Radish is an easy-to-grow vegetable crop, that enjoys light and loose soils and that requires a regular and abundant watering. The radish’s growth cycle is usually very quick, which allows it to be sheltered from pests and diseases fairly soon, thus greatly facilitating its maintenance. Hence, radish can be sown during periods that extend over several months, and the procedure can be repeated as often as necessary in order to yield crops throughout the year.

Radish is a plant that is very easy to maintain, which may be a factor to consider for beginning gardeners. Here are some tips on growing methods and maintenance techniques to improve your chances of success.

Description and overview

As a vegetable, radish is grown for its edible roots. Radish roots come in a wide variety of shapes and colours. However, it is often associated with the image of the red-coloured variety that has a round root and a white tip. Radish is being consumed since ancient times in China, Japan and India. It belongs to the same family as turnips, cabbage and mustard (Brassicaceae). It is a plant that has a fast life cycle and which can be harvested only one month after being sown.

Radish varieties and their sowing methods

Depending on variety, radish can be sown from mid-February until October. Radish varieties are distinguished by their shape (elongated, medium long and round) and the colour of their roots (pink, red, purple, black). Apart from these morphological differences, varieties can also be classified into five categories according to their growing and harvesting periods.

Early radish varieties intended for a speedy growth need to be placed under plastic tunnels. They are sown in February or October. Harvesting is done four to six weeks later in March, April and November. Monthly radishes, on the other hand, are grown in the ground. They can be sown over a long period of time lasting from mid-March to September. The growing season also lasts four to six weeks. The harvest season extends from mid-April to November. Early radishes and regular radish varieties are sown during the time period. The growth of this radish variety is less rapid and its harvest takes place after only six to eight weeks and lasts until November. The summer and autumn radish varieties are mainly sown in summer (from June to August) and are usually harvested in autumn (from late July to November). The last category, winter radishes, has the slowest growth cycle. Sown in winter, radishes are harvested only three months later, starting in November.

Radish growing and maintenance techniques

Prepare the planting site in advance. The amendment in manure can be carried out during the autumn preceding the sowing.  All soil types can accommodate radish. However, if given the choice, opt for a light and well-loosened soil. For this purpose, the ideal is a mixture of sandy potting soil with compost.  It allows the root to develop well, and is not subject to compaction. Make sure that the ground is free of stones or branches to a depth of 8 inches (20 cm), as this could interfere with the root’s growth. Radish enjoys full sun exposure as well as partial shade. Sowing is done in small furrows spaced out about eight inches (20 cm). For long-rooted varieties, the seeds are buried to a depth of about 3/4 of an inch (2 cm) deep. In regard to rounded varieties, they are planted at ground level and covered with a thin layer of earth. Water abundantly once you’re done sowing. Use a watering can that has a wide sprinkler head, so as not to disturb the seeds.

The shoots start to emerge after only three to four days. You can begin thinning as soon as the seedlings reach a few inches. For the round-root varieties, plant a seedling every 1.2 to 2 inches (three to five centimetres). For all other varieties, spacing will be greater. Six inches (15 cm) are required for winter radish, while 8 inches (20 cm) are needed for black radish. Do not forget to water abundantly and regularly. Radishes become sour when they lack water. Irregular watering causes cracks on the root. No additional fertilizer is needed if the ground was properly amended before planting. Mulching can help to limit evaporation and prevent weed growth. Depending on the variety you choose, you can sow every 15 to 20 days, to space out the harvesting periods so as to have radishes on hand all year round. Harvest radishes as soon as possible. Do not let leave them in the ground too long, as they tend to become hollow.

Because of its rapid growth cycle, the radish is not particularly affected by pests and diseases. Only slugs need to be taken into consideration, given that they may constitute a threat to young shoots. The flea beetle (coleoptera) can also attack radish leaves, especially when the weather is hot and dry. Insecticide treatment is not essential, and can be avoided by planting lettuce next to radish as a preventive measure (companion planting). Regular watering may also be an effective form of protection against these beetles.

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Published in Root vegetables by Alexander on 07 Sep 2011