6 Procrastinator-Friendly Vegetables That Go from Seed to Harvest in as Little as 8 Days

published May 20, 2022
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container garden with sections featuring different vegetables
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There’s a common gardening joke: “Spend $75 on supplies and you can get one 75-cent tomato.” But it’s a misconception that you have to be spending big money on your edible garden to be able to have something harvestable. Not the case! In fact, with the right plant picks, you can not only garden on a budget, but you can also do it without investing a ton of time or energy, too.

The secret: seeds. You can buy your seeds at the dollar store, or get them on sale (since you may be starting late — I see you, procrastinators, and I salute you). For containers, use whatever you already have: five gallon buckets, recycling bins, storage containers… practically any clean container will do. If you can drill holes in the bottom, you can likely use it as a planter!

For some advice on what kinds of seeds to look for to satisfy gardeners who are looking for quick gratification, I spoke to Bella Black, the gardener behind Pentagram Potager. Her business revolves around free seed-sharing and edible gardening with a strong focus on education. She’s either in her garden, a client’s garden, or talking about gardening on her free Wednesday Zoom meetups. With almost a decade of farming experience, she’s the perfect person to ask about fast-growing veggies. Here, her picks for veggie seeds to plant if you want a cheap, easy, and most of all fast harvest this summer.

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Leafy Greens

Ever seen “baby spinach” or “baby kale” in the grocery store? Those are just leafy greens harvested earlier in their growing cycle. Black loves a leafy green to get the growing season started since they can go from seed to plate so quickly. “Arugula, spinach, lettuce, and kale can be ready for harvest within 30 days of planting,” she says, whether they’re planted out in a community garden plot, or in a container outside or inside. Yep, you don’t even have to have outdoor space for these quick salad staples.

To plant, sow the tiny seeds in rows that are 6 to 8 inches apart. (If you want the greens to fully mature before harvesting, you’ll need more like 12 inches.) Then, cover with a light layer of soil and water enough to keep seeds damp.

When buying seeds, keep an eye out for these varieties:

  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Endive
  • Mustard
  • Escarole
  • Lettuce
  • Mesclun mixes
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These tasty cool-weather veggies can be ready in as little as three to four weeks after planting; once you start to see the veggie above dirt, it’s time to harvest.

If you’re too impatient to wait even four weeks, you’re in luck: Radishes are also one of the fastest microgreen growing options. In about 10 days, you can harvest the teeny greens that pop up above the soil and add them to salads or other dishes.

To plant radishes, sow seeds directly in soil about an inch deep. You’ll need to thin out the seedlings if you want to make room for mature radishes to flourish; for microgreens, you can keep seeds dense to maximize your output.

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Baby Carrots

Baby carrots — earlier-harvested versions of the regular old carrot — take about as long as radishes. Have a tiny spot left in your container or plot? Pop a couple carrot seeds about a half inch deep. Be aware, though: Carrots need very rich and compost-heavy dirt to thrive. Without enough nutrients, your carrots will be under-developed (and underwhelming). These seeds take about 60 days to mature enough for harvest; if you give them 75 to 80 days, they’ll be full-grown.

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Bok Choy

This leafy cabbage relative can go from seed to stomach in 30 to 45 days. Plant it about 1/2 inch deep, and while it grows, make sure you water frequently to prevent bolting. When a plant “bolts,” it means it’s switched its energy from developing leaves to creating flowers and seeds, so the leaves get bitter and unpalatable. Flowers may “bolt” upward if the plants get too warm and dry, so tend to yours regularly. 

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Sunflower Shoots

This is another seed that will be happy growing by your window. In only 12 days after planting, you’ll have shoots big enough to eat, which you can add to salads, sandwiches, and other dishes. You can even keep a couple growing and transfer them to a container outside so they can develop blooms — and you can get even more seeds later in the season. It’s a win-win.

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Bush Beans

Another favorite of Black’s, these beans reach maturity in 50 days. And better yet, they take barely any effort besides watering. The only downside? They come in all at once, so get ready for a serious harvest! Plant bush beans about 1 1/2 inches deep, with about 3 inches between each seed and 18 inches between rows. (You’ll need to thin out the seedlings later, but starting with more seeds will help ensure you end up with enough mature plants.)

Unlike pole beans, bush beans don’t require any sort of climbing trellis to thrive. They can’t grow indoors, though, so you’ll need to make room in an outdoor container or garden bed. The category of bush beans is relatively broad, and can include varieties like:

  • Stringless green beans
  • Lima beans
  • Wax beans

If you’re hoping to grow any of these this season you’ll have plenty of time. Fill your garden with easy and quick growers and you’ll have high-yield crops the whole season. Or just try one or two veggies to dip your toe in the edible gardening world this year. No pressure! Keep things simple and you’ll be a gardening pro before you know it.