Radishes are one of the most quick-maturing, versatile, easy-to-grow crops in the garden! I think they’re also some of the most under-appreciated and underestimated of crops! Radishes make for a perfect “filler crop” between seasons or in oddball empty spaces. Since they take up so little space, they can easily be grown in containers as well as in raised garden beds, or right in the ground. Radishes are not just for salads either. They are absolutely delicious when fermented, roasted, sautéed, and added to soup or stir fry too. Furthermore, the greens are edible! Daikon greens are particularly tasty, and chock full of nutrients.
Do you want to learn how to grow radishes? Then read along! We’ll discuss the different types of radishes, best timing for planting, tips for preparing your soil, sowing seeds, proper spacing, how to thin them, when to harvest, and also several tasty ways to use radishes in the kitchen.
If you are thinking, “but I don’t even like radishes…” hear me out. I actually used to not like radishes either, at all really – until we started growing them ourselves that is! You don’t need to be a fan of their classic radish spice either. Some types are very mild and even sweet, like many daikon varieties. There are dozens of different radish varieties, colors, shapes, sizes, and flavor profiles to choose from! Despite my early life experience and disfavor for radishes, they’re one of my favorite crops to grow in the garden now!
So what do you think? Feel like giving them a go? Oh good! Let’s get started then. Make sure to check out the video all about growing radishes at the end of this post too!
Types of Radishes: Maturation Time
Most people are familiar with the classic round radish varieties, usually just under the size of a golf ball. These guys are quicker-maturing, and can be ready to harvest in as little as 30 days after planting when grown in ideal conditions! Our favorite varieties of round, fast-developing radishes are Pink Beauty, Cherry Belle, Plum Purple, and Zlata. In addition to round radishes, some smaller cylindrical varieties also mature in a short window. Popular examples include the French Breakfast Radish, or White Icicle.
Daikon radishes, or Asian “winter” types, take a bit longer to mature. Did you know that “Daikon” is simply a class of radish, not just one variety? Many people think of daikons and immediately envision the classic long, thick white radish – like a Miyashige. Oh my gosh, they’re so good…. But know that daikons can come in all sorts of shapes, colors, and sizes too! A few of our top choices for daikon varieties include: Bravo, Green Luobo, Watermelon, and Miyashige. Expect these radishes to be ready to harvest in 60-90 days, depending on the variety and climate.
Planting a Little Bit of Everything
When planting radishes, we always fill a raised bed with many varieties, sowing a couple rows of each type! However, when you do this type of mixed-planting, I suggest to keep the slower-maturing radishes in one section of the bed, and the smaller, faster-maturing types grouped in another. For example, dedicating one-half of the garden bed to daikons, and the other half to round radishes.
That way, when the faster ones are ready to be harvested, you can clear that section to make space for something else! Meanwhile, the slower guys can take their time all together, out of the way. You may even be able to fit in two rounds of quick radishes during the time the daikons are maturing!
Furthermore, think about the location of the sun. Daikons get taller greens and may shade out shorter little radishes. Therefore, keep those ones “in the back”, such as on the north side of the bed if you are located in the northern hemisphere – since the majority of the sun exposure will come from the south.
When to Plant Radishes:
Radishes grow best when directly sown in place. Like most root crops, they do not take well to transplanting. Most varieties of radish prefer cooler weather, and can tolerate a very mild frost, perfect for spring and fall in most climates. Here in frost-free zone 9b/10a, we can grow them right through the winter! They do drastically slow down however, so it is best to get them sown by late fall for a winter crop.
There are also some heat-tolerant varieties that can be grown through summer, especially if they’re provided a little afternoon shade or shade cloth. The longer-maturing Asian radishes are best sown in mid to late summer for a fall to early winter harvest. When you are seed shopping, read up on the variety you’re interested in to see what type of growing conditions it prefers.
Generally speaking, radish seeds can be sown outdoors a couple weeks prior to your last spring frost date, which varies by growing zone.
Check your planting calendar to see exactly when your frost dates and suggesting planting times are. If you don’t have one already, I have you covered! The free Homestead and Chill subscriber garden planning toolkit has planting calendars for every zone. It will be emailed to you immediately upon sign-up!
Succession Planting Radishes
As a fast-maturing crop, radishes are ideal for succession planting! In case you aren’t familiar with this concept, succession planting is when new batches of a crop are planted over a staggered timeframe. For example, sowing radish seeds in March and then again a few weeks later in April. As the first batch matures and nears harvest time, the next batch is starting to come along behind it. The practice of succession planting enables you to have a sustained and steady supply of that veggie over a longer period of time.
Radishes enjoy soil that is rich with compost. They will tolerate a mild slow-release fertilizer, but do not like too much nitrogen. High-nitrogen fertilizers can lead to large radish greens, but little-to-no bulb development. Like other root crops, radishes will do best in a loose, fluffy, well-draining soil over a more compacted or rocky soil type.
Growing Radishes in Containers
If you are going to grow radishes in a container, I suggest using something more wide and shallow over one that’s tall and narrow. The more surface area to plant them, the better! That means more space for more radishes. Small round radishes could grow in as little as 6” deep, while daikon types would prefer at least 12”. For example, we have successfully grown garlic in this wide 10-gallon smart pot. Garlic has a similar need for spacing and soil depth.
When growing radishes in containers, the same type of spacing, thinning, and care described below applies just the same. However, keep in mind that some containers will dry out more quickly than raised beds or in-ground gardens, so you may have to increase your water frequency. The container needs good drainage too!
Sowing and Spacing
Before you start planting, read the seed package to see what type of spacing is recommended for the given varieties you chose to grow. Most types of radish will call for about 2-3 inches of spacing. However, some types get rather large and will need a bit more space!
I am known for being a bit type-A with my radish spacing and sowing. Many other gardeners just spread their seeds willy-nilly, and then go back to thin them out later. Or, not at all… In contrast, I like to set them up for success from the start, sowing them in neat little rows with proper spacing. Do whatever works for you!
I like to pre-poke all of the little shallow holes with my fingertip, across the whole space I am planting. Then I pop in a couple seeds per hole (2-3 seeds per hole is plenty) and cover them up as I go. By offsetting the holes slightly in a diagonal pattern, I can fit the rows a little closer together than if they were in a perfect grid. We do the same offset rows with most plants! The typical recommendation is to sow radish seeds 1/4 inch deep.
Maintain the soil evenly moist, especially during germination. The radish seeds are sown pretty shallow, so they will not be happy campers if you allow the top inch to dry out before they’ve sprouted. In general, because radishes are a shallower crop, they’ll likely need more frequent water than a deep-rooted plant like tomatoes or peppers. For larger and longer radish types, they’ll especially appreciate deep watering to encourage subsurface root growth. No need to drown them with a daily soak, but a few times per week is pretty ideal – depending on moisture level of your soil.
Small tender radish sprouts are tempting for birds and other critters. We always have issues with plants that are directly sown, as those just-germinated, tiny seedlings are far more vulnerable to pests than larger and heartier transplants. Therefore, we usually find it necessary to cover our beds until the sprouts have transitioned into bigger, less-tempting greens. You might find the need to do the same, but maybe not!
We utilize wire fencing with a finer bird netting attached to it, laying it down over the beds – but not laying on top of the soil. Avoid smothering the plants. Another option to provide protection for critters like birds or squirrels is using a light floating row cover. For soil-surface pests like pill bugs, a light dusting of food-grade Diatomaceous Earth between the sprouts may help.
About a week after your radishes first sprout, it it time to select your keepers – and your victims! Once the sprouts begin to show their first set of “true leaves” – the ones that come directly after the two heart-shaped embryonic leaves – they’re usually showing off enough to tell who the strongest competitor is.
No matter how you decided to plant your radishes, they should be thinned down to one radish sprout for every 2-3 inches! Using fine trimming snips, we cut away the smaller and weaker looking sprouts down at the soil line, leaving just one thick and healthy-looking spout per hole.
Thinning radishes is absolutely essential for their development – and your future harvest!
Do not feel bad about thinning. If you leave them un-thinned to compete for space, water, and nutrients, they will struggle and be stunted. Truth. Also don’t feel bad about “wasting ” the spouts, because you don’t have to! Eat the thinned seedlings! Microgreens anyone? They’re delicious on salads, sandwiches, or on top of any meal really. And they’re loaded with nutrients.
Some folks prefer to pull and pluck out the spouts they’re removing. Every gardener is different (which is one of the many beautiful things about gardening!) but we personally avoid thinning that way. It may disturb, shock or even uproot that strong sprout you were hoping to keep! That sort of defeats the purpose…
Harvest radishes when they have reached around the expected size for that variety. Round radishes are usually pretty obvious, as they can sit almost on top of the soil or at least partially exposed sometimes.
For longer, deeper, daikon type radishes, it can be a bit difficult to tell when the time is right. Find one that you think may be ready, gently explore around the soil line, and brush aside a little soil to expose some of the root. If it looks well-developed under there, gently wiggle back and forth and pull it on up! The longer the radish, the more susceptible they are to snapping off down below, so be gentle. This is your test radish. If it looks as you’d hoped, maybe the others are ready too! If it’s still pretty small, you can test another, but maybe they need a bit more time.
Speaking of time…. Waiting longer to get larger radishes isn’t necessarily ideal. Bigger does not equal better! The longer that radishes are growing in the soil, the tougher, woodier, or pithier they can become. They’ll also be more likely to split. Therefore, if it has been significantly longer than the expected maturity time, I suggest harvesting a few to cut into and try, even if they’re still more petite than you’d expected. It’s much better to have lots of small tender, juicy radishes than many that are too tough to enjoy.
After harvesting radishes, it is best to remove their greens and thin root tips for storage. The greens will rot most quickly. Remember, those greens are edible! If you don’t want to eat them, at least try to compost them.
We put our harvested, trimmed, clean radishes in a reusable ziplock bag with a little splash of water and store them in the crisper drawer of the fridge. With this method, they stay fresh and firm for weeks, sometimes months! Another storage option is to keep them covered in lightly damp sand in a cold basement or root cellar, if you’re so lucky to have one!
One last storage option is to ferment them, which is also a way to prepare, preserve, and enjoy them! This is what we do whenever we harvest a large amount at once. Sliced dilly fermented radishes is one of our very favorite fermented foods, and also happens to be one of the easiest ferment recipes to make! Fermented radishes can last up to a year in the refrigerator, though we always eat and enjoy them waaay faster than that! Check out the recipe here.
Ways to Eat Radishes
I said it before, and I’ll say it again: radishes are NOT just for salads! Don’t get me wrong though. That is certainly one way we do like to eat them! In addition to fermenting them, radishes are also excellent cooked. They can be sliced and sautéed in a little olive oil (also coconut oil or butter) with salt, pepper, and seasoning of your choice – either alone or prepared in the same manner with other seasonal vegetables mixed in. Pretty much every night, we cook up a huge batch of sautéed mixed veggies from the garden in our cast iron wok. Radishes are always a welcome addition to the party!
Radishes are also wonderful added into soups, thinly sliced to top quiche or frittata, finely shredded or chopped to mix in with egg salad. I already mentioned sliced dilly fermented radishes, but they are also often shredded and mixed with other veggies in fermented kimchi and kraut recipes too! Especially daikons. Radishes are also excellent roasted or baked, either left whole or cut into smaller portions. Or how about this personal favorite? Sliced on top of avocado toast! Oh. My. Yum.
Radish greens can be treated like other hearty garden greens. However, you’ll probably notice they’re a tad on the spiky side. Cooking them totally eliminates that attribute! Therefore, try sauteeing them or adding them into soups. Daikon greens are far less prickly and much more tender. I know many people who love juicing daikon greens as well.
And that’s all she wrote.
About radishes. For now…
Check out the video we made a couple months back, demonstrating most of what we discussed today! Note that it is a somewhat odd example though, since we re-sowed a new batch of radishes in the middle of winter. It is slowest time to start things, so radishes started in spring, summer, or fall will mature much faster than this!
To sum it all up: Radishes are quick, easy, delicious, versatile, and fun! The extensive amount of varieties out there keeps things interesting, with seemingly endless options to grow each year! They’re a central crop in our garden, and honestly one of my favorites. What do you think? Are you ready to make them one of yours too?
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