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Which Are the Quickest Growing Fruit and Vegetables?

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 21 Dec 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Quick Growing Fruit Vegetables Food

Q.

My grandaughter wants to start growing things to eat. Can you suggest the quickest 5 plants to start with - she gets bored quickly so fast growing would be great.

(C.H, 13 March 2009)

A.

What a lovely idea – there can’t be many better ways to get youngsters interested in growing their own food than for them to go gardening with their grandparents!

When it comes to near-instant results, it’s hard to beat the old favourite combination of mustard and cress. Things happen fast enough for the most easily bored child and they’re pretty undemanding in their needs – countless generations of kids have grown them on wet flannels on their bedroom window-sills over the years. However, although they’re definitely speedy, they’re not exactly going to make much of a meal!

Fast Crops

If you’re looking for a more substantial crop, you might like to think about lettuces. Although growing one the size of a small football does take a little while, if you sow a large number of them in a tray or trough and then thin them out as they get bigger, you can harvest them surprisingly quickly – the initial thinnings making a great garnish. Then, as the crop grows and you start to collect bigger leaves, you’ll be able to use them as the basis of a nice salad.

There are lots of varieties available, but some of the best for using this way are the mixed 'salad leaf' collections, which are specially sold for the purpose. Readily available by mail order or from most garden centres, they offer the added bonus of different shaped leaves and different colours, which should help keep her interest.

Alternatively, some suppliers have started offering 'sprouting' kits, which contain a number of different edible seeds and in some cases, purpose-made sprouters to grow them in. Mung beans – the things you buy in supermarkets as Chinese bean sprouts – are a particular favourite and easy to grow for children, but other suitable candidates include alfalfa, black eyed peas, broccoli sprouts, chickpeas, radishes, Oregon sugar pod (or snow) peas, sunflower and wheatgrass.

All of these will be ready in under a week – and most can often be picked within two or three days. You can use them raw to add a little something to salads or sandwiches or as cooking ingredients to enhance the flavour of other meals – and they’re obviously perfect for stir fries, if you like them.

Patio Planting

Unfortunately, if she’s going to make a gardener, the one thing that little Miss Impatient will have to come to terms with is the fact that plants grow to their own schedule – but there might be a way to make this lesson easier to learn. If you get her started with some of these quick-cropping ideas to keep her interest, you might also like to think about getting her to help you plant some of the wonderful patio fruit and vegetables now available. With a bit of luck, by the time she’s got bored with cress, lettuces and sprouting seeds, they’ll be ready for harvesting.

There are lots to choose from, but some of the best are the likes of:

  • 'Hundreds and Thousands' micro tomatoes – produces huge numbers of small, sweet tomatoes and is ideal for patios, hanging baskets and even window boxes
  • 'Hestia' dwarf runner bean – an easily grown, heavy cropper, producing delicious and very tender beans.
  • 'Malling Opal' strawberries – sometimes available in special patio planter kits, this easily grown plant has large, sweet fruits and crops prolifically from early summer until the first frosts come.
Best of luck with growing things together – I hope you both have lots of fun and plenty of produce to eat!

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Bry - Your Question:
I am a semi retired builder and have been involved on a voluntary basis in a school garden for some years.The reception class usually come out to plant spuds and harvest by summer hols. These are usually first early potatoes. the ground is heavy clay and I have not much scope to rotate. Being approached by the year one teacher for some space in the garden, I thought to change the area into a series of raised beds, better for tiny tots to access?Do you have any recommendation for size, mainly depth. I had in mind making them about a foot deep 12" with 6x1" treated timber.Bryan

Our Response:
Raised beds are a great way to save space and 12" deep should be fine. You usually need to allow a couple of feet between trenches as well. Good luck and let us know how you get on.
TheKidsGarden - 22-Dec-16 @ 1:09 PM
I am a semi retired builder and have been involved on a voluntary basis in a school garden for some years. The reception class usually come out to plant spuds and harvest by summer hols. These are usually first early potatoes. the ground is heavy clay and I have not much scope to rotate. Being approached by the year one teacher for some space in the garden, I thought to change the area into a series of raised beds, better for tiny tots to access? Do you have any recommendation for size, mainly depth. I had in mind making them about a foot deep 12" with 6x1" treated timber. Bryan
Bry - 21-Dec-16 @ 1:52 PM
I have an apple tree in the garden that is about 80 years old. In the last year a large hole has appeared at the root of the tree and you can put your hand down and it appears to go under the tree. Can you explain why this has happened and does it mean that the tree has come to the end of its life and I need to get rid of it? Thankyou
Nancy - 17-Sep-14 @ 1:18 PM
Hi where can I get sterlized compost? I work with children and I am concern about the soil. I also would like to know what flowers are safe for young children to grow?
Program Supervisor - 19-Mar-13 @ 7:48 PM
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