be harvested continually
Baby carrots grow very quickly and can be harvested continually | Source
The pods of Snow and Snap peas are eaten before the peas develop, providing early harvest
The pods of Snow and Snap peas are eaten before the peas develop, providing early harvest | Source
Turnips and Beets are slow growing but the tops can be harvested well before the roots or bulbs are mature
Turnips and Beets are slow growing but the tops can be harvested well before the roots or bulbs are mature | Source

Vegetable Growing in Space

NASA is testing a small portable greenhouse ('piilow') to grow fast growing lettuces at the International Space Station (ISS). This is a first and the leaves grown will not be eaten, but will be transported back to earth for testing. It is expected that plants will grow well in space once the problems of water-logging are addressed.

The absence of gravity, means that soil in a pot would float away. So soil is packed in a mesh bag to keep it together. NASA calls these bags "plant pillows". The other problem is watering the plants as the lack of gravity means that water pools around the roots and cannot drain away. Various pumps and other devices have been developed. Wicks in the 'pillows' deliver water to the plants and stop it pooling.

It is expected that the lack of gravity will not be a problem and that once the seeds germinate, the shoots are expected to grow towards the light. Growing food and crops will be an essential requirement on long manned trips to Mars.

Fastest Growing Vegetables - Harvesting Shoots and Leaves

The table below lists the time for maturity of common vegetables with the quickest shown first.

Plants from which leaves and shoots can be picked while the main product is still maturing have been labeled.

Brief notes about over-wintering and ways to speed up the initial yield have been provided.

There are broadly three groups of vegetables:

Fast Growing Vegetables - Plants that yield Leaves and shoots or a fully mature within 25 days.

  • Spring Onion
  • Arugula and other Salad Greens
  • Green Onion – Scallions
  • Radish - Spring
  • Spinach
  • Mustard greens
  • Water cress

Moderately Fast Growing Vegetables - Plants that yield leaves and shoots or a fully mature within 26-45 days.

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Baby Carrots
  • Parsnip
  • Lettuce (leaf)
  • Radish – Winter
  • Turnip

Reasonably Fast Growing Vegetables - Plants that yield leaves and shoots or a fully mature within 46-50 days.

  • Beet
  • Broccoli
  • Okra
  • Snap Bean (Green Bean)
  • Summer squash – Scallop
  • Summer squash – Zucchini
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber Slicing
  • Kohlrabi
  • Peas - Snow (Sugar)
  • Peas – Snap
  • Peas – Garden (Shell)

Fastest Growing Vegetables

► Green Onions

Green onions of various types produce tops very quickly which can be harvested develop well before the bulb is mature. The types available are:

  • Green Onions - regular onions, for which the tops can be partially harvested before they form a bulb
  • Spring Onions - these have small bulbs that mature quickly
  • Scallions - these varieties never form a bulb

You can sow seeds indoors 5 -6 weeks before the last frost in your area and wait a couple of weeks direct sow in the garden after the last frost.

► Radishes - Fast and Easy to Grow

Radishes should be grown as quickly as possible and eaten early as they can become hard or pithy when older. With proper care radishes can be harvested within 20-30 days. Some varieties grow faster than others.

► Salad Greens - Rapid Harvest

Various lettuce types can be harvested quickly by picking some of the leaves. Super quick maturing types such as arugula can be harvested as baby greens within 3 weeks. Most salad greens can be harvested within 21-55 days. Rocket and spinach also grow quickly when harvested as 'baby' types.

► Turnips and Beets - Two Crops in One

For these plants the tops can be trimmed as the plants grow well before the bulbs are mature. If the plants are kept growing quickly, trimming some of the leaves will not affect the development of the bulbs. Time to the first harvest of the tops is 30 – 60 days.

► Leaf Lettuce

Varieties such as Romaine can be first harvested about 30 days after planting. Start to remove small leaves once they reach 3 inches in size (7 cm)

► Baby Carrots

Baby carrots can be harvested after about 30 days. Choose faster growing varieties and sow in bulk expecting to harvest them before they are fully mature. Standard carrot varieties take 50 - 80 days to mature.

► Spinach

Spinach matures after 4-6 weeks, but can be harvested as 'baby' leaves

► Kale, Mustard Greens and Watercress

Many varieties can be harvested early and many are fast growers. Baby leaves can be picked starting from about 25 days. Most take about 50 to 65 days to mature, but can be continually harvested in the mean time.

► Green Peas

The various varieties yield pods that can be harvested as the plant grows. Snow and Sugar peas and other types are intended to be eaten before the peas develop in the pods. These develop sooner that the traditional varieties. Peas can be tall, semi-dwarf and dwarf varieties. Snow peas take only about 10 days to germinate and are ready for harvest in about 45-60 days.

► Bush Beans

Most varieties of bush beans can be harvested within 40-65 days from planting, but can be picked as 'baby beans'.

► Cucumbers

Most varieties can be harvested after 50-70, but some of them can be picked when small.

► Squash

Many varieties of squash, including zucchini, can be harvested after about 50-70 days. Small squash have a sweet taste and have very versatile uses.

Growth Rates of Common Vegetables with Fastest Listed First

Vegetable
Early Picking
Days to First harvest
Days to Maturity
Comment
Spring Onion
early, leaves
21
21-30
 
Arugula and other Salad Greens
early, leaves
23
23-55
 
Green Onion – Scallions
early, tops
24
24-140
 
Radish - Spring
 
25
25-40
Radishes larger than 2 in diameter are often pithy and unusable.
Spinach
early, leaves
25
45-60
Harvest the entire crop when plants begin to show signs of bolting.
Mustard Greens
early, leaves
25
50-65
 
Water Cress
early, leaves
25
50-65
 
Romaine Lettuce
early, leaves
30
30-90
 
Baby Carrots
early
30
30-60
 
Parsnip
early, tops
40
110-130
Can be overwintered in the ground, mulch and dig before new growth starts in spring.
Lettuce (leaf)
early, leaves
45
45-60
Harvest outer leaves, hot weather causes bitterness.
Radish – Winter
 
45
45-70
Can be left in the ground until frost.
Turnip
early, tops
45
45-70
Foliage can be harvested for greens.
Beet
early, tops
50
50-70
Up to 1/3 of the beet foliage can be harvested for greens without harming the root.
Broccoli
 
50
50-65
Harvest before yellow flower buds start to open, side shoots can be harvested after main head is removed.
Okra
early, leaves
50
50-65
Harvest frequently to maintain productivity.
Snap Bean (Green Bean)
 
50
50-70
Harvest when pods are pencil size in thickness.
Summer squash – Scallop
 
50
50-60
Harvest when skin is soft.
Summer squash – Zucchini
 
50
50-60
Harvest every 2 to 3 days when fruit are 2 in diameter.
Cauliflower
 
55
55-80
Blanch heads when 2-3 across by carefully tying leaves over heads.
Cucumber Slicing
 
55
55-65
1 to 2 diameter, harvest plants every 2 to 3 days.
Kohlrabi
early, tops
55
55-70
Store with leaves and roots removed.
Peas - Snow (Sugar)
 
55
55-85
Harvest when pods are long and thin, just as the seeds begin to develop.
Peas – Snap
 
55
55-85
Pick when seeds are nearly full size.
Peas – Garden (Shell)
 
55
55-85
Harvest when peas are full size.
Cabbage
 
60
60-90
Harvest when heads are large and solid.
Carrot
 
60
60-80
Harvest when orange shoulder pushes through the soil.
Pepper - Hot
 
60
60-90
Use gloves when harvesting.
Pepper – Sweet
 
70
70-90
Usually harvested when green, but can be left on plant until red, orange, yellow or purple.
Sweet Corn
 
70
70-105
Mature kernels exude milky sap when punctured.
Tomato
 
70
70-90
Harvest fully ripe for best flavor.
Eggplant
 
75
75-90
Fruit should have shiny finish.
Muskmelon Cantaloupe
 
75
75-100
When mature, stem separates easily from melon.
Watermelon
 
80
80-100
Harvest when 'belly' turns from white to creamy yellow.
Pumpkin
 
85
85-120
Harvest when uniformly orange, leave 3-4 of stem.
Winter Squash
 
85
85-120
Rind should be hard and difficult to puncture with fingernail.
Garlic
 
90
90
Harvest when foliage topples over and dries or just before first frost.
Onion
 
90
90-120
Harvest when tops fall over and begin to dry.
Potato
 
90
90-120
Dig when tops turn brown and die.
Sweet Potato
 
100
100-125
Harvest just before or after a vine killing frost.

© 2014 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 3 comments

WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 2 years ago

Great info! Quick-maturing crops sound particularly good to me right now as I eagerly anticipate the growing tomatoes & peppers right now that feel like they're taking forever!


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

Yes, I'm an impatient gardener! Voting up and pinning for those just like me.


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 2 years ago from Southwest England

Good information - it's always nice to get some quick results, especially for the beginner, and while you're waiting for the slower plants to mature.

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