When you're just starting out, full of enthusiasm and keen to get going, it can seem an age to wait before you pick the first fruits of all your hard work. And it's true that some crops, like purple-sprouting broccoli or parsnips, can take all year to mature to harvesting stage – mind you, it's well worth the wait. Have fantastic crops in Henley on Thames.
Luckily there are loads of fantastic quick-crop vegetables to grow and eat while the slowcoaches are getting going, so sow these and you'll have plenty to harvest in the meantime. This is fast food with flavour, freshly-harvested produce which arrives on your table within as little as a fortnight after sowing.
- Beetroot: young beetroot leaves have beautiful colouring and a richly earthy flavour just like the roots. Pick them from about four weeks after sowing, then after eight weeks pull the tender baby roots at golfball size. Fastest-growing varieties: 'Kestrel', 'Red Hawk'
- Radish: The quickest results on the plot, with seedlings showing in days and perfect, spherical roots in three weeks. Pick young and re-sow half a row every few weeks for a constant supply. Fastest-growing varieties: 'Cherry Belle', 'French Breakfast'.
- Rocket: The name gives it away – scatter seeds and you'll have peppery baby leaves for your plate within a fortnight. Sow when it's cool or it'll bolt (mind you, the flowers taste lovely, too). Fastest-growing varieties: 'Sky Rocket', 'Voyager'.
- Spinach: Treat spinach as baby leaves for salads and you can harvest them within around three weeks from sowing. They last ages – you can expect to pick over each plant five or six times. Fastest-growing varieties: 'Galaxy', 'Nagano'.
- Turnips: The best-kept secret on the veg patch, turnips give you a double harvest. Pick leafy green tops from three weeks after sowing, or pull the delicately-flavoured roots at golfball size at just five weeks old. Fastest-growing varieties: 'Tokyo Cross', 'Snowball'.
Please ask the staff at Toad Hall Garden Centre for more information and advice about speedy veg.