Fast-Growing Vegetables for Tabletop Gardens

Updated on February 9, 2018
The Dirt Farmer profile image

Jill volunteers at community gardens & learns about gardening through the MD Master Gardening Program & MD Master Naturalist Program.

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Radish seeds germinate within days. Whether you plant them in individual pots or with other plants in large containers, you'll reap delicious rewards.Lettuces as well as basil grow together in this planter that was seeded indoors and then moved outside.This swiss chard is ready for harvest.Although most are slow to grow from seeds, herbs are great candidates for indoor tabletop gardens--and they make spicing up a kitchen dish quick and convenient.
Radish seeds germinate within days. Whether you plant them in individual pots or with other plants in large containers, you'll reap delicious rewards.
Radish seeds germinate within days. Whether you plant them in individual pots or with other plants in large containers, you'll reap delicious rewards.
Lettuces as well as basil grow together in this planter that was seeded indoors and then moved outside.
Lettuces as well as basil grow together in this planter that was seeded indoors and then moved outside.
This swiss chard is ready for harvest.
This swiss chard is ready for harvest.
Although most are slow to grow from seeds, herbs are great candidates for indoor tabletop gardens--and they make spicing up a kitchen dish quick and convenient.
Although most are slow to grow from seeds, herbs are great candidates for indoor tabletop gardens--and they make spicing up a kitchen dish quick and convenient.

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?

Vegetable 
Days from Seed to Harvest 
Special Instructions
radishes
25-36 
Sow weekly for continuous harvest. 
turnips
30-60 
Harvest leaves at 30 days, roots at 60. 
leaf lettuce
30-35
Cut leaves at soil line to harvest. 
mustard greens
35-40
Sow seeds every 2 wks. 
swiss chard
30-40
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

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.

Turnips

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

Lettuce

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 Greens

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.

Swiss Chard

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.

Questions & Answers

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      • The Dirt Farmer profile image
        Author

        Jill Spencer 3 years ago from United States

        Hi maunderingcabal. Wow! You really had some fast-growing radishes. To collect seeds, you must let some of your radishes flower and "go to seed" rather than harvesting them. Thanks for stopping by! --Jill

        Hey Melissa! I've thought of doing that here--because of the heat. So good to hear from you. All the best! --Jill

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image
        Author

        Jill Spencer 3 years ago from United States

        Hi maunderingcabal. Wow! You really had some fast-growing radishes. To collect seeds, you must let some of your radishes flower and "go to seed" rather than harvesting them. Thanks for stopping by! --Jill

        Hey Melissa! I've thought of doing that here--because of the heat. So good to hear from you. All the best! --Jill

      • melissae1963 profile image

        Melissa Reese Etheridge 3 years ago from Tennessee, United States

        In Ireland, my in laws grow all of these vegetables indoors as the weather is too cold and rainy.

      • maunderingcabal profile image

        Ian 3 years ago from California

        I just grew radish seeds for a Biology class a couple weeks ago, they sprouted in 1 day! I was amazed, I had no clue radishes grew this fast. Currently in a pot in my kitchen growing quick. Anyone know how to capture seeds to re-grow?

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image
        Author

        Jill Spencer 3 years ago from United States

        Yes, it's super easy to grow. To harvest, just cut it off at the bottom with scissors! Thanks for commenting. --Jill

      • Blackspaniel1 profile image

        Blackspaniel1 3 years ago

        The leaf lettuce looks like what I might consider at first. This can be a source of really fresh, no chemicals added, produce.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image
        Author

        Jill Spencer 3 years ago from United States

        Thanks, Kristen! Hope you try a salad bowl garden. It's so easy & fun.

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        What a clever idea of tabletop gardening inside your home. Very useful with handy tips. Voted up!

      • profile image

        The Dirt Farmer 7 years ago

        You're welcome! Small varieties of root vegetables work best. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Julie McM profile image

        Julie McM 7 years ago from Southern California

        This is great! I grow quite a few veggies in containers, but never considered turnips. Thanks.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image
        Author

        Jill Spencer 7 years ago from United States

        You're welcome, fuscia. Good luck, and thanks for stopping by.

      • fucsia profile image

        fucsia 7 years ago

        I do not have a garden but I would to grow my own vegetables in my terrace. This spring I want to try to do it. This Hub is very interesting to me, thanks!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image
        Author

        Jill Spencer 7 years ago from United States

        Thanks so much! I'm glad to be here and very happy you found the hub useful. --DF

      • toknowinfo profile image

        toknowinfo 7 years ago

        Loved this hub. I love to grow my own vegetables and now that you taught me about table top growing I am all excited. I have bookmarked your hub for future revisits. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and I am so glad you joined HubPages. All the best to you. Voted your hub up, useful, and awesome.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image
        Author

        Jill Spencer 7 years ago from United States

        You're welcome, Fluffy77, and thank you for the comment. Happy gardening!

      • Fluffy77 profile image

        Fluffy77 7 years ago from Enterprise, OR

        This is a great and informative Hub thanks!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image
        Author

        Jill Spencer 7 years ago from United States

        Thanks for the nice comment, RTalloni. You're right: spring will be here soon. I can't wait!

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 7 years ago from the short journey

        Perfect timing! Right when we can almost reach out and embrace spring, here you offer a great idea for the interim. Good stuff!

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