“I don’t have a short attention span, I just….hey, is that a broccoflower?”
Gardeners generally take the looonnnnng view, at least by the standards of today’s soundbite culture. And while it’s probably true that, “a society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit,” at a day-to-day level, sometimes you just have to hustle, ya know?
The Speedy Vegetable Garden promises crops perfect for Short Attention Span Gardeners, including bean sprouts, microgreens and rapid-maturation varietals of more traditional crops like tomatoes and potatoes. The idea is, with minimal space and minimal time, anyone can harvest a “crop” of something. I love this concept.
The Speedy Vegetable Garden is divided into five sections: soaks and sprouts, micro greens, edible flowers, cut and come again salad leaves and quick harvest vegetables. While there is a lot I like about this book, the first sections of the book are, to me, more compelling than the quick harvest veg section. I’ll lay out the Pros and Cons as I see them and you can decide for yourself.
Excellent for encouraging early and frequent harvest, something that gardeners can have trouble with (“You mean I have to actually cut my beautiful lettuce?!? No, don’t make me kill my veggie baby!”)
Introduces and promotes unusual greens and herbs, including claytonia, sorrel, erbette, mibuna, komatsuna, gai lan, red amaranth and fennel sprouts.
Many techniques and crops are very appropriate for year-round indoor culture and no space gardeners – you could live on the north side of a no-balcony apartment in the middle of the city and still enjoy winter harvests of home-grown “crops” like sprouts, soaked nuts and microgreens. With a small investment in a grow light, the CCA lettuces would be within reach too.
Encourages the use of edible flowers, and offers a small but rather bullet-proof selection of great flowers for eating and kitchen use.
The book is dotted with several very good tips, like, in the summer, sow your lettuce in the cool of the evening so the seed has several hours of cooler soil in which to start its germination. I also liked a suggestion to sow microgreens in lengths of guttering (I do peas this way) at 10 day intervals, resowing as you harvest, to ensure a consistent batch of greens.
This book was written by British gardening experts and, frankly, it feels like it wasn’t fully adapted for an American audience. This is most problematic in the Quick-harvest Vegetable chapter, where terms like cordon tomato, courgette, and mange tout pea may be unfamiliar to many US gardeners.
My biggest concern is that many of the speedy seed varieties recommended appear to be UK specific. There are options for US seed purchasers, but (and just call this a feeling from someone who reads a lot of seed catalogs) I suspect many of the varieties in this book are far more readily available in the UK than over here in ‘Murica. For example, The Speedy Vegetable Garden directs US readers to Burpee Seeds and Johnny’s Seeds. It also recommends seven types of courgette/zucchini seed. I searched both Burpee and Johnny’s for each zucchini variety. Burpee carried none, Johnny’s carried one, ‘Raven’.
Does this mean you couldn’t follow The Speedy Vegetable Garden’s suggestions for fast maturing vegetable varieties? Of course not. In this age of the internet, you surely can get these seeds if you want them badly enough. Keep your Baker Creek Rare Seeds catalog handy (never a bad idea anyway, actually), don’t count on finding these varieties off your neighborhood seed rack, and be prepared to make substitutions based on listed days to maturity.
Who This Book Is Great For
This book is absolutely spot-on perfect for flat dwellers in London. Every Londoner frustrated by their lack of a proper allotment should run out and buy The Speedy Vegetable Garden and start growing basil microgreens right now.
For those us in the US, if you can get over the lack of Amero-centrism in this book (maybe think of it as practice for a changing world?) the information itself is good, and the combination of information is unique among gardening books. I’d particularly recommend this book to small space or no space gardeners interested more in the potential of year-round flavor boosts from sprouts, soaked seeds and microgreens than in total garden yield.
While not specifically targeted as a year-round growing book, I think it’s biggest appeal will be to people (like me) who like a fresh harvest year-round, and are willing to grow indoors to get it. Basil microgreens on your counter in late August? Who cares, when there are basil macrogreens in the garden? Basil microgreens in January? Now that’s cool.
The Speedy Vegetable Garden is also a great choice for gardeners interested in raw food-type preparations of legumes and nuts, as techniques for soaking and sprouting are very well described.
The section on soaked nuts was my favorite part of the book. Following the general instructions in the Soaks and Sprouts chapter, I soaked raw peanuts and they were totally transformed. I’d never soaked nuts before, and I was quite taken with the flavor change between the unsoaked and soaked nuts.
I made a salad of chopped hothouse cucumbers, grilled chicken, feta and soaked peanuts and it was fabulous. The soaked peanuts added a juicy crunchy component that worked very well with the cucumbers and salty feta.
Timber Press, publisher of many, many awesome books including this one, is sponsoring a giveaway of The Speedy Vegetable Garden.
To enter to win your own copy, leave a comment below answering the following question: What is your favorite fast turn-around crop to grow and why?
Giveaway open February 18th, 6 pm PST. Winner will be notified by email. Only entry per person, please, additional entries will be disqualified from the drawing. Good luck!0
radishes–it’s so gratifying to see them pop up and grow like crazy
So far my favorite is the lettuces, but I think I would love to grow microgreens 🙂
Any of the lettuce greens because we eat a ton of them.
radishes! even if you forget about them, they last and last in the ground. and even if they flower, you can harvest the flowers and the seed pods!
Radishes – partially for the nostalgia. Who didn’t go home from elementary school with at least one radish plant in a milk carton?
Wheatgrass….soak and plant! Then I have very fresh greens for the chickens, and they contribute healthier eggs…..then I have the shells to crush and add to the compost, which goes back to grow the plants and the cycle goes round and round!
Oh $hit…. Forgot to disk my sprouts today!!! Thank blank word for your post! You think your giveaway would help me rememberZ??
Not disk… Soak!
Lettuces, because the majority of the household eats them willingly.
I literally just stumbled across your blog, and I’m really intrigued by the idea of starting my own garden. This book would be awesome for me as a totally inexperienced gardener looking for a simple project to start off with. I’d be most excited about some quick turnaround sprouts!
Sasha Davis-Siggs says
We did container butter lettuce last year and it was hands down the easiest and most tasty thing I’ve ever grown. It was way faster than anything else we tried, and stuck around for a good long while.
Lettuce. I love salads.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any space to grow crops currently, but radishes are at the top of my list! I’ve read that they’re a great one just to sprinkle around as you go.
Lettuce and arugula. I hate buying lettuce at the store, and arugula is so darn easy so much of the year.
Any greens, such as lettuce, mustards, or arugula, because we use them all the time! Thanks for the giveaway! 🙂
Lettuce, because it was the first food I ever grew, with my kindergarten class.
Betty Lou says
Radishes, spinach, leaf lettuce and volunteer dill in the garden.
carol sloan says
We grow a gourmet mix and it is wonderful…tasty, crisp, delicate.
Harvest them when they’re young, wait a bit on others, eat in the garden or at the table (lol).
And cheap! Have you priced the gourmet lettuce mix lately?!
Cilantro because I can pick a few leaves even when the plants are tiny. I let some go to seed and it pops up in random places all over the yard.
Desiree Gabel says
I love sprouts! So healthy and so quick!
michelle delp says
Spinach! I love it because you can do so many things with it…raw, steamed, boiled, etc!
Kale. You can start eating the new leaves in salad and the old leaves are great in soup. Cold hardy and reseeds freely.
April Hamelink says
radish sprouts. So good on egg salad. I need this book. I live the city and suck as a gardener
Darlene Granberg says
We love spicy mesclun mix – adds a little spicy punch to anything – and the ducks like it too!
strawberries and arugula! my son’s favorite is “snack peas” (ie snap peas).
Kelly Coykendall says
Cilantro and Dill for the quickest to harvest, but zucchini is pretty quick too and produces daily, all season…. and has so many different uses.
Leigh-Leigh Hicks says
Herbs, we have great luck with them. Also tomatoes, they as my favorite.
Maria Martinez says
I planted swiss chard in the spring last year, harvest it all year long. Winter came and we had temperatures in the low 30’s at night so I thought that all the vegetables that had not grown were lost, but got surprised yesterday when I was going to start turning the ground, etc and
saw the whole row of swiss chard alive, big and green.
Sun gold or sun sugar tomatoes, whichever my next door neighbor/favorite nursery owner ever has in any given year. They’re not as quick as sprouts…but any tomato that is willing to ripen where I live 4 miles from the Canadian border deserves kudos.
Jodene Reppert says
My favorite fast item would be cilantro & dill. Love them herbs. Quick to sprout and quick to my belly.
Lettuce, sprouts, and other greens. Not only can you rotate them but most are extremely cold tolerant thus extending their season to almost all year or they grow pretty well indoors too. Would love this kit!
Heather D says
Definitely lettuce! Love getting my salad out of the garden.
Beets, the greens are delicious eaten just like lettuce and they grow super fast, then when your done using them as greens in the fall just pull them up and eat the beets raw in salads or steamed or grilled with butta! mmmmmmmm
Carissa Bonham says
I like lettuce. 🙂
holly reed says
Not sure if it counts, but peas are awesome cause I never seem to screw them up. they are so easy to grow!
I love peas! Shoots are the ultra I instant gratification.
I have recently become very interested in spouts at home, the stores no longer sell them and this book may be the answer.
Sandi Ratch says
Where I live – in Central Alberta, Canada (zone 3), everything needs to grow quickly. In a rare year do I not have hundreds of tomatoes ripening in my basement as the frost settles in outside. But I really look forward to that fast-growing lettuce and those first fresh salads every year.
Karen D says
Leaf lettuce & arugula
Mundi Hamilton says
Mung bean sprouts — they are fast, and can grow in my kitchen window where I can watch them… but they are my favorite fast-grower only because I just can’t seem to grow basil! I think my attention span is almost as short as my 8-year-old!
domestic diva says
We like growing kale, spinach and other greens
Becky D says
My family loves Strawberries . They seem to thrive in our yucky soil. They still turn out delicious for a long season.
I like gtucking in radishes wherever there is room. While I wait for the radish to develop, I harvest some of the greens to add to my salads and specially chicken or vegetable soup. The radishes also are great in soups, just like a little round potato!
I should also mention that I live in a studio apt. with northeast exposure and no direct sun and still my radishes give a nice amount of greens! I can’t even grow lettuce without it getting all spindly and sad looking but those little radishes get to work! 🙂 On the slower side, I grow carrots for the tops as well…
What is your favorite fast turn-around crop to grow and why? I love sugar snap peas and strawberries (I have ever-bearing plants that fruit all season)…I would love to learn more about fast growing crops for the Pac NW (close to London climate 😉
Paula Chait says
My favorite fast turn-around crop would be romaine lettuce: can seed fairly early, even here in NW Montana, and have fresh greens in weeks, even if late Spring snows come.
Sprouts – only one I currently know! Would love to learn more so that I who am easily . . . SQUIRREL . . . distracted could grow 🙂
Theresa Covey says
I love to grow Cilantro, we make a ton of salsa and it get expensive at the store!
Leah Deardorff says
Radishes…. they are easy and fun to plant with the grandchildren, showing sprouts and leaves soon and not much later can be harvested and eated by hungry children who are proud of what they have grown and are eating!
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