Radishes can add color to a boring salad and are also the fastest growing vegetable in the garden. They are the perfect vegetable for gardeners looking for immediate results from their labors. In as little as three weeks from when the seeds are planted radishes can be harvested. They help add the splash of color that is often missing in spring salads made from exclusively local sources.
Radishes are from the same plant family as mustard, turnips and the cabbage family. It was first cultivated in Europe before the Roman Empire invasion. They come in two basic varieties: spring and winter. The crunchy spring varieties of radishes are planted in the early spring as soon as the soil can be worked and mature within a month of planting. Winter varieties are planted in the fall and require more time to mature. However, these radishes store better and maintain quality better in the garden or the refrigerator than spring radishes.
Plant spring radishes as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring in a garden bed that is six inches deep. Plant the slower growing winter varieties in late summer in garden bed that is two feet deep. Both spring and winter variety seeds should be planted at a depth of one half inch in rows that are one inch apart. The soil should be gently watered and in firm soil. For a continual harvest plant a short for several weeks in a row
Once the seeds have germinated, thin them to one plant every three to four inches. Because radishes don’t like too much water or too little, water them frequently to keep the soil moist. Add mulch to keep weeds down as well as maintain moisture. Both spring and winter varieties grow quickly and normally aren’t bothered by garden pests.
Pigweed, often referred to as wild amaranth, helps radishes because it loosens the soil. Nasturtiums and mustard greens protect them with their oils. Sow radish seeds in the same rows with beets, spinach, carrots and parsnips. They grow quickly and will mark the rows for those slower growing vegetables. Growing radishes with leaf lettuce will keep them tender longer and they also grow well with kohlrabi, bush beans, and pole beans. Planted with cucumbers, squash and melons, radishes repel the striped cucumber beetle and when planted with tomatoes, they help repel the spider mite.
I never grow them in ground vacated by cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli or turnips grown in the previous season because they are all members of the cabbage family. I also wouldn’t plant them near hyssop.
Pull the roots as soon as they mature and don’t leave them in the ground too long. If radishes get too big they will become tough and cracked. Harvesting them is easy; hold plant at the base where the leaves meet the earth and pull them clear of the ground. If radish leaves separate from the root, gently work the radish loose with a small hand trowel, while being careful not to disrupt neighboring plants. Wash spring radishes and eat them as soon as possible. Winter varieties should be allowed to grow much larger and pulled after the first frost but before the ground freezes. They can be stored in moist cold storage (refrigerator conditions) for several months. Spring varieties should be eaten fresh while winter varieties are often eaten by stir-frying.