We all love an incredible summer-picked beefsteak tomato and a delicious pie pumpkin ready in time for Fall holidays. But ultimately, our goal on the urban homestead is to maximize food production, so it’s incredibly important that we also have a go-to list of fast-growing crops to leverage in addition to those slow-growing favorites.

They may not be the flashiest garden plants out there, but I sincerely love these options for the sheer flexibility they inject into any gardening calendar.

For example, did you start your tomato seeds a little late this year? No problem! Run a season of hailstone radishes to take full advantage of Spring without any pressure to transplant the tomato seedlings too early. Or perhaps you’re losing your squash patch to mildew? That stinks, but you can go get a quicker win under your belt with some Cocozelle zucchini. Experiencing an unusually warm Fall? Maybe it’s worth taking a chance on planting an extra crop of tomatoes like the 42 Day variety! You get the point =)

And I don’t know about you, but I’m always a tiny bit disappointed when fast-growing crop recommendations are the same old leafy greens and microgreens. Which is why I’ve tried to pepper in some big ticket items and interesting lesser-known varieties into this list to make sure there’s something everyone can get excited about. Side note: If you don’t see a plant you were hoping for on this list, try searching for it with the keyword “early”.

There’s a pretty wide spread in harvest timelines, but I set a ceiling of about 50 days from transplant date to first harvest. I was surprised at just how much variety can fit into that relatively short window.

Finally, you won’t find any “microgreens” on the list because that felt like a little bit of a cop out.

Happy planting!

  1. Hailstone Radish (25 days) - Impressive not because it’s a major producer per square foot, but for the sheer ability to slot into any tiny gap in your harvests.

  2. Senposai Komatsuna/Spinach (30-40 days) - A hybrid cabbage with the Japanese green Komatsuna; it’s an interesting choice because it can thrive as both a warm and cool season green.

  3. Tatsoi Mustard (30 days) - Great cool weather crop with a milder mustard flavor. It stores relatively well as a bonus.

  4. Early Mizuna (40-50 days) or Early Mibuna (20-40 days)[https://www.kitazawaseed.com/seed_235-166.html] - Delicious, fast-growing, and capable of producing continuous harvests make these Japanese greens a real delight to grow.

  5. Chrysanthemum Greens (Shungiku) (30-50 days) - Two words: chrysanthemum tempura. Absolutely phenomenal on noodle soups.

  6. Rouge de Verona Radicchio (50 days). These are the fastest germinating seeds I’ve ever put in a seed tray. I saw shoots pop up in a day and a half with a nearly 100% germination rate.

  7. 42 Day Tomatoes (42 days… ) - A determinate variety not known for its taste per se… but can you believe there’s a tomato out there with a (potential) 42 day transplant-to-harvest timeline?

  8. Shiromaru Eggplant - One variety out of many delicious small, round Japanese eggplants. Certainly it can’t compare to the greens in terms of a fast harvest, but an incredible option nonetheless.

  9. Cocozelle Zucchini (45-50 days) - One of the most exciting plants growing in my garden right now! Pick young for a quick harvest or let those fruits grow absolutely massive.

  10. Early Bush Italian Bean (50 days) - Not just early yielding, but hardy. Plants don’t even require trellising! Great choice for an easy, fast crop.

  11. Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean(50 days) - Great alternative to the bush bean, the Kentucky Wonder is both early and produces lots of food.

  12. Morden Early Pickling Cucumber (45-50 days) - Cucumbers will always be one of my favorite garden crops for their productive, hardy nature and endless utility in the kitchen. Here’s a great option to reap those benefits when time is short!

  13. Red-veined Sorrel (50 days) - This green can’t compare to Mizuna in terms of time-to-harvest, but it’s cold-hardy enough to produce into winter, making it equally useful.