I love growing radishes in my garden. Not only are they brilliant space fillers, but they also grow quickly. Of course, there's also the flavor. The crisp taste of a freshly picked radish is unmistakable, with its peppery and crunchy zing.
Lucky for me, they also require little fuss to grow, and because they're ready to harvest so quickly compared to some vegetables, you can plant for a continuous harvest that lasts all summer long.
I think they're an excellent plant for teaching kids about the joys of gardening, as well. Children can plant them, and within a few days, they can see the result of their hard work when the plant pushes its way out of the soil. What's not to love?
There are more radishes than you can imagine, but here's a list of the ones you should consider in your garden. This list is far from exhaustive, and I encourage you to try as many as you can.
Cherry Belle (Red Globes)
These are the most commonly grown radishes, and the ones you generally see in your local grocery store. They're a classic for a reason. They're crispy, flavorful and perfect for adding some zest to your salads.
If you are craving something a little less pungent, check white icicle radishes out. They grow to about 6 inches long and are milder than red cherry radishes.
California Mammoth White Radish
Slightly longer than the icicles, these radishes grow to about 8 inches long. They are mild with firm flesh.
Chinese Red Meat
This colorful watermelon has a green exterior and pink flesh. The flavor is sweet, crisp and pungent.
These radishes are shaped like a long turnip and grow up to 8 inches long. They have a white flesh that is slightly dryer than most radishes. The most common black variety is Spanish Black, and they can be either round or long.
Snowball radishes are small, white veggies with an exceptionally crisp texture. You can eat the leaves as well. Both have a spicy, peppery flavor.
No radish list would be complete without daikon. These are long and slender, and get large. One radish can grow up to 18 inches and can weigh up to 2 pounds. These are a little spicier than red radish and common in Japanese food.
This dark pink variety has an oblong shape. It matures in under 30 days and has a mild flavor.
This beautiful variety has a lovely dark purple-hued skin and creamy white flesh. It's small in size and sweeter than some other types.
Singara Rat's Tail
This radish looks more like a bean. You don't eat the root of this variety, but the seed pod instead. It's a prolific producer and the spicy pods taste amazing in a stir fry.
How to Grow Radishes
Radishes grow well in zones 2-10. They can put up with most temperatures but will bolt to seed if too hot, especially in the peak of summer. Gardeners in areas with sweltering summers should plant in the early spring or fall to avoid the hottest part of the year.
Sun and Soil Requirements
Radishes will grow in plenty of soils, but for the best results, plant in well composted fertile soil. Loamy, sandy soil is best. Aim for a pH between 5.8-6.8. Make sure the soil is well-drained as radishes don't like wet feet. Work plenty of aged manure into the soil before planting.
Radishes like plenty of sun with partial shade during the heat of the day. You can give radishes additional protection from the sun by planting them near tall plants like peas and beans.
When to Plant Radish
Plant radishes in both the spring and fall. Stop planting in the heat of summer to avoid stress and bolting to seed. In spring, you can plant about 4-6 weeks before the last frost. In fall, plant 4-6 weeks before the first frost.
Where to Plant Radishes
Plant in a sunny spot in the garden with partial afternoon shade. Don't grow radishes in full shade because they will put all of their energy into leaf growth. Be sure to rotate your radish crops to avoid disease.
Germinating Radish Seeds
Radishes should be planted directly in the garden. They don't transplant well. After planting, water the seeds, but don't soak the soil. If you've planted between existing vegetables, the radish will benefit when you water those ones as well because they have shallow roots.
You can plant another lot of radishes 10-15 days after the first batch if you want continued harvesting. I use them to fill in the empty spaces between all my vegetables to help prevent weed growth.
Plant your seeds about 1 inch apart and 1/2 inch deep. Each row should be about 12 inches apart to give the leaves room to grow and expand.
If you want, you can sprinkle seeds sparingly onto the soil before lightly covering. If you use this method, you will need to thin out the growing radishes when they get bigger to allow for proper growth.
Caring for Radishes
Radishes are quick growing, so as long as you have planted them in well fertilized, loamy soil, you won't need to feed them again. I've had good results by planting in well-fed soil and not fertilizing again before harvest.
Water well when you plant the seeds and then whenever you water your vegetable garden. I have found one decent watering a week is sufficient, but this will depend on the temperatures where you live.
Keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged. Mulch around the plant if the soil dries out too quickly between waterings.
Common Problems and Solutions for Growing Radishes
I have found that whenever I've had problems with radish, it's because I've left them in the soil too long and they got too big and woody. When that happens, their resistance to pests is lower.
Downy mildew causes white or yellow patches on leaves, and the undersides will be covered in a white, cotton-like fungi. This mildew thrives in moist, cool areas. Keep plants well spaced to improve air circulation and bugs like aphids and mites away. Use a copper spray to help control.
Cabbage Root Maggot
These pests are more likely to be a problem in northern zones. Their life cycle is underground, so you may not even know they are there until you investigate why your plant growth is stunted, or the leaves are wilted.
The adult fly will lay eggs at the base of the plant in early spring. The larvae burrow into the soil and feed on the roots of the plant. Eventually, the plant will wilt and die. When you pull it out, you will often see groups of larvae on the roots.
I have found the best deterrent is to mix neem pellets into the soil before planting radish seeds. Also, diligent crop rotation is a must.
Clubroot causes abnormal growth of the root system. It's caused by the soil-borne fungus Plasmodiophora brassicae.
If you've got it, your plant leaves will wilt and die. The best offense is a good defense. Well fed soil, ample space between plants and harvesting before the radish gets too big and woody all help. Be sure to rotate your crops. Remove any infected plants carefully and dispose of them.
Harlequin bugs suck the juices from many plants, including radishes. Check the underside of leaves for their little white eggs and crush any you see. Then spray plants with insecticidal soap.
Snails and Slugs
Snails and slugs are the enemies of every gardener. The little pests will ravage the green leaves until there is nothing left. I use slug and snail bait pellets with a bittering agent, which helps to stop children and pets from trying to eat them. There are also plenty of DIY options you can use.
Every garden gets these little green (or brown, or yellow) suckers from time to time. Spray them with a blast of water and prevent them from returning by treating your radishes with neem oil.
Cutworms are the larvae of moths that hatch in the soil and emerge in the spring to nibble on the base of your growing radishes. Patrol your garden in the evenings and hand pick them off plants. You can also put cardboard plant collars and diatomaceous earth around your plants.
Flatbeetles or Stink Bugs
These leaf eaters are flat, brown beetles that came to the U.S. from Eastern Asia. Use sticky traps or diatomaceous earth to control them.
The cabbage looper is often called an inchworm because of the way they inch along plants. They can rapidly destroy your crops. I use organic pyrethrum spray to control them. You can also use row covers and encourage parasitic wasps.
Companion Plants for Radish
Radish are great space fillers, and grow particularly well among:
Don't plant with:
How to Harvest and Use Radish
A general rule of thumb is that radishes are ready 22-50 days after sowing, but the timing depends on the type.
Harvest globe-shaped radishes when they are slightly bigger than a golf ball. I sometimes let them get bigger, but there is a fine line between a big radish and a ruined, woody one. Daikon can vary, so check the growing time when you buy the seed. Do the same with the cylinder radish as the harvest time varies between types.
Use radish in salads for that lovely fresh, crisp taste, but don't stop there. The French love sliced radishes with fresh butter on a slice of bread. They're also delicious sauteed with bacon and butter. I've even seen pickled radish, radish chutney, and radish butter.
If you haven't tried radishes before, make this your year. Then let us know how you like to eat