Growing Radishes from Seed

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Growing radishes from seed ca be very gratifying. Do you like that little spicy twang of a crisp radish slices in your salad? And did you know that not only that the green part is also edible too? If you would need a few reasons to add this versatile crop to your repertoire, here are just a few. They’re expedient growers (some take as little as 25 days to harvest) and their size, it’s a great crop to squeeze in between rows of our crop types .

(Also within reason). There is also some evidence that they have some pest-repellent properties as well. All of these make them ideal for those of you who have limited space. You can plant them in raised beds as I’ve been doing or containers too. As they are an annual cooler weather preferring plant, timing is essential. You can get more than one successive crop going if you play your cards right.

Different Varieties of Radishes

But first, take a look at the different varieties you have available. Many of them are the crimson bulbs you may already be familiar with, and others are tubular and white, purple or a combination. Let’s look at some of these which I have planted and what’s unique about them,

Easter Eggs – These are round and oval, with white, pink and ombre variations, they are small in diameter and get around 1-3″ in diameter in size. They have a mild flavor and can work for container gardens as well as beds too.

French Breakfast – First cultivated in Paris in the late 19th century, they have a tubular appearance with a bi-colored pink and white appearance. They will get from 2 to 4″ in length. They have a sweeter and milder flavor than their conventional American cousin, so if one thing that’s put you off from radishes is that “twang” you may enjoy these. In France, they don’t actually eat these with breakfast but rather a snack, dipped in butter and salt with some toasted bread.

German Giants – As the name implies, they get kind fo big. They turn bright red and have a great flavor according to cultivars. They do best if planted and cultivated in the fall season.

radish varieties

Black Spanish – Also do best when planted in the fall, these have a more pungent flavor so if you like a radish with a lot of zip, this is it. It’s not for everyone, if you peel the outer black later and dip them in salt water you can tone it down a little. They are great sauteed and added to main and side dishes. They were cultivated a number of centuries ago in Europe.Like the German giant they get a little big, about 4″ in diameter.

White Icicle – These are white and get very long, narrow, and have a mild flavor.Make sure your proposed compartment has a soil depth of at least 10″ so they will have enough room.

Watermelon – On the outside they’re creamy white, but on the inside they don’t look that different from the fruit , with a light green outer edge and sunburst interior of pinkish-red. They take about 50 days to a month to fully mature and have a peppery kick to them flavor wise. I’d consider slicing them and adding to side dishes as they will definetley get attention and add a slash of color as well as flavor.

Purple Plum – Small globules that are deep purple violet in color, and have a crisp texture and a little less of a peppery “twang” than its reddish cousins. If you use them in side dishes, it can enhance the sweetness of them. At only 25 days to maturity, you can enjoy them pretty early! These would be great for you if you prefer a milder tasting radish.

Side note: I planted the smaller ones this season, I saved the black Spanish and German giants for the fall

And now the sowing ….

If you want to start with seed starting peat pots, you can but I prefer the direct sowing method.A lot of success will depend on timing. Radish seeds should always be sown in early spring and fall due to their propensity for flourishing in cooler weather. They can do well in temperature zones 3-10 within reason.

As a rule of thumb, plant your seeds four weeks before the last frost date in the spring, and in the fall count four weeks before the first frost date to begin sowing. For where I live, anytime in March would be ideal. March is a wild month weather-wise full of upswings and downswings in temp fluctuations so pushing it out into April is not a bad time either. Try to sow when daytime temps are in the 50-60 degree ranges.

You can create a grid with holes as your layout (especially a good idea if you use square foot measurements, or if you use the row method digging a shallow trench, about an inch deep, is a good idea too. Sprinkle seeds into the trench and lightly cover back up with soil. As far as soil conditions go, be sure it is free of rocks and gravel. Since we tilled all of our beds this worked out well to create the right conditions. Water them in.

Good Companions for Radishes

On the topic of the “buddy system”, radishes do very well when planted alongside other root veggies like carrots (which I have planted at the opposite end of the same bed), lettuce and spinach are two other good companions. Alongside those in the brassica family (cabbage, cauliflower) as those will spread out way too much and crowd them out.

Development

When the seedlings start to make their appearance be sure to go in and trim any of them when you see them reach about 2″ in height., There needs to be at least 3″ of space between each seedling. If they are too close together, they may end up with conjoined roots and poor quality resulting yield. Radishes like full sun and partial shade, in the bed I have planted them there is an overhanging tree that does slightly canopy the bed, but to a small degree.

A I mentioned earlier, radishes are speedy growers….don’t forget to mark down the dates that you planted the seeds so you can keep an eye on them, as their germination period can be as little as 25 days to see them reach maturity to 2 months. If you don’t get to them around that time they could end up turning to flower. So be sure and harvest them

Since radishes are “tubers” how can you tell when they are ready to pick? Glad you asked.  You may notice the greens turning more bushy, and the major sign is the sight of the “shoulders” making an appearance.  The shoulders are the very top just below the green tops.

first radish bulb
The first one! Hopefully, of many.

Out of the 4 varieties I planted, I think this was the Purple Plum. It could have been the Easter Egg. Have fun picking your radishes, don’t forget you can eat them raw and cook them too, and save the green tops, as they can also be useful for culinary ideas too.

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