Growing radishes is one of the easiest of all gardening tasks. I always suggest novice gardeners grow them because of how easy they are. The success of the crop boosts morale and confidence in young or new gardeners. If you don’t care for radishes, you can always feed them to your animals or share them with friends and family.
Radish seeds are prolific and have a high germination rate. Within 21 days of being sown you can have small radishes ready for eating. They don’t take up a large area so you can plant them in between larger crops which need more time to be ready. I like to plant radishes in with my broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
Few garden vegetables will produce as long and as much as growing radishes will. They are basically divided into spring and winter varieties. Depending on where you live, you can grow them year round. As long as you have cooler weather, like we do here in zone 6/5.
Spring radishes, such as Crimson Giant and Cherry Bomb, mature faster than winter varieties such as China Rose. Most people feel winter varieties make a better crop when growing radishes. They do keep longer in the garden, have a stronger flavor, and store better than their spring counterparts. To have a prolonged season, try growing a couple different varieties from both the spring and winter radishes.
Whether you grow spring or winter varieties, or both, plant them when the soil is not drenched. Radishes are shade tolerant and need only about 6 hours of sun a day. They prefer a slightly alkaline soil, but in my experience, they will grow just about anywhere. They should be planted in loose soil about ½” deep and loosely covered. The directions will say to plant them three inches apart. This is hard to do with those little seeds so I just do the best I can and thin them as they grow.
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If you and your family members like radishes, you may want to try succession planting. This is simply making small plantings a week or two a part. If you plant in the spring, don’t plant after the temperature gets above 65-70 degrees. This will avoid not having cool weather to allow enough time until harvest and to prevent bolting. The varieties for spring planting with longer growing times often tolerate warmer temperatures better than the shorter growing season varieties. Be sure to check the time and temperature requirements of the variety you choose.
The secret to the perfect radish is knowing when to harvest it. If you let them over mature in the garden, they will be hot and pithy. I like large radishes so I thin them (my most hated garden chore) as they grow. Thinning them to 3″ apart allows plenty of growth room. Also, it gives us a little extra green in our diet and gives the chickens a delicious treat.
We harvest all through the growing season. Once we thin them and the bulbs begin to develop, we pull them when we want them. Tasting them is the best way to determine if they’re ready for harvest. I don’t preserve radishes, although I have read some pickling food preservation recipes for radishes. While radishes do contain vitamin C and some iron, they aren’t included on the antioxidants foods list. You’d have to eat a lot of them to get any significant dose of either. This is why I don’t take the time, energy or storage space to preserve them.
Even though they aren’t a powerhouse of nutrition, radishes can be helpful in relieving constipation. Because of their fibrous nature, they can be part of a natural constipation remedy. Combine the radish and even it’s greens with other salad ingredients to help ensure everything is flowing naturally.
Spring Vs. Winter
Growing radishes in the spring means you will need to pay a little more attention to them. They mature quickly and so have to be checked for harvest so they won’t bolt and taste hot. Once you pull them, cut off the greens. We juice the greens or add them to a salad. Wash both the greens and the roots well in water and pat dry or let air dry. I keep them in separate vegetable bags in the refrigerator. I’ve kept them up to a month, just be sure to check them before eating.
Growing radishes in the winter requires less of a watchful eye. They can be stored in the root cellar or covered with mulch in the garden and left there. If your soil freezes, you won’t be able to over winter them in the garden. I spent most of my life gardening in growing zone 8 and we were able to overwinter in the garden. Now that I’m learning to garden in a new growing zone, I’ve learned I can’t do this here in zone 6/5.
Tips for Growing Radishes
You can easily save seeds from radishes by allowing some of them to bolt. They will form seedpods which look a lot like a small pea pod. The seeds are tiny so you won’t have to let but a few go to seed.
Don’t plant them in an overly fertilized bed. Too much fertilization will make beautiful greens, but small, less tasty radishes.
Thin the radishes once they are up 2-3” high. This is how I achieve the 3” space needed for growing radishes.
Our garden is deep mulched so once the radishes are up good, I pull a light layer of the mulch back over them to help keep moisture in, bugs off, and weeds out. If you don’t do deep mulch gardening, cover them with a light layer of mulch.
Be sure your soil drains well. Too much water will cause the radishes to split and rot. Radishes like moist, but not wet soil. Too little water will cause them to be fiery hot and bolt.
Remember, growing radishes with plants requiring a longer growing season not only saves space, but is ideal for aphids control because it will draw aphids and other pests away from your young squash and cucumber plants as well as other veggies you may be growing.
As with most garden pests, the root maggot which affects the radish, can be managed with good crop rotation. Wood ash incorporated into the soil not only gives a nice dose of potassium and other nutrients to the soil, it manages the larva of the root maggot and other garden pests. You will have success growing radishes virtually pest free otherwise.
Growing Radishes in Containers
If you are interested in growing vegetables in pots, try radishes. Since radishes have a shallow root system, they are perfect for container growing. They can be grown in any container that is at least a gallon in size and is wide enough to accommodate the 3″ space requirements. Use the soil of your choice, just be sure it will drains well. It’s a good idea to not use glazed pots for growing veggies which don’t like overly moist soil. Pots which are not glazed allow for evaporation of excess moisture in the soil. Everything else is the same as growing radishes in a prepared garden bed.
Do you have a variety of radish you prefer? Do you have special tips for growing radishes you can share with us? We’d love to have you share your experience in the comments below.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack