Short Season Vegetable Gardening - Early Maturing Varieties

Ashleigh Smith + photo

Ashleigh Smith

Mar 20
9 min read
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woman harvesting carrots

Gardening and growing food commercially continue to become a balance of supply, demand, and climate factors. It’s no secret climate and local weather continue to affect how we grow our food. If you find yourself in an area with short growing seasons (less than 120 growing days) or lingering winter weather, you may be looking for vegetables that can handle the cold or grow a bit quicker than traditional varieties. Below we have supplied you with some reliable quick to mature and short-season vegetable varieties to help you get a jump start, or last-minute results. You can still have a successful growing season while getting a later start than usual.

Long Season Vegetables

Early Maturity Varieties

Tomatoes

Tomatoes should be started indoors ahead of time as their days to maturity do not include the standard 7-9 weeks spent indoors before transplanting. The upside of this is that you can still get your garden started by growing these seeds indoors amid poor weather. Once they reach the point of growth where they could be transplanted, but poor weather persists, simply transplant them into larger containers to keep them healthy until they can be planted outdoors.

Corn grows best when directly sown after all danger of frost has passed. This may make it difficult to grow in a shortened growing season. Grow Early Sunglow Hybrid, peaches and Cream Hybrid, and Honey Select Hybrid for a speedy harvest within 60-80 days.

Peppers

Like tomatoes, peppers should also be started 7-9 weeks ahead of time indoors. Their days to maturity reflect the time left after transplanting. Take advantage of the need for these seeds to be started indoors during cold weather, as you can increase their pot size until weather permits transplanting outside. The following recommendations can reach maturity in 60-70 days after transplanting.

Eggplant

Like tomatoes and peppers, eggplant also requires starting indoors for those with short growing seasons. Start seeds 7-9 weeks early indoors. The following recommendations will mature within 2 months of transplanting outdoors when the above recommendation is followed for starting seeds indoors.

Melons

Melons prefer being directly sown, which makes growing them in short growing seasons a little difficult. These varieties will help you get the harvest you want under a time crunch (70 days).

Watermelon

Traditional watermelons are known to require a long growing season to mature, however, watermelons are available in varying sizes that expand your options for a juicy fruit that can be harvested quickly. These recommendations can mature in 60-70 days with warm growing conditions.

Winter Squash

Winter Squash will take much longer than summer squashes to mature. However, these varieties will mature in 80 days or less.




Popular Short-Season Vegetables

(Harvest in 2 Months or Less)

Beans

While there are many bean categories, they all can be funneled into two main types, bush or pole. Bush types are more compact and tend to mature more quickly. Within this category, you can find several Snap Bean options. These are also known as green beans. For a speedy green bean harvest, target bush snap beans such as Provider and Contender. These will be ready for harvesting about 50-60 days from planting. Shelling Beans require allowing the seed to mature, which naturally requires several additional weeks until harvesting.

Beets

Beets are ideal for spring and late summer sowing as they prefer cooler temperatures. This can be helpful when under a time crunch as they can handle cooler soil temperatures and may be sown at least twice within a growing season. Generally, beets take 50+ days to mature, although the greens may be harvested around 30 days from planting. We would recommend growing Early Wonder and Red Ace Hybrid for a tasty and quick option.

Broccoli

Broccoli is already a cool-season vegetable making it a favorable option when persistent winter weather encroaches into the spring months. While it doesn’t need to be started indoors, it certainly can help you get a strong harvest in before the weather gets too warm. Additionally, you may want to try a variety such as Di Cicco, which is able to mature in as little as 45 days.

Carrots

Carrots by nature can be harvested at varying degrees of growth. Really, you can harvest them as small or large as you would like, and their genetics allow. Shorter varieties will mature the quickest. Some of our fastest-maturing carrot varieties include Little Fingers, Parisian, Shin Kuroda, Bambino, and Scarlet Nantes.

Cucumbers (Warm Season)

Cucumbers can be divided into two main categories, including slicing and pickling types. In addition to these categories, the type of pollination requirements should be taken into account when selecting cucumbers. To keep things simple, we will be recommending monoecious varieties as these plants will produce both male and female flowers allowing for pollination to take place and produce viable fruits. Cucumbers prefer warm growing temperatures making these fruits ideal for growing after the danger of frost has passed. While they can be started indoors 3 weeks early, they really prefer to be directly sown. To help you get a quick harvest within 2 months of a limited growing season, try the following recommendations.

Collards, Kale, Mustard, Turnips

Leafy greens are generally quick to mature, including these more unique and flavorful types. Try one of these early maturing varieties to keep the healthy leafy greens around. Harvest just a few leaves or whole plants before warm weather affects their taste.

Bok Choy, Mizuna, Tatsoi

Asian greens are, for the most part, quick to mature. This makes them a no-brainer to include in your late-start gardens and early harvesting. Keep a fresh weekly harvest by succession planting a few days or weeks apart. Like other leafy greens, you may harvest a few leaves At a time or the whole plant.

Lettuce

Because lettuce will bolt with hot summer temperatures, it is best to grow in the spring and late summer/fall seasons. During the heat of the summer, lettuce can continue to be grown indoors or using hydroponic systems very easily. And they don’t take up much room indoors. For the fastest harvest, regardless of what season you choose to grow in, leafy non-heading types will grow the quickest. Leaf lettuce is available in an assortment of colors and textures. If you prefer heading types you will want to try Jericho (Romaine), as it is quick to mature and bolt resistant.

Spinach

Spinach is another leafy green that traditionally does very well during the cool spring and fall months. It is also one of the first crops you can directly sow outdoors in the spring. For the fastest maturity, try growing Viroflay, Early Hybrid No. 7, Bloomsdale, Seaside, and America varieties. You can harvest spinach at the baby leaf stage within 25-30 days or wait until they reach maturity within 2 months from planting.

Onion

Bulbing onions, by nature, take time to develop. Although, some cocktail or pickling types can mature quickly. If you are looking for some quick onion flavor though, we recommend turning to green bunching onions. These can be ready to harvest in 60 days and do not require a specific day length to develop. For the fastest results, grow the White Lisbon or Evergreen varieties.

Peas

Peas are one of the best vegetables to start your garden with as they can often handle the last-minute spring frosts that may occur. Peas germinate in cool soils allowing you to directly sow when the soil is workable. If you find yourself approaching warming temperatures and are needing a quick harvest, there are several good options for you to grow.

Radish

Radishes are definitely going to be one of your fastest-growing vegetables. Many can be harvested in less than a month’s time. For the traditional red globe vegetables, you will want to look for spring types. Radishes can be categorized into 3 groups including spring, winter, and sprouting. Spring varieties develop quickly and are delicious for eating fresh. These spring varieties are known for harvesting within a month: Cherry Belle, French Breakfast, Hailstone, and Pink Beauty.

Winter types take longer to mature and have an elongated shape. Daikon (Minowase) varieties are included in this category. While they do take longer than spring varieties to mature, the Mino Early, Everest Hybrid, and Iwai Daikon can be ready in 2 months or less.

Sprouting types are ideal for growing as fresh sprouts and microgreens. At this stage, radishes can be ready to eat within 3-8 days. There is also no need to grow these outside as they are ideal for growing in the kitchen or windowsills.

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2 comments

Erin S

Great info! Thanks for mentioning the part about dates to maturity not counting the indoor time!


Linda Woolsey

The specifics of this article and the concise wording are exceptional! Thank you! I have a 12 month certificate in Horticulture, grew up on a farm in Green River, Utah, and continue to garden in the Pacific Northwest, Zone 6 (most of the time!).


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