Growing Spring Radishes

Spring means time to plant radish seeds, but there are many variables to determining just when springtime comes to your area.

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By: Nan Chase
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Botanical Name: Raphanus sativus

Known for being the first plants in the vegetable garden every year, radishes are generally grown from seed which is sown in the early spring. But just what does “early spring” mean?

With so many climate variations across the entire country, you have to judge the prime conditions not by the calendar but by the general soil temperature. Cool.

Many seed packets advise planting “as soon as the soil can be worked.” If you live in a zone where the ground freezes solid for a prolonged period, start planting seed once the ground has thawed.

If you live in a zone where the ground gets cold but doesn’t freeze, start planting when other flower bulbs are first emerging, from February on. And if you live in such a warm area that there really isn’t frost, wait until the coolest three-month portion of the year; most likely that will be sometime between November and February.

Whenever it is time to plant, don’t use all the seeds at once. A massive planting may result in so many ripe radishes at once that they begin to be tough, taste too hot, and become afflicted by insect pests.

Instead, use succession planting in the spring. That means planting just a portion of any seed packet, then marking the calendar and planting more in a week or so, and doing that one or two more times.

Consider using one-quarter of the seeds at one time and planting every week for a month. The result may be a steady but not overwhelming supply of tender ripe radishes that last longer at their peak conditions.

Here are some popular spring radishes:

  • Cherry Belle, the classic round, dark-pink table radish
  • French Breakfast, elegant shape and color with a mild flavor
  • White Icicle, it’s really white through and through
  • Purple Plum, a dramatic dark radish with a long white tip
  • Fire & Ice, an exciting two-tone radish featuring bold pink and white
  • Sparkler, nice moist flesh inside a dynamic pastel skin
  • Champion, the roots are smaller and fairly delicate in taste
  • Early Scarlet Globe, particular suited to light or sandy soils

Planting radishes in spring is a delight. It means that fresh greens will soon be sprouting from the radish tops – steamed or braised they are a health tonic fresh from the garden – and that succulent young radishes will be ready to eat within a few weeks.

Be sure to get the ground ready for planting radishes by clearing away debris from a row, then turning over the soil thoroughly with a shovel or fork and including some composted organic material. Rake.

Radishes and other root crops grow best if they have a foot or so of loose, fertile soil that has been cleared of rocks and is sloped a bit to encourage drainage. Plant seeds in half an inch of soil, about half an inch apart, and thin as radishes develop.

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