It's all very well having the starter seeds, but which ones will you be able to use the soonest?
The Covid-19 lockdown has seen a rapid rise in mouse-clicks to online gardening suppliers and virtual baskets filled with assortments of vegetable seeds, with would-be green fingers eager to get busy in the soil. We anticipate a few gardening novices might be disappointed that they’ll have to wait a while before their eager sowing yields tasty harvests, and even more seasoned sowers like us can find frustration waiting for their prize winning pumpkins to ripen.
There are, however, a few things you can grow that will give you something to munch on in a shorter space of time than most other veg. And for those keen on getting crops quickly onto plates, here are five of them…
Radishes are a great veg for gardeners, being reliable croppers that are ready for crunching within four weeks, and their diminutive form means they can be squeezed into tighter spaces or pots than most veg. These days you’ll also find a much wider choice of shapes and colours to the traditional round red varieties (although the classic elongated red and white French Breakfast remains our favourite). You can also get a quick harvest from other roots, including carrots and beetroot, if you look for a fast growing variety and harvest at a size the supermarkets would refer to as ‘baby’.
Unless you’re aiming for a full head of lettuce, most salad leaves will provide cut-and-come-again pickings after three or four weeks. Often referred to as ‘loose leaf’ lettuce, varieties include the red ‘Lollo Rosso’ and green ‘Salad Bowl’. If you move away from lettuce into other salad leaf territory then you can include mizuna, rocket and kale. And for an extra salad reward, sow some pea seeds and harvest the young shoots instead of waiting for the pods to develop.
The big-leafed perpetual spinach, also known as spinach beet, is actually a chard and can be used as another cut-and-come-again crop, with the first pickings ready after a month or so. It also has a habit of hanging around for ages and, if you’re lucky, can even survive winter, making it one of the best value seeds you can buy. Fans of leafy greens should also look out for Broccoli Raab, a smaller, faster growing alternative to sprouting broccoli.
Dwarf French beans
For plants that require pods to grow and ripen before harvesting you’re inevitably going to have a longer wait than plants grown for their leaves. So the couple of months it takes for dwarf French beans to reach harvest time is relatively supersonic. The extra good news is that they have a long growing season, so succession sow every couple of weeks and once the harvest starts there will be no stopping you.
Remember when you were a child, soaking kitchen paper with water and sprinkling cress seeds on top? The week it took before your parents cut the peppery greenery off with scissors and stuck it in an egg sandwich seemed like an eternity. We think cress is due a revival—it’s not just fun for kids but tastes great in all types of salads and, with its indoor windowsill growing ease, could just be the lockdown champion.
Read more: How to save seeds from your vegetable patch
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