Beginner vegetable gardeners will find growing radishes extremely rewarding. They are the perfect vegetable to grow: quick to germinate and grow to maturity, they require very little space and they will happily grow in containers, raised beds or in the ground.
Radishes are a member of a the cruciferous family of vegetables, which includes cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and broccoli that are said to have many health benefits if eaten regularly.
This short video shows a neat way to grow radishes in seed flats:
Radishes are root vegetables and the usual way to eat them is sliced and eaten raw in salads. This crisp, spicy vegetable, however, is wonderful roasted. Just slice them in half, toss in olive oil and a little salt and pepper and roast in a hot oven for 10 to 15 minutes. The roasting process mellows out the spice making them sweet and juicy, but the delightful red color is retained.
Radishes are a cool weather crop so schedule your planting in spring or fall when temperatures are below 70° F. Choose a sunny spot as they like at least 4 hours of sunshine a day.
Radishes are not picky about the soil they grow in, but they’ll do best in loose soil with some organic matter that allows for good drainage. If planting in garden soil, you should first till the soil to remove any rocks or clods of dirt. If planting in containers, a good-quality organic potting soil will be fine.
You can buy young seedlings from a garden center, but radishes are so easy to grow from seed it hardly seems worth skipping that step.
Scatter the seeds thinly or sow them in rows, and cover with ½ inch of soil. The seeds will germinate quickly. Thin the seedlings to 2 to 4 inches apart when they have a few sets of real leaves and are 2 to 3 inches tall. You can eat the seedlings you remove; consider them a special, early salad crop!
Water your growing plants regularly, especially in hot weather and when growing them in containers.
Various pests are happy to make a meal of your growing radishes. These including aphids, cabbage maggots, harlequin beetles and flea beetles. They love to eat the leaves, stems and roots. Here are a few things you can do to help deter them and avoid any damage to the plants:
- Use floating row covers (garden fabric) to cover your plants. They are inexpensive to buy and easy to use.
- Make sure there’s plenty of space between the plants.
- Use a natural pesticide.
- Water early in the day.
- Harvest your radishes as soon as they’re mature.
- Grow them in containers.
Your radishes will be ready to harvest when they’re about 1 inch in diameter and the tops begin to poke up from the soil. Don’t allow them to grow for much longer than this or they’ll get tough and become bitter and unpleasant to taste. To harvest, pull them individually by the leaf stems. They will store well in the refrigerator for several days.
If you leave a few in the ground to bolt they will flower and attract beneficial insects. After that they’ll go to seed and produce another new crop.
Not So Fast
As mentioned earlier, radishes are typically fast growers, but not always. If grown when the weather is cloudy or cooler, they can take up to 6 weeks to reach maturity, and it could be longer with a fall planting.
For a continuous harvest, plant a new round of seeds every 10 days or so while the weather is still cool enough.
Radishes range in taste from hot and spicy to the milder types, and they come in colors from black, white, yellow and purple. Here are a few varieties to try:
- Cherry Belle is an award-winning variety. They are bright red with a mild flavor and a crisp texture and are often found in supermarkets.
- Sparkler is another mild flavored variety. They are mostly red becoming white towards the root.
- French Breakfast is a heritage variety. They are long and cylindrical in shape with a spicy flavor and a crisp, crunchy texture.
- Black Spanish radishes have black skins and a white flesh. They are considered a specialty radish and are worth seeking out for their color and pungent flavor.
- Daikon radishes have large, white roots, some up to 18 inches long. They are milder than other radishes and taste like turnips when cooked. They can be boiled, baked, fried or roasted.
- Amethyst has a striking purple color that contrasts beautifully with its white flesh. It is crisp with a mild flavor.
Vegetable gardeners often plant their fast-growing radishes in the same row as carrots to help mark where the slow-growing carrots have been planted. They are both root crops that require similar conditions. The radishes will be ready to be harvested first, leaving space for the carrots to grow to maturity. This is a common companion planting strategy.
I think you’ll find that growing radishes is a fun way to add spice, crunch and variety to your diet. These colorful, healthy vegetables need minimal attention and are quick to emerge from the ground ready to be harvested. And, if you plant them sequentially, you’ll have a continuous supply throughout the summer for your salads and roasts.