For a crop that really grows quickly, nothing beats radishes

July 28, 2021

It is August and time for your garden to make a dash of it. Not the dash of Morse code signals, which is hidden in the beat of the "Mission: Impossible" TV show theme song which spells out the letters "MI" in Morse code (--..). Not the dash of a “dash-board,” which since 1846, describes a board or leather apron that keeps mud from being splashed (dashed) into the carriage by the horse's hoofs.

But the August dash of the garden is the dash of a short race, the 100-yard dash, the dash to plant and harvest vegetables and flowers before the killing frosts of autumn.

Spinach is a vegetable that you can direct sow now and still get a crop before frost. Just soak the seeds for a few hours before planting spinach and within four to six weeks, you’ll have tender, fresh spinach leaves. Even the smaller spinach plants can be harvested within a few weeks for baby greens. Many gardeners purposely plant spinach thickly and then thin the plants to stand eight to 10 inches apart in the rows, using the thinnings as fresh greens.

For a crop that really grows quickly, nothing beats radishes. Cherry Belle radish is a bright-red, round root that is ready to harvest just 22 days after planting. 

The long red and white radish French Breakfast makes a colorful addition to an hors d'oeuvre plate. And for a real surprise try Watermelon radish with its two- to four-inch round roots with a green skin and bright watermelon-pink interior.

Beets (Beta vulgaris) are another fast-growing vegetable for your garden sprint. Many of us dislike the earthy flavor of beet roots, but you can also grow beets just for their healthy lush leaves. If growing for greens, you can harvest beet tops anytime from when they first sprout right up until frost. A strikingly beautiful beet is the Italian Chioggia beet. This medium-to-large root has delicious, broad green leaves with crisp red stems. Cut one open and you reveal flesh that is striped with concentric rings of white red. You can eat Chioggia beets raw or cook them for a sweeter flavor.

Bush beans are ready to harvest in under two months from planting. Because the August soil is completely warm, your bush beans planted now will germinate much quicker and grow faster than bush beans planted in the spring. 

Provider bush bean is one of the most dependable because it is resistant to many diseases, including mildew and viruses. The vigorous plants have strong root systems, and grow well even under poor conditions. Provider has green five- to six-inch long pods that are ready to pick in just 40 to 50 days from planting.

Greens of all sorts will grow fast during the heat of late summer, so try Bok Choy. This tender Asian green is ready to cut just 21 days after planting, or wait another few weeks to harvest the whole head.

Lettuce often wilts in the heat of summer, and then sends up seed stalks which makes the leaves bitter. Choose a spot that gets some afternoon shade and plant lettuce seed now for a fall harvest. 

Heat-resistant Red Saladbowl lettuce is a bright burgundy-red, with leaves that are deeply lobed, and shaped like oak leaves. Red Saladbowl is ready for baby lettuce at just 30 days, and for full-size leaves a few weeks later.

So, make a mad dash in the garden and plant quick growing vegetables that will be ready to eat in a few short weeks. Otherwise, your hopes for a fall harvest just might be dashed.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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