by Matt Gibson
Radishes are among the easiest vegetable plants to grow in the garden. This cool season crop is hardy, prolific, and quick to mature and become ready to harvest multiple times per growing season. You can plant radishes in both the spring and fall, which will help keep your cupboards stocked with the rich peppery flavor and crispy texture of your favorite radish varieties. Suspend your radish growing in the summer, as extremely hot temperatures cause radishes to bolt, making them useless to a vegetable gardener.
An excellent source of vitamin C, radishes make great companion plants for low lying vegetable beds, as they improve the soil quality around them as they grow. The root vegetable is a common sight in modern kitchens, and is often added to salads, appetizers, soups, tea sandwiches, and more. The bright red fruit can be sauteed, steamed, roasted, or served raw, but it is not the only edible part of the radish. The tender, green leaves will add a peppery zing to any salad, and even the immature seed pods have a sharp, aromatic bite that make them perfect for soups, stews, and stir-fries.
Varieties of Radishes
The list of known radish varieties is a long one, as radishes come in different sizes, shapes, and colors, as well as a range of flavor profiles that are distinct to their species. Luckily, we shortened the list significantly for you, including the more popularly cultivated species, as well as a few of the more unique varieties that you may want to try.
Common Radish Varieties
- Cherry Belle – Often found in the supermarket and delicious in salads, this small, round, red radish is what most people picture when someone mentions radishes.
- White Icicle – Similar to daikon in flavor, fruit is about 5 to 8 inches long when mature. Pungent, spicy, best when pickled young. Takes 30-40 days to mature.
- Fire And Ice – This species gets its name due to its unique color split, as fruit is red on the top and white on the bottom. Oblong in shape, and sweet, mild, and delicate in flavor.
- Daikon Long White – Provide at least four inches of space between each planting of these massive radishes, which can reach up to 18 inches in length. Delicate, crispy, and slightly-sweet, daikon radishes need 60 days to mature.
- French Breakfast – This popular, extra-crunchy, elongated radish is red with a white rounded tip. Ready for harvest in just 25-30 days, with a slightly pungent smell but mild flavor profile.
- Sparkler – A round, bright red radish with a distinctive white tip and all white insides. Mild and delicate flavor.
- White Beauty – A small white, round radish known for its sweet juicy flavor. White on the inside and out.
- Pink Radish – There are several radish varieties known for their beautiful pink skin, including Pink Celebration, Pink Summercicle, and Lady Slipper, as well as the more common Pink radish. All of these varieties are small, flavorful, and mature in just around a month.
- Early Scarlet Gold – A juicy and tender heirloom radish known for its round shape, red skin, and white flesh.
Other Interesting Species to Try:
- Watermelon – Watermelon radishes actually kind of look like watermelons. Reaching baseball size upon maturity, the watermelon is an heirloom radish with white skin and bright reddish-purple flesh. Give three inches of space between each plant and allow 50 days to reach maturity.
- Green Meat – Green on the inside and out, the Misato Green, or Green Meat radish has spicy outer skin, and mild flesh inside.
- Easter Egg – With this variety, the color you end up with will be a surprise, ranging from white or pink to red or purple. Thin slices will bring a lot of flavor to whatever dish you add it to.
- Black Spanish – These interesting little round radishes have coal black skin, white flesh, and a mild flavor.
- Malaga Violet – If the majority of radishes that you have tried have been too spicy for your palate, try growing the Malaga violet. This polish variety contains a sweet and mild taste, and dark purple flesh. Takes 30-40 days to mature.
- Zlata – Zlata radishes catch the eye with their unusual yellow skin and oval shape. These strong, spicy radishes are usually ready in around 30 days.
- Chinese Rose – Purple-red on the outside with white pink veins inside. At first it has a somewhat delicate taste, but the senses are soon overwhelmed by its pungent smell and flavor.
Growing Conditions for Radishes
When selecting a location for your radish plants, be sure to pick an open, sunny location and pick companion plants that won’t tower over your radishes. When radish plants get too much shade, they tend to focus their efforts on producing larger leaves, leaving an underwhelming harvest, so a location that gets lots of sunlight is a must.
As radishes are a root vegetable, the soil is the most important factor for optimizing production. You will want a loosely compacted soil that is high in organic matter. If you have a soil that is heavy on the clay side, you will want to mix in some sand to improve the overall drainage. If your soil is low on organic matter, add in a rich layer of aged compost or all-purpose fertilizer as soon as the soil becomes workable. Take some time to till the soil in your beds where you are going to plant your radishes, removing any large debris, such as rocks and big blocks of compacted dirt.
In order to stop the spread of diseases and deter garden pests, grow radishes using a three year crop rotation. Only grow radishes in the same location on a three year cycle.
How to Plant Radishes
For spring planting, sow your radish seeds about 4-6 weeks before the average last date of frost. Plant radish seeds directly into the garden soil, as transplanting can disturb their root systems. Sow seeds one half to one inch deep and one inch apart (unless otherwise specified) in rows spaced 12 inches apart. Until the weather becomes too hot, around every 10-12 days, plant another round of radish seeds. Continuing to plant means you will continue to harvest, keeping your cupboards stocked through the late spring and early summer months.
Plan for a fall harvest as well, if you like, sowing seeds about 4-6 weeks before the first fall frost. Even if you forget to plant them until the end of summer or the beginning of fall, you can still reap a good fall harvest to produce, so never give up on your radishes.
Care of Radishes
Once your radish plants are about one week old, thin them out to about one every two inches. Crowded radish plants don’t grow well, so give your plants plenty of room to spread out and develop.
Consistent, evenly applied moisture is highly beneficial to keep the soil evenly moisturized but not waterlogged. A drip irrigation system may be your best way of achieving this to perfection. A thin layer of mulch can help with water retention.
Many radish varieties will mature in as little as a month’s time. For most varieties, once the roots are around one inch in diameter at the soil surface, is a great time to test to see if they are ready for harvesting. Simply pull one out and give it a try, then harvest the rest if you think that they have matured based on your sample.
Do not leave mature radishes in the ground for long periods, as they will begin to rot quicker than you might think. Cut the tops, thin the root tail, wash and dry thoroughly. Store in plastic bags in the refrigerator and enjoy within the next few weeks. Radish greens can also be kept and stored separately in the refrigerator in plastic bags and will stay good for around three days.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Radishes
Weeds are the most common sight when it comes to radish trouble, so keep a close eye on your garden beds, pulling up any weeds you see on sight. Though radishes are typically pest and disease free, there have been cases cabbage root maggot infestation, as well as issues with clubroot.
Want to Learn More About Growing Radishes?
This short informative video from YouTube personality and expert nutritionist Dr Eric Berg DC discusses the many health benefits of adding radishes to your diet:
There are hundreds of different radish recipes that you can find online, in books, and magazines. YouTube chef Christine Tizzard shows off three different ways to use radishes in her vlog Cooking up a Storm with Christine Tizzard. In just over 10 minutes, she teaches you how to make your own pickled radishes, how to roast your radishes in the oven, and how to make delicious-looking open-faced radish sandwiches:
This short tutorial video shows you how to grow full size radishes in seed starting containers with only a small amount of soil:
Expert advice is invaluable. Even when you think you know everything there is to know about a certain gardening technique, hearing about the trials and errors of an experienced gardener’s perspective will undoubtedly open up a whole new chapter of understanding on the topic. YouTube gardener Gary Pilarchik admittedly struggled with radishes at first, but he learned a lot from his mistakes and continued to refine his technique until he was cultivating high quality radish crops every growing season. In this five minute film, Gary shares four important tips that he picked up along the way: