A Quick Guide to Growing Radishes
For many gardeners, growing radishes is their very first vegetable gardening experience. That’s because radishes are easy to grow and they are the perfect spring vegetable. In northern climates where spring comes late, radishes are the first vegetable to be planted. And, because they have such a short growing season, radishes are the first vegetables to be harvested as well.
For the most part, radishes are small, round and red and taste great in salads. They are also not bad when eaten by themselves with just a little salt. You can have other color radishes these days, including white, purple and pink. You can grow Oriental radishes, which are very large or rat-tail radishes, which are quite different, with six-inch long green seed pods which are the part of the plant which you eat. These are quite unusual radishes.
Because growing radishes is so quick compared to other vegetables, you can plant them every ten days throughout the spring and summer for continuous harvests. You can also plant them in the fall as they really thrive in cool weather. You should be able to plant them right up until three weeks before the first frost date in your location.
When your do start growing radishes, you should plant them in soil that has lots of compost and dry manure. Don’t use manure that is fresh because it will burn the roots of the plants. Work the organic material into the first six inches of soil. Then plant your seeds an inch deep and an inch apart. Because the seeds are so tiny, many gardeners just sprinkle a handful down the row and then thin them to be an inch apart after they come through the soil.
Depending on the kind of radishes you have, you may need to thin plants to be as much as three inches apart. Those large, Oriental radishes need to have around eight inches in-between plants. Place your rows one foot apart. Growing radishes is fun for kids because it doesn’t require much patience. The seedlings are up and growing in three days and it is almost impossible to kill radishes, no matter how bad your soil is.
You do need to keep your radishes well weeded because they are a root crop, and if they have to compete with the roots of grass and weeds for space, they literally are strangled and won’t produce a crop. Sometimes flea beetles can eat lots of holes in the leaves but this doesn’t necessarily affect the quality or growth of the radish itself. Cutworms and cabbage root maggots can be bothersome and if you have them, you will notice holes in your radishes.
These pests are easily controlled by many different organic and synthetic pest control techniques. Ask the agricultural extension service in your area what pests and diseases affect gardens in your location. They are usually quite happy to help and have suggestions for how to attack the various pests and diseases.
You can tell when radishes are ready to harvest by pulling one or two to check out the size. The best and tastiest radishes are usually only around an inch in diameter. The larger a radish gets, the more apt it is to crack and get punky inside. Changes in moisture levels can also cause radishes to crack open.
Growing radishes only takes around three weeks so your efforts are rewarded quickly. Don’t leave summer radishes in the ground after they have reached full size. Winter radishes can be left in the ground even after the first frost of the year.