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Monday, February 14, 2011
Quick-Growing Vegetables for the Impatient Gardener
Photo Credit: Colleen Vanderlinden
I always laugh when people say that gardeners have to be patient. I'm a completely obsessed gardener, and I'm easily the most impatient person I know.
So there goes that theory.
The good news is that while I grow many plants that are worth the wait (tomatoes, pumpkins, corn...) there are plenty of things I can grow that will satisfy my impatience for garden-fresh food in very little time.
Right now, seed catalogs are hitting our mailboxes and many local nurseries are starting to stock their seeds. Keep some of these quick-growing veggies in mind as you do your seed shopping this year.
I am a salad lover, so I grow tons of mesclun, not only outside in pots and along the edges of my garden beds during the growing season, but also indoors during the winter. You can buy specialty mesclun mixes, such as Asian mixes, spicy mixes, or colorful mixes (which are pretty in addition to being delicious). Simply sprinkle the seeds heavily over the surface of your soil, cover with a fine sifting of soil, water regularly, and let it go. Within about three weeks, you'll be able to cut your first salad. You'll be able to get three good, healthy harvests before you'll have to sow more seeds -- it's a good idea to sow a new area or container full of seeds every week or so to keep yourself continuously in fresh mesclun.
Radishes are great to grow with kids because not only can they harvest the fruits of their labor within a month or so, but the seeds are large enough to handle easily. Radishes are perfect to grow in a garden bed or a container, and you're not limited to just the typical red ones with white flesh -- look for extra spicy 'Black Spanish' radishes, or pretty 'Easter Egg' radishes, which are a fun mix of red, purple, and pink radishes.
Like mesclun, above, you can sow many Asian greens, such as tatsoi, bok choi, and mizuna and have a harvest of tender greens to add to salads, sandwiches, or stir fries in just a few weeks.
I don't know how many people consider wheat grass to be a vegetable, but why not? If you love wheat grass juice, or are a fan of adding it tosmoothies, why not grow your own? A couple week's time, and you can harvest the wheat grass by cutting it with scissors or pruners -- it will keep growing, and you can continue to chop it as needed. Like mesclun, it's probably a good idea to sow a couple of containers of wheat grass, so that after you cut the grass in one container down, you have another container ready to harvest.
In about six weeks after planting, you can start harvesting thin, tender bush beans from your garden. To keep the plants productive, harvest when the beans are small -- if you let the beans get too big, the plant will start putting its energy into helping those pods produce seeds, rather than blooming to produce more pods, Unlike pole beans, bush beans are perfect for containers. Be sure to sow a few more beans every week or two so you are sure to have a continual harvest. For a more decorative look, consider growing colorful beans, such as the heirloom 'Royalty Purple Pod' or pale yellow 'Golden Wax' bush beans.
All of these quick-growing vegetables are sure to satisfy even the most impatient gardener. Best of all, by adding them to your garden, you ensure that you will always have something to harvest. You may be waiting ontomatoesor eggplants, but rest assured that while you wait, you can still harvest fresh radishes or beans from your garden. That alone is worth planning for a few of these veggies in this year's garden. More About Growing Your Own Food: The Top Ten Most Nutritious Vegetables, and How to Grow Them Beyond Salads: Growing a Garden to Feed a Family Keep Monsanto Out of Your Vegetable Garden