One of the most overlooked garden crops is radish. Radishes are peppery root vegetables that add a nice kick to soups, salads, and a wide range of dishes.
I first discovered radishes early on in my gardening ventures. After planning out my crops for the growing season, I had a ton of wasted space. While I could have left that space clear, it was just begging to be filled with a new plant!
That’s when I learned how to grow radishes. It turns out these colorful vegetables make good filler crops. They don’t take up a ton of space and coexist peacefully with other crops, making them an excellent addition to any garden.
What Are Radishes?
As we mentioned, radishes are a root vegetable. They’re very similar to carrots and beets. Rather than consuming the foliage and flowers that these plants produce, it’s the root that we add to dishes or eat raw.
The radish is technically considered to be an annual plant. However, some farmers and backyard gardeners treat it more like a biannual plant thanks to its unique growth cycle. We’ll get into that a bit later.
Radishes have been around for a long time. In fact, they’re so widespread that there are no established archeological records to indicate when these plants were first domesticated! It’s believed that they originated in Southeast Asia. However, they didn’t enter historical records until they were already distributed around Europe.
Today, radishes are considered to be one of the easiest plants to grow. Depending on the variety you choose, it can be as little as three weeks from seed to harvest! They’re incredibly hardy plants that don’t require a ton of space to flourish, either.
As a result, they can be grown in awkward spaces that other plants wouldn’t tolerate. This includes smaller containers, random blank spots, or even between other crops.
When it comes to taste, radishes offer a unique flavor. When plucked from the ground at their prime, these root vegetables have a mild heat. It’s not as spicy as chili pepper, per se. However, it’s more akin to that of ground pepper. These plants produce a unique enzyme that provides that nice kick of flavor.
From a health standpoint, radishes are a fantastic crop to grow! These little root vegetables are very low in calories. Half a cup of sliced radish is only about 12 calories. Plus, there’s virtually no fat! It’s a great way to add flavor without derailing a healthy eating plan.
Furthermore, radishes are chock-full of healthy vitamins and minerals. While you can’t expect to get your daily dose of nutrients from radishes alone, they act as a great source for things that you may not get from your regular diet. This includes niacin, potassium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin K, and so much more.
Thanks to their nutrient content, radishes are said to provide a slew of health benefits. They can improve your immunity, strengthen your blood vessels, control blood pressure, and more. Plus, the boost of fiber they provide can work wonders on your digestive system.
What Are the Different Varieties Available
When most people think of radishes, they picture those small golf-ball sized vegetables with pink skin and white center. Referred to as Round Radishes, this variety is the most common and easiest to grow.
However, it’s not the only one that’s available. There are tons of varieties to choose from. Each one varies based on taste and growing seasons. Generally, radishes are separated into a couple of different groups.
Spring radishes are the most common you’ll see on the market. While most gardeners will start planting these crops before spring officially starts, they can also be grown in the fall.
These radishes are usually the fastest growing. Depending on the cultivar, you may be looking at 20 to 30 days until harvest. Some mid-season plants may take upwards of 60 days as well.
The key to being successful with spring radishes is to manage heat exposure. These varieties are best in cooler temperatures. They should not be grown during the summer. Otherwise, you’ll have to deal with tiny yields, bolting, and a lot of excess foliage.
Some good cultivars you can try out include:
- Round radishes
- Burpee white
- French Breakfast
Winter varieties take a bit longer to grow. Most will take anywhere between 60 and 90 days to be ready for harvest. However, these vegetables are usually much larger.
If you choose to plant winter radishes, you will need to wait until the fall to plan them. They do best in cooler temperatures and are far more sensitive to heat compared to other options.
When it comes to taste and texture, winter varieties tend to be a bit milder in flavor. They have a higher starch content, which opens up a lot of possibilities for culinary use.
Here are some good cultivars to consider:
- Watermelon Radish
- Spanish Black Radish
Most radish varieties aren’t going to do well in summer. These are cool-weather crops that will not produce good vegetables when exposed to warmer climates.
That said, some radish varieties are a bit more tolerant of heat than others. These are usually hybridized plants that have been carefully developed to grow in warmer climates. They’re perfect for planting in between traditional spring or fall varieties.
Some good summer radish cultivars include:
- Dragon hybrid
- Giant of Sicily
- Rover hybrid
- Crimson Giant
When is the Best Time to Plant?
The best time to plant radishes is during the spring and fall seasons. These plants love cooler weather and will not do great during the summer. When exposed to excessive heat, the plants will focus on developing flowers. This results in smaller vegetables.
Most gardeners will start the seeds several weeks before the last frost. Doing so allows you to maximize your harvest.
You can plant successively, germinating seeds every 10 to 14 days. This can provide a constant supply of fresh radishes throughout the spring.
It’s a good idea to stop sowing new seeds once temperatures reach around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point, you can let your current crops develop while you focus on other summer plants. Once the season changes to fall and temperatures drop once again, radishes can be replanted to get late-year harvests before winter sets in.
Where Can You Plant Radishes?
The first step in growing any vegetable plant is to find the perfect spot. Before the season starts, you can choose an appropriate planting area and prepare the site to ensure a successful harvest.
Climate and Sun Exposure
When you’re choosing a spot, go with an area that has ample sun. You want to grow the vegetable in an area that gets at least six hours of consistent sun a day. It’s also important that the plant isn’t getting too much shade.
When these plants do not get enough sun, they will focus their energy on producing larger leaves. This leaves little energy for creating those delicious root vegetables you want to harvest! Make sure that the spot is getting ample sun.
Ideally, daily soil temperatures should be between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Some varieties may tolerate temperatures outside this range, so make sure to check with the soil packet to see what your plants need.
In addition to temperature and sun exposure, you need to make sure that your soil is ready to handle the growth of radishes. Like carrots, radishes need loose soil that drains easily. Anything that’s too compacted will stunt the growth of the root, resulting in small yield.
Take some time to till the soil. This will oxygenate the earth while ensuring that it can easily move to accommodate the vegetable. At the very least, you should work the soil about 6 inches deep. However, if you’re planting a larger variety, you may have to go much deeper than that. Daikon, for example, can get up to 18 inches long. In that case, you’d need to use a heavy-duty tiller to work the soil up to two feet down.
The best soil is going to have well-draining loam. If your soil is a bit tougher due to high clay content, consider adding some sand and compost.
Before planting, test the pH balance. Radishes do best when the soil has a relatively neutral pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
How to Plant Radishes in the Garden
Once you have a spot set up, it’s time to get planting! The best time to start sowing seeds is between four and six weeks before the last frost. Radishes can handle light frosts without any problems. Though, if your area experiences hard frosts late into the winter season, you might want to wait until two to three weeks before the last frost date.
It’s best to sow seeds directly into the soil. Radishes don’t handle transplanting very well. The roots are delicate before they start developing the vegetable. Thus, transplanting will increase the mortality rate of your plants.
You can plant the seeds in rows. Simply bury the seeds about half an inch to a full inch below the soil. Space the seeds about an inch apart. You’ll thin the plants once they start germinating. Place your rows about 12 inches apart so that they have enough room to start growing.
If you want to have a bountiful harvest, consider planting new seeds every 10 to 14 days.
How to Take Care of the Radish Plant
Like any other plant, you’re going to need to provide your radishes with ongoing care to keep them healthy. The good news is that the process is easy and doesn’t take long. As we mentioned earlier, these plants grow very quickly in the right condition!
Thinning the Seedlings
The first thing you’ll need to do is thin the herd a bit. This should be done after the seeds have germinated and started popping up out of the soil. Typically, this occurs about a week after sowing the seeds.
Thin the rows of radish plants so that you have a single plant every two inches or so. If you are planting larger varieties, you’ll need a bit more space between individual plants. About four to six inches is ideal.
Don’t throw those little seedling sprouts away! They’re packed with nutrients and make a nice little snack. Just wash them up and add them to a salad for some extra flavor.
Watering Your Plants
Of course, you’ll need to water your plants regularly. If the radish plants are grown in good soil, you should have no problem keeping them well-hydrated. Even waterings about four or five times a week are ideal.
You want to keep the soil moist. However, you don’t want to drown the plants. Overwatering could lead to root rot. Plus, you could damage the delicate roots as they are developing.
The fertilizer requirements for radish plants is very minimal. In the best-case scenario, you shouldn’t need to apply fertilizer at all during the plant’s life! If you enrich the soil prior to planting, the radishes will be just fine.
You can side-dress plants later on if needed. We recommend using natural compost. You don’t want to add too much nitrogen to the mix.
With excess nitrogen, radishes are prone to over-developing their leaves. As a result, the vegetable will be much smaller than you want.
Taking Care of Weeds
The beauty of quick-growing crops like radishes is that weeds are hardly ever a problem! They can start to pop up later on in your plant’s life. However, by that time, the plant has already developed a large root and is almost ready for harvest.
Mulch can be applied to keep the soil moist. It does a great job of preventing fast evaporation. Plus, it prevents weeds from getting the sunlight they need to grow quickly.
Use a natural mulch that’s free of herbicides. Grass clippings, straw, and untreated wood chips work just fine. Apply a fine layer around the base of the plant. Be mindful of the primary stalk. Leave some room around the stalk to prevent rot.
How to Harvest and Store Radishes
The only way you can tell if your radishes are ready for harvest is by taking a peek at what’s going on below the soil. Before you do that, give your plants ample time to reach the harvest stage based on the guidelines for your particular cultivar. For common spring and fall radishes, this is usually 20 to 30 days after planting.
Remove one of the radish plants from the soil. The root should be about the size of a golf ball. That’s about 1 inch in diameter. You can wash and cut the crop to give it a taste to make sure they are ready.
Storing Your Harvested Radishes
Once you’ve pulled your radishes out of the soil, cut off the top and slice the tail of the root off. Give them a good wash and let the vegetable dry off thoroughly.
Radishes can be kept in the refrigerator for about 10 to 14 days. The greens can be kept for up to four days if you plan on using those. Though, most will just toss them out or use them for compost.
Radishes are best when fresh. They can lose moisture in your refrigerator, which ultimately makes them shrivel up.
They can be blanched and frozen. Though, be cautious when trying this long-term preservation method. Radishes are notoriously finicky when it comes to freezing. If not done correctly, you can ruin their taste and texture.
A safer bet for preserving radishes is pickling. They do very well when pickled and add a new dimension to many popular dishes.
What Pests and Diseases Affect Radishes?
There aren’t a ton of issues that are specific to the radish plant. However, that doesn’t mean that these crops are immune to trouble. There are a myriad of potential problems that could pop up.
As for diseases, radishes are prone to fungal issues. They’re relatively common in areas with high humidity. Fungi can develop on the leaves and around the root. Commonly referred to as damping off, fungal problems can also kill seedlings before they have a chance to grow into full-fledged plants.
Other possible fungal issues include blight, downy mildew, white rust, and more.
Pests are known to attack radish plants as well. Aphids, flea beetles, cabbage loopers, and other common garden pests can be a hassle. Whether you’re dealing with pests or diseases, the best way to treat the problem is to simply cut off the affected part of the plant and continue what you’re doing.
You can avoid common diseases and pests by adopting a crop rotation plan. Don’t plant your radishes in the same spot year after year. At the very least, there should be a three-year period of recovery before replanting radishes in a similar spot.
Whether you’re new to backyard gardening or you have a seasoned green thumb, growing radishes is very easy. These plants are hardy and aren’t particularly fussy like some other crops.
All you need to get started is some seeds and well-prepared soil. Most of the work is done before you even start planting. After your seeds germinate, it’s only a matter of time before you have some crisp radishes to enjoy!