“The real secret to growing this little vegetable is speed: Sow a short row frequently, thin them quickly, keep them watered, eat them quickly, and sow some more.”West Coast Seeds
Radishes are a quick maturing and easy-to-grow root crop that you can add to any growing space. I was never a fan of radishes until I grew my own! Now radishes are one of my favorite crops. The ones in the store lacked flavor and weren’t very interesting, but once I began to JUST GROW IT, I realized radishes were underutilized and undervalued. Most people associate radishes with salads, but there is so much more that you can do with them. Whether roasted, baked, sauteed, fermented, or added to soups, there are many different uses for radishes.
This article will teach us how to grow radishes from seed to table. From planting tips to varieties, even if you think you don’t like radishes, maybe you haven’t grown a suitable variety yet.
When To Grow Radishes
Radishes are cool season crops perfect for your spring or fall garden. While some varieties, such as daikon, can be sown mid to late summer, most radishes do not care for hot temperatures. The optimal soil temperature for planting radishes is 65-75F. You can grow radishes year-round if you live in a climate with mild winters, like zone 9b or 10.
Where To Plant Radishes
Radishes prefer loose, well-drained, enriched with organic matter. The loose soil allows the roots to expand quickly while growing and maturing in size. Remove rocks, large sticks, or debris from the planting area. Since I practice no-till gardening, I do not heavily work the soil. Instead, I apply a 1-2” layer of compost to the top of the beds before planting.
Because radishes do not have extensive root systems and are relatively small in size, they are perfect for container growing. Try planting the radishes in wider and shallower containers instead of tall and narrow ones. This will give you more plantable area, meaning you should be able to grow more radishes. You would be surprised how many smaller radishes, like the cherry belle, you can fit in one container. Remember, containers in the garden will need more frequent watering than raised beds.
Growing Radish: The Basics
Sowing and Spacing
Before sowing, look at the seed package for spacing recommendations. Sow radish seeds ¼” deep. Space rows about 12” apart. After 4-5 days, your radishes should sprout. Radishes are one of the crops that do not do well transplanted. You will have to direct seed them. When direct sowing, you can lightly sprinkle the seeds in a row and come back and thin them out later, or you can be more strategic. You can poke shallow holes with a dibbler or finger in ideally spaced locations. This will reduce the number of seeds used and the amount of thinning needed.
Once they sprout, it is time to thin. Carefully select the most vigorous seedlings and thin sprouts, one sprout every 2-3 inches. I know that thinning can be hard to do, it is hard to kill a plant selectively, but it is vital to the success of your crops. If you do not thin the radishes, they will compete for water, nutrients, and space. You will end up with stunted plants. Thinning your plants and consistent watering are the keys to a successful radish harvest. I used to feel like I was wasting the thinned crops unitl I realized they are edible! Don’t think that you are wasting these thinned crops. The thinned radishes should be treated like microgreens. Save them and add them to a salad or sandwich.
With all root crops, consistent water is vital to proper production. Keep the newly seeded soil bed moist until the seeds germinate. Since the radish seeds are sown so shallow, any minor moisture fluctuations can significantly impact production. Since radishes are a shallow root crop, they will need frequent watering. I hand water until germinated and then run the drip irrigation every other day. If you’re growing larger radish varieties, like daikons, they will appreciate a good deep soaking. Different types prefer more frequent, shallower waterings. Drought causes stress on the roots causing them to develop poorly.
Since radishes are such fast-growing crops, they do not need much extra fertilization. Try adding compost or a complete organic fertilizer to the soil before planting. Do not add fresh manure as a fertilizer source. It can contain harmful bacteria or weed seeds.
Days to Maturity
Radishes are one of the fastest-growing crops in the garden. Many smaller varieties are ready to harvest in 24-30 days. The larger daikon varieties can take 60-90 days. Radishes grow so quickly makes them a perfect candidate for succession planting. I often don’t follow the recommended Days to maturity on the seed packets, but when it comes to radishes, I most definitely do.
The quick turnaround time associated with radishes makes them a perfect candidate for succession planting. Succession Planting is the concept of planting crops over a staggered timeframe. To consistently have fresh radishes, I like to sow a new row every 8-14 days. Succession planting can help you harvest veggies from your garden continuously.
Harvesting and Storing
Harvest radishes when they are young and tender. It is better to harvest them too early than too late. If left in the ground for extended periods, the radishes will end up tough and spicy. If you’re growing round radishes, it is easy to tell when harvest time is. This is because radishes will look like they are growing on top of the soil.
To harvest correctly, pull the greens that are growing above ground, and the root should come right up. Cut the greens off, but don’t throw them away. Since the whole radish plant is edible, save them for salads or, at the least, for the compost pile, and remove small feeder roots from the side of the swollen tap root.
Wash the radishes and store them in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 2.5 weeks. A little bit of water in the bottom of the bags will help the radishes stay crisp. Once stored, try roasting, baking, eating raw in salads, pickling, or even fermenting to extend their shelf life.
Radishes are a quick crop that deserves a run in your garden. They are tasty, fun, and great for breaking up compacted soil. Because of the different ways to enjoy radishes, it’s safe to say they will be in my garden every season except for the summer.
Armed with this information, you are ready to step out and JUST GROW IT!