Name: radish (Raphanus sativus).
Height: summer varieties: 5–10cm tall, 3–15cm long; winter varieties: 25–30cm tall, up to 60cm long.
Plant type: annual root vegetable.
Climate: tropical, sub-tropical, warm and cool temperate climates.
Soil: loose, well-drained soil enriched with organic matter. In pots, use a quality potting mix.
Position: full sun.
Flowering and fruiting: dainty white to pink flowers, not often seen as the roots are harvested early in the season.
Feeding: not required.
Watering: water regularly.
Radishes can be round, globe-shaped, long and tapered or short and stubby. They fall into two main groups: summer and winter radishes.
Summer radishes are the small, fast-growing varieties. They are usually red skinned with white flesh, but can also be white, pink, purple or yellow skinned. They can be grown year-round in most climates and ready to harvest in as little as 4–6 weeks. Popular varieties include ‘Cherry Belle’, ‘French Breakfast’ and ‘Gentle Giant’.
Conversely, winter radishes take 8–10 weeks to mature, but can remain in the ground for longer to develop further. The roots can be white, black or green, and are larger and milder in flavour than the summer varieties. Radish seeds are sown from late summer to early autumn and mature before winter sets in – harvest for use in hearty stews and soups.
Radish leaves are smooth and heart-shaped when young, before becoming elongated with lightly lobed or scalloped margins. Most are edible and depending on the variety, can have a delicate spinach flavour or are peppery like rocket. Be wary of the leaves that are hairy or prickly; while they can be consumed, the texture can be off-putting.
What salad is complete without a (summer) radish? It brings colour, texture and an unmistakable spicy, peppery flavour. Use winter radishes in stews, soups or roasts. Both forms are ideal for pickling.
Choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Spread blood and bone – it’s typically higher in phosphorus than most soil conditioners – over the area and dig in well. Sow seeds, lightly cover and water in well. After seven days, seedlings will emerge. You can thin them to 10–15cm spacing – don’t discard the seedlings as they can be added to salads, sandwiches or used as a garnish.
Sow seeds every 3–4 weeks for continuous supply.
Aside from regularly watering, little maintenance is required to grow radish. Apply an organic mulch, like sugarcane or pea straw, around the base of the plants to help keep them moist.
Water regularly to keep the soil evenly moist. If the soil dries out, this can cause issues with splitting or premature flowering (bolting). Once a plant bolts, the roots become woody and bitter. Fertiliser isn’t required, but you can help boost growth by applying an organic liquid fertiliser weekly or fortnightly.
Pick leaves as salad greens in as little as a few weeks but take care not to harvest too much from a single plant as this can impact the growth of the root. Check plant labels to confirm harvest times and pick when ready. Don’t leave it too long as the roots become woody and bitter.
Winter varieties can be left in the ground beyond the expected harvest time but pull them from the ground if frosty conditions are expected.
Protect the foliage from snails and slugs with snail and slug baits, insecticides or barriers. Also, keep an eye out for caterpillars as they also favour the foliage. Treat with DiPel.
Radish is best grown from seed.
After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse fruit well before cooking and eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
Fennel: a beautiful, aniseed flavoured vegie that is ideal for salads and roasts.
Beetroot: another root vegie that can be harvested in as little as 8–10 weeks.
Horseradish: hot and spicy, typically used as an alternative to wasabi.
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