Growing a survival garden promises robust yields to feed your family, but it can take time to see results. Instead of waiting several months or even years to get the food you want, you can pepper in some fast-growing fruits and vegetables to your homestead to enjoy your yield as quickly as possible.
Here are some fast-growing plants to help you get started gardening for survival.
Radishes are edible root vegetables that are ready to eat in about four weeks from when you first plant them. You'll know they're ready to harvest when the leaves stretch four inches tall and can be pulled straight up from the soil like carrots. You can sow small batches every few weeks to harvest during summer and warm months to keep adding crunch and flavor to your harvest.
There's more good news when it comes to radishes. They're rich in potassium and calcium with a crunchy and satisfying texture in a stew, salad, or as a raw snack with a bit of butter. Even their greens are edible, but the fuzzy surface turns some people off from trying them. Instead of chopping up your radish greens raw and adding them to a salad, cook them and use them as a side dish. The greens pack in even more nutrition with quality carbohydrates, protein, magnesium, calcium, iron, fiber, potassium, and vitamins C, A, and B6.
Bush beans, or green beans, start to germinate in about 10 days and you can usually start eating them within 60 days or less. You can extend your harvest by sowing seeds every few weeks until two months before the first frost hits. Or you can start your harvest early by germinating them indoors before the last frost of the season.
Bush beans are high in vitamin K and calcium to help protect your bone health and reduce the risk of breaks and fractures. Beyond the benefits to your health, bush beans can also improve your soil with beneficial bacteria that form nodules on their roots. Over time, the nodules soak up nitrogen from the air and bring them into the ground to help fertilize themselves and their neighbors in your survival garden.
Scallions are ready to go about 10 to 12 weeks after sowing them. In the suitable climate and soil conditions, you may be able to start harvesting them in just two months. Harvest the tallest ones first to allow the rest to grow and offer more sustenance to your survival food stores. Scallions usually keep growing if you leave the roots and snip the rest.
Green onions, like scallions, have some of the same benefits as white onions and leafy greens combined. They provide an excellent source of vitamins K, C, A, and folate while producing anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Their flavor is also mild compared to other onions and can be cooked, chopped, or enjoyed fresh in salads or sprinkled into a sauce.
Mustard greens are a tasty fast-growing vegetable that you can harvest in 40 days or less with a "come-again-cut-again" method. Cut a little off as if you're pruning it, and it will keep growing back fuller and faster.
If you're not eating mustard greens, you're missing out on scores of nutrition. These might contain calcium, iron, potassium, Vitamin B2, magnesium, Vitamin B, niacin, B6, and a high volume of Vitamin K. Mixing the greens into a chopped salad is always a popular option, but you can also blend them right into a smoothie. Or add to soups, stews, stir-fry, or roasted with garlic as a side dish.
Spinach needs about six weeks of cool weather from the time you plant the seeds to harvest, so put them in the soil when the ground is around 40°F. Or you can grow spinach indoors year-round. Like mustard greens, use the cut-and-come-again method for spinach and trim, harvest, and trim again.
Spinach helps support your immunity and digestion with potassium, Vitamin C, iron, Vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, and fiber among other nutrients. Beyond a salad staple, spinach tastes excellent in a salad, rice, baked into breakfast muffins, blended into hummus, or in omelets and pizza.
As a fast growing vegetable, you can grow kale in less than two months. Kale is popular for its robust qualities where it tolerates spring and fall frosts. Try planting them a month before your last frost date in springtime or four weeks before your first frost date during fall.
You can trim off some kale and let it grow back or harvest the entire leaf. Grab the stem of a mature leaf at the base and pull it down and out away from the center. It should snap and break as you pull to add as a nutritional addition to dinner. Kale is a power-packed source of Vitamins A, K, B6, and C, copper, potassium, manganese, and calcium.
Kale is an easy substitute for spinach in recipes but stands on its own as a great go-to vegetable. Drink it juiced, in a smoothie, sauteed, or in a pesto. It tastes great in a salad or soup or added to just about anything, like an omelet or stir-fry dish.
Strawberries are among the fastest growing fruit from the time they flower to picking. Overall, it will take an average of 60 days from the time you plant them in the ground. Plant them in spring, several weeks before the last frost, and they could last through early fall. Start harvesting the strawberries when they turn red, and consider turning them into jam if they start to turn before you can eat them.
Strawberries are high in healthy carbohydrates, fiber, and even some protein. But they also serve up antioxidants known as polyphenols and have no sodium, fat, or cholesterol. Strawberries are delicious to eat with nothing but a good rinse, but they also enhance your dishes and desserts. Add to a smoothie, lemonade, a glass of water, cocktail, sweet salsa, yogurt, cakes, and more. There's really no shortage of ways to enjoy a good strawberry.
Depending on the variety you plant your lettuce may mature at different times, but you should see moderate growth within 30 to 60 days. You can also harvest single leaves and let the rest grow to their full potential. Most leaf lettuce plants will also grow back if trimmed, making them easier to snack on or use in a pinch when you're out of spinach or kale.
Lettuce contains fiber, protein, good carbs, iron, Vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium. They're the cornerstone of most salads and tucked into sandwiches, but there are so many other ways to enjoy this fast-growing vegetable. Layer them into spring rolls and even sear and saute them. Before your lettuce goes bad, try them sliced up into thick slices with olive oil, garlic, salt, and any herbs you enjoy, and grill it up to give it new life and texture.
Squash is usually ready to harvest in around 60 days, but some varieties could take as long as 100 days. Summer squash is ready to go within two months. Trim the fruit from the vine when they reach at least six inches long, but don't wait longer than 8 inches, or they lose their tenderness and flavor. Winter squash has tougher skin, and you can store them easier and for longer than summer varieties. But they'll take over 100 days to grow and need more space and care.
Once you're ready to harvest, you'll enjoy Vitamin A, C, and B vitamins with a rich source of antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. They're also hydrating and rich in fiber to support healthy digestion.
Squash tastes incredible baked, roasted, or steamed. Summer squash is also tasty on the grill, especially with herbs or your favorite sauces to compliment the flavor. If you harvest your squash too early, you may find it tastes like a slightly sour cantaloupe. The two are actually closely related, but you can eliminate the cantaloupe taste by cooking or baking your squash. Or you may find it tastes refreshing "as is" in a fruit salad.
Carrots are durable and easy to grow in about 50 to 80 days, depending on the variety and time of year. They usually germinate faster in warmer soil, making them a good choice for mid-April. Pull one gently to see if the color is vibrant, or feel around to see if they're about an inch in diameter. They also may pop out of the soil when they're ready, but that isn't always the case.
Carrots are a win if you want more Vitamin A, K, and C, along with potassium, fiber, calcium, iron, and antioxidants. They're also liked with improved eye health and lower cholesterol levels. Eat them raw or with a fresh dip made with herbs from your survival garden, steamed, boiled, roasted, or in stews and soups.
Planting fast-growing fruits and vegetables are ideal when you need to quickly bolster your food stores and enjoy power-packed nutrition. Make sure to couple your quick wins with slower-growing fruit and nut trees and other plants that add healthy calories, flavor, nutrition, and texture to your meals.
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