Fast-Growing Vegetables for Tabletop Gardens
Grow Vegetables Indoors
Adults and children alike will enjoy creating a tabletop vegetable garden, especially if the vegetables are fast growers. In little more than a month, you'll witness one of nature's many miracles: tiny seeds filled with that ineffable spark (life!) awakening, growing, and struggling through soil to lift their small leaves up to the light.
Bright green lettuce, red-streaked chard, and tender leaves of mustard greens—young vegetables have beauty, too, and a charm that can be just as captivating as that of plants more commonly regarded for their decorative value, like the orchid and the rose.
Vegetables are also convenient to have on hand for quick meals, snacking, and flavoring a savory dish.
Scroll down for descriptions of five fast growing, shade-tolerant vegetables you can grow indoors. A soil recipe for container gardens is at the bottom of the page.
Just How Fast Are They?
Days from Seed to Harvest
Sow weekly for continuous harvest.
Harvest leaves at 30 days, roots at 60.
Cut leaves at soil line to harvest.
Sow seeds every 2 wks.
Harvesting encourages growth.
The Best Vegetables for Indoor Containers
Tabletop gardens that will remain indoors are best planted with root and leaf crops. They require less direct sunlight than fruit vegetables. And they can tolerate partial shade.
Even shade-tolerant vegetables, however, need light. Place your garden in a sunny window that faces south. For quickest results, plant fast growers like the vegetables below. You’ll be amazed at how promptly they grow--and how soon your family will be able to enjoy a homegrown salad or other healthy vegetable dish fresh from your very own tabletop garden.
Fast-Growing Root Vegetables
Radishes grow so quickly they’re practically fast food! Radish seeds sprout in just a few days. Scatter them over moist growing medium and cover them with 1/4 inch of soil. Place plastic wrap or glass over the container until the seeds germinate. At 14 days, thin out the weaklings. Those that remain will be ready for harvesting in 30.
Although they don’t grow as quickly as radishes, turnips are also fast growers, especially when they’re planted in rich soil. Harvest turnip greens when the plants are young, about 30 days after sowing. The roots are ready to eat in 60 days.
Fast-Growing Leaf Vegetables
Leaf lettuces, like Romaine, are no-fail, low-maintenance choices for your tabletop garden. To sow lettuce seeds, scatter them on the soil surface, lightly sprinkle them with soil, and mist with water. Keep the seeds moist and warm. In as little as 30 days, you can begin to harvest. No need to thin. Just cut the leaves when they’re about three inches tall.
Miniature head lettuce, like Tom Thumb butterhead, is also great for container gardening. A British heirloom variety, Tom Thumb matures in 46 days. Each head is just enough for one individual salad. Sow Tom Thumb every three weeks from early spring through summer for a continuous harvest.
Mustard is an extremely fast grower. You can start harvesting older leaves just four to six weeks after planting. Best of all, it continues to grow even after you harvest, producing new leaves far into summer.
Plant a mix of red and white swiss chard for an attractive display in your container and on your plate. When thinning seedlings, don't pull them. Instead, cut them off at the soil line. Chard doesn't mind a little crowding; two to three inches between plants is plenty of room.
Soil Recipe for Container Gardens
Container gardens need lightweight potting soil that drains well and contains moisture-holding organic matter. If you purchase packaged potting soil, make sure that it contains at least 30 percent perlite to ensure good drainage. Don't use a soilless mix as you would for seed starting. It won't provide enough root support for mature plants.
It's easiest simply to buy a bag of potting soil, but you can also mix your own. Here's a recipe that works well for containers.
- Peat Moss (1 part)
- Loam (1 part)
- Coarse Sand (1 part)
- Lime (as needed)
If the soil's pH tests too low, add lime to bring it to about 6.5. Also periodically apply a 14-14-14 slow-release fertilizer, and your vegetables should be quite productive.