A good and healthy diet is one with varied nutrients.
It can be difficult to find that in our daily lives as it is but can be damn near impossible if you’ve got to rely entirely on what you can procure and produce yourself.
Having a reliable and abundant source of vitamins, minerals, and tasty vegetables is the remedy to that trouble; make that a selection of fast-growing vegetables and you’ve got yourself a recipe for survival.
Starting Your Plot
Establishing a crop of vegetables is easier than it sounds, even when you’re starting from scratch.
Recommended Reading: How To Start a Survival Garden
Once you’ve got things started your only workload involves watering, checking for and then eliminating pests, and harvesting your crop.
The plants do most of the work for you allowing you to tend to other, more pressing matters.
In this article, we’re going to:
- Take a look at what qualifies a vegetable as “fast-growing.”
- Examine how to harvest for maximum production.
- Introduce a variety of plants that offer fast results for your effort
By the end of this feature, I won’t be surprised if you start digging up a small piece of your backyard so you can get started growing.
What Makes A Vegetable Fast-Growing?
The time between planting and harvest determines whether a vegetable is fast-growing.
Plenty of additional factors influence this:
- Healthy conditions
But let’s not forget about how many harvests you can get from a single plant, an important factor in growing speed.
In a survival situation, water access can become an issue. Consider adding some rain barrels to your yard or your site ahead of time to have plenty of the wet stuff.
Harvesting Your Vegetables
When harvested correctly, leafy-green vegetables will continue to produce repeatedly for several months.
Lettuce is a great example; as this video demonstrates, one plant can produce for up to 3 months!
This same method applies to other vegetables that have many fruits produced from a single plant: tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers are a few examples.
Other vegetables like radishes, carrots, and turnips are able to be harvested only once and therefore tend to require being planted in greater numbers.
Don’t forget about a vegetable like the onion. Although requiring a lengthier period in the ground to reach maturity, their green stalks are readily harvested while the onion bulb is growing.
It’s a solution when you’re in a pinch and need to harvest something now, note this method of harvesting will eventually limit the growth of the onion bulb.
Oh, the best part about growing vegetables? It’s something you can benefit from right now.
In my line of work, I’ve met too many people who claimed they had a black thumb; that they’d kill any plant they ever tried to take care.
I tell them that once upon a time, I had a black thumb too and that the surest method to develop a green thumb is to stain it that color with a lot of dead plants.
So get outside and tear out a patch of your lawn, or try some five-gallon bucket gardening.
Get to work and earn some first-hand experience growing and harvesting your own vegetables. You might never need to use these skills in a survival scenario, but nothing beats freshly harvested tomatoes and basil from your own garden.
Let’s get down to plant selection! In no particular order…
11 Fast-Growing Vegetables For Your Plot
A nutritious and delicious crop to harvest. Spinach grows best in cooler weather; to get the most of your space plant two crops so that they can mature in succession.
Spinach does not fair well in hot weather but is a reliable spring and early summer vegetable.
When to Plant: Plant the first crop about 4 weeks before your expected last freeze date, and a second crop about 6-8 weeks after the last freeze date.
Days to Harvest: As early as 20 days; as soon as leaves are the appropriate size they can be eaten. Remove the outer leaves first and continue to harvest longer into the season.
Incredibly nutritious and easy as pie to grow.
Like most leafy greens kale does better in cooler weather and can continue to grow all the way down to twenty degrees Fahrenheit.
It usually develops a sweeter taste when the weather dips to a nice chill. A spring crop and a fall crop are ideal. Kale can grow through the winter in USDA zones 7-9.
When to Plant: Plant a spring crop about 4 weeks before the last frost date, and a second crop in late summer or early fall.
Days to Harvest: 60 days to full maturity but young leaves can be harvested when they reach the size of your hand. Make sure to leave at least four leaves on the plant if you harvest while it grows to maturity.
Read: How to preserve kale
A bold tasting leafy green. Arugula is another fast-growing leafy green that can be carefully harvested to maximize its output.
If you see flowers forming on the plant they signal the end of the growing season; remove the flowers to get some more production from the plant.
When to Plant: Plant a few weeks before the last freeze, and a second crop in the fall.
Days to Harvest: 20 days for young leaves, 40 for mature
Among the easiest of plants to grow a radish comes in spring and winter varieties.
The spring type grows significantly faster than the winter; to check their development give a gentle tug on their leaves or push some soil aside to see if they’re developing bulbs.
They produce in crazy quantity. They aren’t exceptionally nutritious but they produce great crop sizes.
When to Plant: Plant seeds about 4 weeks before the final frost date
Days to Harvest: 20-30 days for the spring variety, or up to 60 for the winter variety
A delicious accompaniment to just about any diet. Lettuces are a cold-weather crop and respond extremely well to the selection harvesting method we’ve seen with other leafy greens. Plant spring and fall crops for the best results.
When to Plant: Plant spring crops about 4 weeks before the last freeze date and fall crops about 4 weeks before the first freeze date.
Days to Harvest: 40 days to maturity, but leaves can be harvested at almost any point in the growth
Nutritional powerhouses, beans can be eaten in a great variety of ways and are easy to grow.
Edible raw, easily dried, and bursting with nutrients, beans should be a staple in your vegetable patch.
Some grow well without support and are easier to harvest(bush beans) while others do best with a trellis for support and have tastier fruit (pole beans).
When to Plant: Plant beans when soils are consistently warm.
Days to Harvest: Most beans mature in about 60 days, though some can take up to 100 days.
Delicious, fast-growing, healthy, and prolifically producing. What more could you ask for?
Peas come in many varieties but snap peas tend to be the best all-around. They are ready to eat as soon as they’re harvested, pod and all, and the more pods you pick the more the plant will produce.
When to Plant: A few weeks before the last freeze. Peas can be cold sensitive to hard freezes.
Days to Harvest: 40 to 60 days; picking lots of peas is vital to ensure a hefty crop.
Despite the nutritional benefits of green onions their main use is to add flavor to your meals. Some green onion stalks mixed in with a soup can really make it sing, and they’re excellent to accompany a meat dish. Their only limitation in cooking is your imagination.
When to Plant: Onions prefer warmer soil to get started, so wait until after your last freeze date to plant.
Days to Harvest: About 50 days to maturity. Harvesting the stalks can be done as soon as the leaves reach about 5” high, but doing this can limit the onion bulb’s growth.
Carrots can be tricky to grow because their development happens away from our sight.
The trick is to plan the right way: give carrots a loose, sandy soil to grow in, and be mindful of applying too much manure-type fertilizer early on.
Plant plenty of carrots so that you can check on their development without fear of losing your crop.
When to Plant: About 4 weeks before the last freeze.
Days to Harvest: Carrots take about 60 days to mature and be ready for harvest. When they’re about a half-inch across they’re ready.
Excellent source of fiber and antioxidants. Turnips have been grown for thousands of years and are an easily grown, tough, reliable nutritional staple in any garden.
Some folks will use them as a substitute for potatoes, but I’m just not ready to give up my spuds.
When to Plant: About 3 weeks before the last frost for a spring crop, and again in September for a fall crop. Warmer areas (USDA zones 9-10) can grow turnips through the winter.
Days to Harvest: 30-60 days. Turnip greens can be harvested as early as 30 days, but plants reach full maturity around 60 days.
A little heavy on water usage, tomatoes are my favorite vegetable to grow.
For best results growing, harvesting, and collecting seeds for the next season purchase indeterminate heirloom tomatoes.
Heirloom tomatoes produce delicious crops and take from seed easily; indeterminate tomatoes will grow until killed by the cold. My favorite is the Box Car Willie. (Amazon Link)
When to Plant: After the last frost in the spring. Starting plants 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost indoors, when possible, is a great method to achieve early production.
Days to Harvest: 60 days on average. Once your indeterminate tomatoes are established proper pruning provides massive benefits to your plant’s health and crop production.
Fast-growing vegetables are one of the key ingredients to make it on your own.
A steady source of readily available and fast-growing food is a staple missing from many plans. And when it is included, it’s often without the necessary supplemental information for establishing the plants into an area to function as a bountiful garden.
Also see our guide to the highest calorie vegetables to grow.
Put it all together and you’ve got yourself a plan.