Each month Redawna Kalynchuk draws on her extensive gardening experience to guide you through Growing Your Own Food in Canada. This month, Redawna shows you how to grow radishes - a humble vegetable that's had a surge in popularity in recent years.

a bowl of fresh picked radishes

In the past year or so the humble radish has somewhat exploded in the food world. Specifically for myself it was images of watermelon radishes that renewed my interest in these root vegetables. Once you start exploring you'll quickly find there are many different varieties to choose from.

How Do I Plant Radishes?

Radishes are one of the fastest growing vegetables that you can have in your garden, some being ready for harvest in as little as three weeks after sprouting. They prefer cooler weather so you can seed them as soon as the ground can be worked. They do enjoy sunshine so don't plant them in a shady location. They're also a great option for container gardening and even window boxes, so you don't have to have a dedicated garden space to enjoy radishes.

Radishes should be sown directly into the garden. A good idea is to plant smaller rows and do succession planting every one to two weeks depending on how many you want. They should be planted in rows, approximately a half inch deep and two inches apart.

If you're planting larger radishes such as daikons, plant the seeds to a depth of one inch to an inch and a half and three inches apart. Daikon radishes take anywhere from 60 to 75 days to finish their growing season. As with any addition to the garden they prefer soil that's been worked and has had some amendments added, such as compost or peat moss.

What Care do Radishes Need?

Radishes do best when the soil is moist, so try not to allow the soil in the radish rows to dry out. This is where the practice of mulching is beneficial in retaining moisture in warm weather. Dry soil is another thing that will make your radishes become woody so be sure to water adequately.

They don't require any fertilizer, though adding compost to their growing spot is a good idea before planting. If they're fertilized while growing they'll put all their energy into growing leaves and very little into the root.

When Should I Pick Radishes?

Fresh radishes two with tops on a wooden stump sunny day.
Fresh radishes two with tops on a wooden stump sunny day.

Spring radishes grow fast and should be picked as soon as they're an inch wide. If left in the ground too long they become woody. That's why succession planting is perfect as you'll have a continual supply of fresh radishes.

To enjoy radishes at their prime be sure to harvest as soon as they're to size, then wash, dry and store them in the fridge.

RELATED:  Grow Your Own Food: How to Grow Rhubarb

What About Radish Leaves and Seed Pods?

An interesting fact about radishes is their leaves are also edible when young. They can be enjoyed fresh in a salad or lightly sautéed. Or you can take it one step further and allow some of your radishes go to seed.

Radishes grow into small bushes and develop seed pods. Harvest the pods when they're green. They have a nice crunch factor and a delicate radish flavour and you can enjoy them in salads. You can let the seed pods remain on the plants and allow them to dry to use as seeds for next year's season.

How is Horseradish Different from Regular Radishes?

Harvesting fresh horseradish from the vegetable garden

Horseradish is another type of radish but it grows very differently from traditional radishes. It's a perennial plant that's grown from root cuttings or crowns. Because of the aggressive growth nature of horseradish you want to pick a dedicated spot in your yard or garden for the patch. They do well in any weather conditions so you have many options for placing them in your yard.

To plant horseradish dig the bed well. Dig a hole deep and wide enough to fit the entire root section. Place plants a foot and a half apart to assure they have enough room to spread out. It's advised that you should place the crowns and roots at a 45 degree angle in the ground. It's a good idea to add a bit of compost to the growing area when you first work the soil.

They don't like to be overwatered; use a light hand when watering but be sure to not allow the patch to dry out excessively in the hotter months. They don't require regular fertilizing — a top dressing of compost every spring is adequate.

To harvest horseradish it's best to wait until late fall. It develops flavour from a hit of cold weather so it's best to harvest once there has been at least one frost. It takes horseradish one year to reach maturity so don't harvest in the first year. You'll need a shovel to dig up your horseradish; be sure dig away from the plant so as not to harm the roots. The roots should be anywhere from 6 to 12 inches long. Wash and dry the roots and store them in the fridge.

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