There are a few things I really like about growing radishes.
One, they grow quickly. Two, they require little attention, making them the perfect plant for inattentive (aka lazy) gardeners like myself. Three, they seem to last FOREVER in the refrigerator.
But, ok…here’s the problem.
They aren’t always easy to grow.
Although they grow quickly, you will need to do some work in order to make sure they develop appropriately.
Here are some easy tips you can follow for a bountiful radish crop this summer!
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Health Benefits of Radishes
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably thinking, “Well ok, I can grow these plants, sure, no problem. But are radishes actually good for you?”
Radishes are one of the healthiest vegetables you can grow in a backyard garden. They have been used as a common folk remedy for centuries, treating everything from sore throat to inflammation and even a fever. They’re commonly used in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, too.
Here are some facts to take with you as you pull on your gardening gloves:
- Just one half-cup serving of radishes contains only 12 calories and essentially no fat – don’t worry about them derailing your diet.
- The same serving has 14 percent of your daily recommended dosage of Vitamin C. This can help fight free radicals, improve collagen production, and combat the effects of an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle.
- Radishes also have powerful anti-cancer properties. Because they are a cruciferous vegetable, they contain certain compounds that help clear the body of cancer-causing substances upon digestion.
- Just half a cup of radishes provides you with a gram of fiber – fiber can prevent constipation and support a healthy digestive system.
- Radishes have powerful anti-fungal properties
Radishes also contain notable portions of:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B-6
Types of Radishes
Radishes are root vegetables that are members of the brassica family. As a result, radishes are closely related to:
- Mustard greens
You can find radishes in multiple shapes, colors, and sizes. Most popular varieties in the United States are bright red and look not unlike ping-pong balls. You can also purchase white, black, or purple radishes, which can be small or large, round or oblong.
Most of these radishes will have a light peppery taste, although there are some that are sweeter and some, like the white winter daikon radish, that are very mild. Small radishes tend to have the most profound flavors.
There are hundreds of types of radishes, with colors ranging from pink to black and even green. Here are some of the most popular:
- White Icicle
- Cherry Belle
- White Beauty
- Early Scarlet Gold
- Fire and Ice
- French Breakfast
- Daikon Long White
- Sakurajima Mammoth
- Easter Egg
- Black Spanish
- Chinese Green Luobo
- Green Meat
How to Grow Radishes
Preparing for Planting Radishes
Radishes are believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region and areas near the Caspian Sea.
As a result, they thrive in moist climates, tending to prefer cool weather with temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees. They can survive in any type of soil, but as with most plants, will do best in sandy loam with an optimal pH of 6.5-7.0.
Radishes are easiest to cultivate from seed – you won’t have a life of luck trying to transplant these, as they are a root vegetable. You should sow seeds in full sun to partial shade. While radishes can thrive in any setting, I’ve found that they grow best in raised beds as well as in container gardens.
Cultivating Radishes from Seed
This is the biggest mistake I always make – radishes need lots of space. While you’ll get plenty of greens from plants that were grown densely together, the little fruits themselves will be thin and weak.
Either sow the seeds thinly, providing for uniform spacing, or thin them once they’ve sprouted. You should thin radishes to at least two inches apart – even more for larger daikon radishes.
If you struggle with seeding your radishes appropriately like I do, you can always purchase a radish seed tape like this one. I have not yet tried this with radishes, but I used a seed tape like it for my carrots this year and it worked wonders!
Alternatively, just make sure you space your radishes one inch apart with twelve inches between the rows. They can be sown to a depth of about half an inch. Make sure you keep the seedlings moist!
If you want a continual harvest of radishes, plant another round of seeds every ten days to two weeks. This will give you a harvest of radishes in the late spring and early summer.
You can attempt for a late summer harvest of radishes, too, but it may be too hot for them to do anything. However, you can plant in midsummer for a fall crop or late summer for an early winter crop, too, depending on where you live.
Caring for Radish Plants
Your radish plants should be kept in soil that never dries out. Radishes are extremely sensitive to fluctuations in moisture, and dry radishes will become harsh tasting and pungent.
Mulch can help keep your radishes consistently moist, so it might be worth your heel to lay down a layer of thick straw mulch after your seedlings have emerged.
You may need to fertilize your radishes every now and then, particularly if the soil you planted in wasn’t originally rich to begin with. You can use a small amount of nitrogen fertilizer or a balanced compost (including compost tea) throughout the duration of the growing season.
Consistent, level amounts of moisture are key when you are caring for radishes. You want to make sure the soil is moist but not waterlogged. Using a drip irrigation system or soaker hoses is the best way to do this if you have trouble remembering to water from the bottom up.
Companion Plants for Radishes
Radishes are easy to grow in a garden, with very few plants that don’t grow well alongside this quick-growing beauty. Here are some of the best plants you can grow with you radishes:
- Winter squash
- French parsley
Planting Radishes in Containers
I’ve found over the years that growing radishes in containers tends to be the method that works best for me. We place several containers of plants on our deck – including radishes, spinach, lettuce, and other quick-to-harvest plants – so that way I don’t forget to harvest, water, and tend to these particular plants.
Radishes can easily be grown in containers since they are relatively small. Select a container that is at least six inches deep and consider using well-composted organic potting soil to get them started. They will need at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day, but do best in the shade if the weather is hot.
You can grow just about any type of radish in a container, but here are some of the best types of radishes for growing in a pot. Other than that, there’s not much else that you need to do to ensure a healthy crop of container-planted radishes!
Common Radish Pests and Diseases
Radishes aren’t prone to many diseases, but if you’ve noticed something munching away on your hard-earned crop, you should do your best to narrow down the list of potential culprits. If pests are to blame, it could be any of the following:
- Harlequin bugs
- Flea beetles
- Cabbage loopers
- Cabbage maggots
Cabbage maggots are one of the most detrimental pests that can go after your radishes. Not only will they nibble tunnels through the roots of the plant, but they’ll also transmit diseases, like bacterial black soft spot.
Most pests attack only the foliage of your radish plants, but this is not true across the board. Whatever it is that’s going after your plants, know that you can keep them at bay by practicing good watering habits – water only early in the morning. Try to rotate your crop and avoid planting it in the same area of your garden between growing seasons.
In some cases, you can make plastic or cardboard collars to go around the base of your young plants. This can deter pests like cutworms from making a meal of your radishes. You can also introduce beneficial insects or use floating fabric row covers like these to keep the insects away.
Most diseases that will affect your radishes are fungal. These can be prevented by practicing good watering habits. One of the most common is Alternaria blight, which causes yellow, black, or dark brown spots to appear on leaves. These may have concentric rings.
Caused by a fungus, this disease can be prevented by purchasing certified seeds and treating them with hot water before you plant.
Radishes grow quickly, but not as quickly as you might hear. You need to remember that your weather conditions can dramatically impact the length of time that it takes your radishes to mature. Don’t be impatient! Wait until your radishes are actually ready for harvest until you do so.
Some seed companies claim that their radishes will mature in as little as 23 days. It usually takes longer than that where I live, where planting in the spring is often cold and rainy and planting in the summer is too hot.
Give yourself at least four to six weeks, which will factor in slower periods of growth due to the weather.
Some people claim that there are radish varieties that can hold in the garden for quite some time without becoming pithy – aka, gross.
However, if you wait too long to harvest your radishes, even if they don’t lose flavor, you’re going to have other issues to contend with, like pests or scavengers. Just harvest them and remember that once they are cleaned and stored in the refrigerator, they’ll last for months.
Radishes are easy to harvest, but remember that spring radishes mature more quickly and will degrade rapidly if left in the ground too long. Winter radishes tend to last a little longer.
Check your roots to figure out whether your radishes are ready to be harvest small roots can be recovered with soil and allowed to develop until they are mature. Pull mature radishes straight out of the ground, pulling gently at the base of the greens and then upward. You may have to loosen it slightly from the soil.
Shake the soil off and wash any remaining soil off in the sink. That’s all there is to it!
Still worried about how to harvest your radishes? Here’s a quick video to show you how.
How to Preserve Radishes
It’s safe to say that if you’re at all successful at growing radishes, you’re probably going to have more than you know what to do with. Here are some easy ways to preserve your radishes so that they stick around for the long haul:
- Store them in a mason jar – If you want to keep your radishes in the refrigerator but don’t want them to dry out, consider trimming them and placing them in a mason jar (after they’ve been washed, of course). Cover them with a bit of cold water. When the jar is closed, the radishes will be protected against air and will stay fresher a bit longer.
- Dehydrate them – If you have a home dehydrator (I love this one by Nesco) you can dehydrate your radishes to replace the potato chips in your pantry. Not only are they a salty, delicious alternative to potato chips, but they will also last for quite some time in storage.
- Freeze them – It’s tough to freeze radishes, as their texture makes them difficult to store in this way. If you’re planning on cooking them later on, you might not care much about the texture – in this case, it’s perfectly fine to freeze your radishes. Otherwise, you might want to consider only freezing the radish greens, which can be sauteed and cooked like kale or spinach when you’re ready to eat them later on.
- Pickle them – As with freezing, canning radishes will cause them to develop an odd texture. However, you can pickle radishes, and it’s a delicious way to use up your harvest. You can make refrigerator radishes like these or pickle them and process them in a water bath canner like this.
How to Cook With Radishes
Most people just eat radishes raw, but there are so many other delicious uses for this savory vegetables. A radish becomes extremely tender and has a mellow flavor when you cook it down. I like to steam radishes as well as saute them, and I’ve also had some success roasting them, too. You can even ferment or pickle your radishes!
Some of my favorite ways to eat radishes are:
- Slicing them thin and putting them on sandwiches
- Dipping radishes in a Greek yogurt dip
- Eating them raw in a tasty springtime salad
- Adding grated radishes to a salad or coleslaw
- Dicing them up and putting them in a pasta salad
- Sauteeing them and adding them to a pasta dish
What are you waiting for? Buy yourself some radish seeds and get to planting! Summer will be over before you know it.
What other tips do you have for growing radishes? Be sure to let me know in the comments!
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