How to Grow Radishes
The bright pink radish is one of the most attractive looking vegetables you could imagine. So alluring that Peter Rabbit was willing to risk life and limb in an attempt to steal them from Mr McGregor’s garden.
Radishes belong to the brassica family and are also related to mustard. They were originally native to Asia but traders introduced them to Europe thousands of years ago and they have been grown here ever since.
Radishes pack a punch and are best when fried up in butter, grilled with cheese on toast or eaten raw on salads and sandwiches. Eating them aids digestion, protects against cancer and provides magnesium and riboflavin. But with their distinctive crunch and fiery flavour they are often an acquired taste.
Even still, they are easily recognizable and their smell deters pests from attacking other plants, flies and aphids absolutely hate them. So this makes them good to grow as a catch crop, or row marker sown between other crops. Peas are very fond of being grown near radishes, as are cucumbers in warmer climes.
Radishes are amongst the easiest veg to grow and even the novice gardener will have plenty of success with them. They will flourish in just about any soil and tolerate most light conditions, so anywhere you have a spot of empty space you can plant radishes.
Let’s take a look at some different types of radish you can grow:
There are many different shapes of radish, from the short round ones that look like cherry bombs to long cylindrical varieties. They also come in many different colours, such as pink, purple, black, white, and somewhere in between.
Additionally, we can categorize radishes by their growing season. So there are ‘spring’, ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ varieties. Spring and summer varieties are the two types we would most easily recognize in Britain, and there is some overlap between them. Spring radishes grow very quickly and are best sown in spring or autumn when the weather is cooler. Summer radishes are grown in early summer and take a few weeks longer. Winter radishes are a little different, they end up more like turnips or parsnips and take much longer to mature. Daikon strains are winter radishes from Asia that are usually white and used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. We plant those throughout the year but harvest them in winter.
Sparkler is an excellent example of the classic spring/summer radish with red tops and white bottoms. They are great for salads. You can sow Sparkler between April and September, and they should be ready for the plate in as little as 3 weeks.
French Breakfast is a good, reliable summer radish cultivar with red, cylindrical tubers. You can sow them at any time from March through to September, and they take about 4 weeks to crop.
Jolly produces bright red, globular summer radishes that take about 6 weeks to mature. They can be sown between March and September.
April Cross are reliable winter radishes that resemble parsnips but have a very different flavour. Plant them between February and September to harvest between August and November.
Black Spanish are black radishes from Spain which come in tubular or globular strains. They are sown in late summer for a winter crop and take around 10 weeks to mature.
As previously stated, radishes can go anywhere you can fit them, so put them in between or at the end of rows of other crops. However, if you want to allocate a special radish plot then you should choose an area with fine ground that drains well.
Give the plants less sun to make them grow more leaves, or more sun to make them grow bigger roots. But remember that the hotter the spot, the hotter the radish, and they may end up too hot for you. Excess sun can also make them bolt or turn woody, so it is probably best to put them in partial shade.
If a radish root hits a stone then it will split in two and that is not what you want for your champion bombs. So dig over your plot and remove all stones and weeds, then rake to a fine tithe. Draw lines in the soil (drills) with a trowel along the length of your radish plot.
Sow your radish seeds about 3cm (1 ½”) apart along the drills, then sprinkle a little soil over the top and water in gently. The seeds should turn to seedlings in a few weeks.
Each radish seed is actually a seed pod with the ability to grow several radishes, but to get good shaped radishes we want to give them some space. So once they have begun to sprout you will need to rid of the weaker plants. Thin them out enough so that there is about 3cm (1 ½”) of space between radishes.
Just keep watering your radishes to make them grow quickly. The soil should remain constantly moist so you should water regularly and evenly, for example every few days. If you fail to water them their flavour may get too hot and if you soak them they may crack.
You should harvest spring and summer varieties when they are around 5cm (2”) in diameter, or 2.5cm (1”) if you want them really young. They should be ready after three or four weeks. You can leave them longer if you wish, but leave them too long and they will turn hard and bitter. Winter radishes will take much longer until they can be harvested, usually about 100 days.
Just scrape away the top layer of soil and check how big the root is. If it is a decent size then grab it by the leaves and gently tease it from the soil.
Brush off any excess soil and store in a cool, dark place. Your radishes will keep for up to a fortnight.
Now go ahead and grow show quality radishes good enough to use as fishing bobbers!