I have this small trashy spot in my garden where the weedy things
grow. It is seldom watered, unless it rains, so the residents are
a mix of true weeds and weedy vegetables - renegades from the managed
chaos of my garden beds.
Three years ago, I started an interplanted bed of chard, peas and
radishes – odd but functional companions. After a late spring
hot spell wilted down the peas and left a snaggletooth edge of radishes
gone hot, I got brilliant and decided to grow my own radish seeds.
Of course, my mixture of White Icicle, Black Spanish and Breakfast
Radishes all came to bloom about the same time, much to the bees’
delight. Like all good members of the same species, they readily
cross-pollinated providing me with abundant seeds of questionable
heritage. The next spring their progeny proved to be exceptionally
vigorous and wickedly bitter White Icicle types. Looked good, grew
great, but were utterly inedible, except for the green seedpods.
I sprouted the remaining seeds and ate them.
Defying the Norm
But, that wasn’t the end for them. A couple of plants took
to this weedy spot and continued without my assistance or intervention
– a difficult accomplishment
for most food plants, and impossible for others. The hybrid form
seems stable, with a few large white rooted radishes sprouting and
growing each year, almost daring me to investigate the intricacies
of root crops.
These crossed radishes defy one of the basic tenets
of domestic root crop growth – when nutrients and water are
short, put your energy into flowers and seeds, not fat juicy storage
roots to feed your keepers. These plants have consistently large
roots in relationship to vegetative growth, which never becomes
lush and tall.
I still have no answers for this behavior, in spite of acquiring
an understanding of root crop requirements.
Growing Great Spring Radishes
Here are some tips I picked up for growing great radishes:
• All varieties will cross-pollinate – so take precautions
when growing for seed.
• The harvest period for spring radishes is short, but the
pithy ones will bloom and produce tasty seedpods that are great
raw and in stir-fried dishes.
• Optimum temperatures for growth are 60°-70°F –
colder and they will grow slowly and become bitter – hotter
and they will be pithy
• Plant when soil temperatures hold at 45°F
• There is a relationship between the root size and planting
depth – for normal size roots sow seed ½” deep
and 1” apart – for larger roots sow seed 1½”
deep and 1½” apart.
• Spring radishes are day length sensitive with 12 hour days
being optimum – longer days stimulate bolting. (Winter radishes
• Radishes need consistent moisture, moderately rich soil
and optimum growing temperatures to create those sweet juicy roots.
• Time to harvest ranges between 18 and 35 days, beyond that
pulpiness sets in.
• There are exceptions to these generalizations about spring
• These generalizations do not apply to either winter or daikon
Now is the time to plant spring radishes – soil and air temperatures
are as close to optimum as we will get during our short spring.
till next time,
Doña Ana Extension Master Gardener