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Monday, January 9, 2012

KNOL: Growing for Size: Radishes, Carrots and Root Crops

This is my Google Knol tranfered to be stored here.

Radishes are a fast growing cold weather crop.

This knol focuses on planting and growing several varieties of radishes. There are more to radishes then the red round globes you find in your supermarket. Radishes grow quickly and enjoy the cool weather. They are very easy to grow and are one of the first seeds to put in the ground. If you want to get a little more size and quality in your garden radishes then make sure the soil is sandy (loose) and full of nutrients. This knol also works well for carrots and other root crops.

Growing for Size: Radishes, Carrots and Root Crops

By Gary Pilarchik, LCSW-C
Gary Pilarchik Feb 2010 Radish Varieties


Radish Varieties:

Don't just go for the red globe radishes. There is so much more out there. The radish seeds I purchased came from Walmart and Loews. You can find many different varieties at your local stores. If you really want to get into radishes, seed catalogs will help you find heirloom varieties. The seeds I purchased will produce a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and flavors. The elongated varieties can grow 6 to 8 inches. There is no need to settle for the round red radish. Keep in mind the same principle of variety selection is available for carrots and other root crops.
French Breakfast (short cylindrical)
Salad Rose (elongated)
Cherry Belle (round)
Purple Plum (organic round)
White Icicle (elongated)
Sparkler (round white tip)
Crimson Giant (round)
Water Mellon (heirloom, white skin, bright red-pink center)
Early Scarlet Globe (round)

Growing Radishes:

Radishes mature to picking typically between 20 and 35 days. They love the cool weather. Most varieties can stand mild frost. They should be one of the first crops you get into the soil. They can be planted throughout the year but grow best in spring and fall. The hot weather often causes them to bolt and produce seeds, leaving you with a woody radish. If you want to grow radishes in the summer, try a shaded area on the north-side of your garden or plant them under your tomatoes and taller crops.
There are many ways to grow radishes. You can scatter or broadcast the seeds and gently rake them in to the garden. You can plant them in rows and cover them by hand. You can plant them closer together and use the thinnings in salads. They key to good quality radishes is loose soil. I have clay soil, as I amended the soil and built up the quality of my garden beds, I notice the radishes grew faster, larger and were less distorted in the older beds. Clay and hard soil are bad for radishes. They still grow but you sacrifice quality.

Growing Radishes for Size:

Building the Soil

Sand, cow manure and organic matter are the keys to growing large high quality radishes. It takes a little extra work but it is worth the time. Here are some general guidelines to make a quality planting bed for your radishes. You don't need to follow it exactly but in the end you want soil that is sandy and full of organic manner. How do you know? When you pick it up and squeeze, it is should not hold its form. That is, when you open your hand it should fall or part or take a very tiny tap to collapse. Loose soil is the key for radishes, carrots and other root crops. You will need the following:
  1. Bail of Peat moss for many rows (or organic matter of choice)
  2. 1-2 bags of Sand per row
  3. 1 40 pound bag of .05/.05/.05 Cow Manure per row
  4. 1 40 pound bag of 10/10/10 All Purpose Fertilizer for many rows

If your soil is already loose then you won't need the extra bag of sand. Use your judgment. Use the squeeze rule. Start preparing the bed by digging a 6 to 8 foot trench that is 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide. Place the soil next to the trench. Open the peat moss and cow manure and sprinkle about 2-3 inches of peat moss down the row. Sprinkle several handfuls of cow manure down the trench and work it into the ground with the shovel. This provides a deep base for the radish to reach down into as it grows. This will also be a great place to plant carrots. The peat moss will hold moisture and the manure will of course hold nutrients. When you pick radishes you will notice a long string like root that continues down from the main radish. You are making it easy for the root to move deeply through the ground. This work is what produces quality vegetables.
Fill the row up with half the garden soil and add another 3-4 inches of peat moss and a hole bag of sand along the length of the trench. You don't need a whole bag, if you soil is already pretty loose. Add a lot of manure down the length of the row. Sprinkle 2 handfuls of fertilizer down the length of the row and mix the soil up with the shovel. Put the rest of the soil in the row and repeat. You should have a mounded row for planting your radishes. Grab a clump of soil and squeeze. If it is loose, you are good to go. If it seems to be holding it's form to tightly add more peat moss, organic matter or sand on top of your row and work it  4-6 inches into the top of the trench. You now have an optimal planting bed for radishes, carrots and other root crops.
Save a little cow manure, sand and peat moss for planting.

Planting the Radishes

The first thing you need to do is firm the first several inches of soil down with your hands. Your soil should be pretty loose and you don't want the seeds to accidently fall too deeply into the soil when watered or rained upon. Take your hands a gently tap a round mound down the length of the row. You only want to firm up the soil on the top of the row. Don't over pack it. Gently pressing will work perfectly. Now the base of the soil is firm enough to plant. The raised mounds also warm faster. This will help your seeds germinate more quickly in the early spring.
To plant the radishes you are going to make two rows of holes, with your fingers, down the middle of the trench. The rows should be 4-6 inches apart. Each row should be slightly to the left or right of the apex of the mound. The best way to plant is to start both rows at the same time. Poke your finger about 1/2 an inch into the soil to start the two rows. There should be a 4 to 6 inch space between the rows. Now build the two rows down the length of the trench. Each hole should be space 2-3 inches from the previous hole along a row. It can sound confusing. Each hole, in the same row, is spaced 2 -3 inches apart.  The matching hole from each row should be spaced 4-6 inches apart. This spacing creates plenty of growing room for your radish seed.
Drop 1 seed into each hole and cover with the following mixture. In a bucket mix 2 handful of sand, 1 handful of manure and 1 handful of peat moss. Fill each hole with this mixture. Water the mound with a light spray and soak it thoroughly. Makes sure the seed bed stays moist. The organic matter you added will help the mound stay evenly moist through the germination period. After the seeds have germinated and formed a true leaf, replant any holes that did not germinate a seed.

Rotate Your Radish Plantings:

Radishes mature between 20 and 35 days. You want to plan your seed planting so you don't end up with 500 radishes maturing at the same time.  Check out your seed packets and see what the maturity date is for that variety of radish and plan accordingly. The Spring radish season easily allows for 2 or 3 plantings of each variety before the heat of the Spring and Summer sets in. Enjoy!

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