Growing your own vegetables can be a fun activity. At the same time, many people want theirs to grow fast so they can reap the benefits immediately. Such plants do exist, and we shall show you how to grow them.
The first six described here are taken from the list compiled by Rodale’s Organic Life. This online magazine is run by experts in gardening, cooking and housekeeping. It began publishing in 1930, before the computer even came to be. Its founder, J. I. Rodale, strongly supported a return to organic farming and “sustainable” agriculture.
Arugula grows faster than any other vegetable — baby leaves can grow in just 21 days! It can be grown either outdoors or indoors — let us show you both.
You will need to spread vegetable-based compost two to three inches thick and blend it with the soil twice that amount. Find out when spring frost is predicted to strike last, and two or three weeks earlier, plant the seeds ¼" deep. Arugula needs full sun and continuous moisture. Pull the weaker seedlings when they begin germinating so only the stronger ones will grow, and spread those out.
Use a fluorescent light and moisture-retaining soil. Before planting, wash soil so it evens out. Fertilize them when they grow four to six inches tall.
Arugula is one of the most popular salad vegetables, adding an aromatic and nutty flavor all its own.
2. Cherry Belle Radish
Cherry Belle radishes are those shocking pink ones with the white interiors. They are popular for salads. People eat the roots, which can grow to be ¾ to one inch round in 22 days.
Full sun is required for cherry belle radishes. To ensure a steady crop, thinly sow a few seeds regularly.
Normally, these radishes are low-maintenance plants. You need only provide basic care for them throughout the year, such as watering (moderately) and making sure their soil needs are met. Very little fertilizer is needed, and hardly any pests ever attack the radishes.
All these features make the Cherry Belle radish a popular vegetable among beginning gardeners. Sowing should begin about a month before the last frost date.
It is important to grow Cherry Belles sparsely, trimming them so they reach their maximum potential. They grow quickly, so thin them out year round. Keep the soil temperature above 55°. It is best to pick the plants 20 to 25 days before the harvest.
3. Black-Seeded Simpson Lettuce
From seed to full-grown salad lettuce takes just under a month for the black-seeded Simpson, which is not a head, but rather a leaf, lettuce. Such lettuces are the kind you should grow if you are a beginning gardener since they are easier.
Like the two plants discussed in the previous sections, the black-seeded Simpson requires full sun. If you choose to plant the seeds in rows, they should be six inches apart, with the distance between rows two to three times that much. Place starting mixture or loose soil over the seeds in a fine layer and sprinkle lightly. Simpson lettuce prefers cooler weather and plenty of moisture. If the temperature gets too high, they will rot.
You will want to set up a fence around your lettuce plants to keep rabbits out. Alternatively, you can use a rabbit repellant such as fox or bobcat urine. However, you will have to keep buying the stuff as the effects are only temporary. A fence is, therefore, probably the most effective rabbit deterrent. To keep out snails and slugs, use a can of fruit juice, a soft drink or sweet water or place a bed of coarse sand around the lettuce.
Spinach was first grown in Southwest Asia during prehistoric times. During the Crusader era, it spread to Western Europe, and from there to the Western Hemisphere during the Great Age of Exploration. Baby leaves start to develop within 35 to 40 days. This is one of the relatively few garden vegetables that grow in partial shade. It is also less fussy about the kind of soil in which it grows, which makes it another great choice for beginners.
This is a vegetable that prefers cool weather — as low as 15 to 20°. It is also an annual, so each year there will be two different growing seasons. Therefore, plant your spinach early in the spring, as soon as the soil becomes workable. Plant new seeds every week or two until the final expected frost in your region.
Your second planting season begins in middle to late summer. Since spinach plants germinate more slowly in warm weather, you will want to plant more seeds. When it gets warmer, spinach will flower and set seed prematurely. This process is known as bolting, and there is no way to stop it once it starts. Bolting causes the leaves to turn bitter. By growing it in partial shade, you can minimize the effects of bolting. You can also extend the spring season for spinach by planting on the north end of the taller-growing crops.
We said above that spinach can grow in a variety of soils. It does grow in high-alkali soils; however, it is not tolerant of acids. Crowding plants encourages bolting, so plant the seeds an inch apart in twelve- to eighteen-inch-spaced rows. When you thin the baby greens, send them to the kitchen.
5. Contender Bush Beans
Stringless, six- to eight-inch pods take 49 days to spring up. There are two ways of planting contender beans — on short, self-supporting bushes or on vertical supports such as poles or trellises. Those of the former type tend to mature more quickly. The instructions given in this section apply to bush beans only.
You will want to speed up the germinating process by soaking the seeds in a shallow container of warm water the day before you plant them. Leave them there overnight and then drain the water. The seeds are now ready to be planted.
If the soil is full of weeds and/or debris, take them out before you do anything else. Adequate drainage is an absolute must for plants of this sort. Rake each row with the tip of the tool. If the soil is low in nitrogen and/or potassium, spread fertilizer between the furrows. Plant the seeds six to eight inches apart. Cover them up with about an inch of soil. Keep putting down seeds until either they or the rows run out — whichever comes first. Different types of contender beans require different depths. Therefore, you will want to check the seed packet to see how deeply those of your particular type should be buried.
Some people plant contender bush beans in areas that are very large indeed — check out the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rpu0FNX4lTM, which is where I got the instructions just given. Here, each of the rows is about 160 feet long. The gardener had to break up large clumps of clay, and he was planting in this particular garden for the first time; that is why he had so many weeds to remove.
Contender beans may be planted by the “hole” method. To do this, tap the seeds gently with your finger to make sure that they are seated in the soil with which they will need to be in contact. Cover up the seed and pat it lightly with your palm. There is also the “push” method, which involves pushing the seeds down with your index and middle fingers.
6. Sugar Ann Snap Peas
Snap pea plants produce 2½" pods. They take 56 days to germinate and are one of the earliest vegetables you can pick each year.
If you want to save the seeds from your snap peas, plant them at least fifty feet away from any other plants that you grow. This will protect them from cross-pollination. Choose a planting site that will receive at least four hours of sun per day. Most peas grow best in cool weather, but there are some that can be grown in warmer climates. Indeed, snap peas can be grown throughout the year in places like San Francisco. If you live in an area where the temperatures never drop below freezing, plant your snap peas during the coolest time of the year.
It is possible to plant dwarf or bush snap peas and “super” snap peas. Vines on the latter can grow to be over six feet long! On the other hand, the pods of dwarf plants are only 2½ to 3 inches long, the vines being two feet. There are even stringless peas; you have to remove the string before eating the peas. For details on how to plant these varieties of snap peas, see http://homeguides.sfgate.com/varieties-snap-peas-22676.html.
Sugar Ann snap peas are bred to resist the powdery mildew that kills other kinds of pea plants in humid areas. This fungal disease produces distinctive signs, most notably as white spots on the lower leaves and stems.
To learn how to save the seeds from Sugar Ann snap peas, go to http://homeguides.sfgate.com/save-seeds-sugar-ann-snap-peas-31789.html.
7. Green Onions
Green onions are also among the fastest-growing vegetable plants. Its stalks can be harvested after three or four weeks, whereas it can take as long as six months to grow normal onions. In addition to being the fastest-growing onions, these are also one of the most versatile in that they can grow in almost any climate.
There are three ways in which green onions can be grown: from seeds or sets outdoors; in pots indoors; and in glass jars. We will discuss only the first; the other two you can find on http://www.wikihow.com/Grow-Green-Onions.
Pick a garden spot that gets full sun and has well-drained soil. Clear sticks, stones and weeds, then till the dirt a foot deep, using a rake in a small patch or a soil tiller in larger spots. Put in organic material such as compost. Soil becomes workable about four weeks prior to the final frost of the season. It is then that you can plant the seeds. They should be arranged about ½ inch deep with a foot between each row. A temperature of 65° to 86° is required for the onions to germinate, a process that can take a month. It may be necessary to thin the plants. Mulch should be placed between the seeds.
Cucumbers grow faster than any other type of vegetable, and are popular in salads or as pickles. A summer garden, indeed, can never be complete without them.
In the section of the garden where you plant your cucumbers, there should be full sun. As long as such is the case on a patio or deck, you can also grow them there if garden space is limited. Cucumbers need full soil, and you should work compost into it as they feed heavily. Soil pH should be at least 6.8.
Because they grow best in warm temperatures, you should plant cucumbers as a succession crop — that is, after the cool-weather crops such as spinach and lettuce have been harvested. They require large amounts of both food and moisture. Therefore, give them plenty of fertilizer and keep the soil moist.
You can improve cucumber production by:
(1) using dark plastic mulch, which retains both moisture and warmth; and
(2) growing certain types on a trellis, preventing them from sprawling or touching the ground. It also increases circulation, thus ensuring that more individual vegetables will sprout. Varieties like Sweet Success are best grown this way.
Turnip leaves can be cut off after 45 days, and the vegetables themselves are ready for harvesting after 60. Many salads, soups and stews include them.
Here again is a cool-weather crop. Soil should be well-drained and have a pH of 5.5 to 6.8. Remove debris and bury seeds a half inch down, one inch apart, with one to two feet between rows. Thin unneeded seedlings when they grow to four inches. Water them regularly.
One very important thing to know about turnips is that they require a two- or three-year hiatus before being planted again. During this time, plant vegetables of other kind in your garden.
Popular throughout the world, zucchini is easy to harvest. It becomes ready within 70 days. Conditions should be sunny, warm and moist. Soil pH requirement is 6 to 7.5, seed spacing two feet and row spacing three to six feet. Fertilizer should be rich in organic material. When bees are in low number, hand pollination is necessary.
Zucchini should be harvested even before they’ve matured so the ones that are left will grow better. If picked when six to eight inches long and one-and-a-half to three inches across, they will be tender, sweet and juicy.
For detailed information on fertilization and hand pollination, go to http://www.ehow.com/how_2067814_grow-zucchini.html.
For the great bulk of human history, the main source of food was one’s own garden or farm. (Of course, even before then, people hunted and gathered all that they ate.) In later, civilized societies, more food was produced for the market, but home-growing was still the primary food source. Not until the Agricultural Revolution of the late 1700s and 1800s did market food production on a large scale become possible.
Today, more and more Americans and others are beginning to realize just how rewarding growing vegetables in your own backyard can be.
Domestic vegetable gardens have thus become common throughout the country. I have friends who often give us their home-grown produce, and my support group for the mentally handicapped work on our garden each summer.
There is really nothing like eating what you yourself have labored to produce.