Growing radishes is easy, quick and uncomplicated. Many experienced gardeners first discovered their love of growing vegetables by growing radish as young children.
The great thing about radishes is that they are quick to mature, generally trouble-free to grow, not fussy about ground, and even the young leaves are edible! They can be grown outdoors in a row, as markers between other crops, or indoors in windowsill boxes or similar deeper pots. The seeds can also be sprouted and eaten after only a week all year round (see Sprouting Seeds for more info). Outside, radishes can safely be grown between the last frost in spring to the onset of autumn. Using cloches at etiher end of the season will extend the growing period.
However, young children often find the sharp taste of radishes a little off-putting - try the kids on different types of radish, or try cooking them in a wok with other vegetables as this reduces the sharpness - though it is usual to eat summer radish raw and winter radish cooked.
Types of Radishes
Radishes are usually divided into summer radish and winter radish.
The summer radish (also known as salad radish) matures quickly and takes only 3 - 6 weeks between planting and harvesting, depending on time of year sown. These are the popular red radishes which garnish summer salads. They are usually red or red and white, and vary between the globular and longer rooted varieties. Popular summer radish seeds include Pink Beauty (a small round radish which matures quickly), and Scarlet Globe (a recommended variety for outdoors).
The winter radish is little known and not either widely used or even available! The winter varieties have large roots which can weigh several pounds and have a stronger taste than the summer varieties. Colours vary from white, over redish pink to black radish types. Winter radishes are often pulled and stored (in the same way as carrots) for winter use but can in some milder climates be left in the ground until needed, when the tops are covered with straw or some similar insulating blanket.
Chinese and Mooli radish are slower to mature with longer roots and are usually sown outdoors from spring to the beginning of July - check the seed packet for specific instructions. A good variety for winter growing is F1 Mantanghong - a UK variety of Chinese radish with a slightly nutty flavour - and for summer crops try F1 Mino Summer Cross - a white skinned and fleshed fast-growing radish.
A completely different type of radish is the podding radish. These radishes are grown not for the root but for the seed pods, which have a similar flavour to the traditional radish and can be eaten either raw or lightly boiled or tossed. Seeds can be sown from spring through to early summer and can grow to between 2 and 3 feet tall, so need to be thinned down to allow plenty of growing space. The most popular podding radish is the Munchen Bier.
Growing Radishes Outdoors
It is easy to grow radishes outdoors from early spring (after the last frost) until around September. The growing season can be extended by the use of cloches at either end of the season.
They are not fussy about the ground, but prefer ground that has had organic matter (compost or manure) added the previous autumn. To prepare the row, loosen the soil and rake to a fine tilth, then use a hoe or bamboo stick to mark out a drill about 1/2 inch deep.
Sow seeds thinly along the drill, cover with a thin layer of soil, and water. Alternatively, use a seed tape for evenly spaced plants - an especially useful idea for very young gardeners for whom the seeds are just too small - try French Breakfast 3 - Groweasy Seed Tapes.
The seeds usually take between 4 and 10 days to germinate. Keep the soil moist - this is especially important during the summer months (July and August) if there is a prolonged dry spell ... the growing radishes need even watering to ensure the roots swell and growth is not checked - and keeping the soil moist also helps to prevent attack from the flea beetle.
During the height of summer, radishes prefer to be grown in dappled shade, as too much full sun is likely to encourage the plants to bolt.
If the radishes are getting a little crowded, you can easily thin them out to give them more space (and eat any you pick out!). Recommended spacing is as follows:
The radishes should be ready to harvest within anything from 3 to 6 weeks for the summer varieties. The most common summer varieties (small, red, globular) are fully mature when they have the diameter of a 10 pence coin. Intermediate varieties when they are approx. the length of an adult thumb. Winter varieties are ready about 10-12 weeks after sowing. Podding varieties when the pods reach about 2-3 inches in length (approx. 7 weeks after sowing).
Many people growing radishes use the radishes as 'row markers' for slower germinating vegetables, such as onions or parsnips, or between other sowings of other crops.
Growing radishes in containers, such as window boxes, troughs or even large pots, is also perfectly possible and is becoming more and more popular, as it extends the growing season and is the perfect solution to growing radishes in small spaces.
Jolly Speedy Seeds - the perfect starting point for the young gardener's first experience of growing radishes, with quick growth and a milder taste. Suitable for outdoor or container growing.
Daikon Speedy Seeds - perfect for sprouting in the kitchen all year round, these seeds are guaranteed to sprout and be ready for munching within 7 days.
French Breakfast 3 - Groweasy Seed Tapes - a really good idea for the very young kids, as the tape can simply be placed in the drill instead of the seeds being scattered all over the garden!
Munchen Bier - for something completely different, try this podding radish ... a radish which looks like a bean or pod and is green rather than red has just got to be worth growing if simply for the novelty value!
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