Radishes come in a wide range of varieties, colors, shapes and sizes. They are tasty additions to your salads, but have numerous other properties in the garden that make them excellent for what we refer to as a “side crop”.
A “side crop” by our definition, is a crop of vegetables you plant alongside your intended crop. Say, for example, you planted an onion patch. You notice there are huge gaps between your plants and it seems like such wasted space. So, you grab a packet of seeds and throw some in the soil with the hope that you will make use that wasted earth.
Radishes are ideal for this role as a secondary crop. They grow much faster than just about any traditional garden vegetable often reaching maturity within 30 days. Most other plants take two to five times as long to yield a crop of edible goodies. This allows you to grow and harvest radishes in the voids while you wait.
Radishes are quite delicious once mature, but they also make amazing sprouts. The entire plant is edible from the roots to the greens. When you plant radishes, if they come up too close to each other, you must weed out the weaker plants. But never fear, they are quite tasty on your salad, sandwich or just as an interesting healthy snack In fact, radish sprouts can be grown solely for that purpose. We occasionally plant a small pot of radish seeds and pluck them when they reach about an inch or two in height for this exact reason.
Radishes are also used by farmers for reasons one may not expect. Research has shown that radishes help other plants grow! So planting radishes prepares soil for the planting of other crops and naturally and organically provides nutrients to other plants.
“…forage radishes bore holes into the ground, loosening the soil. The radishes capture, store, and then release nutrients back into the soil, so they also can reduce the need for fertilizer in the spring.” – The CS Monitor
Radishes, we have found, also provide another great purpose we had not thought of until we used them in some of our planting spaces. They displace weeds. Normally, weeds grow much faster than the desired plant and overrun your garden, but the radishes act as natural soil cover and grow fast and strong, displacing weeds that would otherwise have occupied the same space. Essentially, they are living mulch.
It is this simple, assuming you have some radish seeds.
1. Soften the soil with a rake, hoe or shoevel.
2. Sow the seeds in about a half inch gully or just sprinkle them about in the softened soil.
3. Rake the soil back over the seeds.
Whoops, is that it? When you water your other plants, the seeds will sprout.
We recommend that you look for radish seeds on the cheap. We picked up a number of them last year for 10c a packet. Many have not discovered the wonders of garden radishes, so they tend not to be as popular as the standard garden faire. When you see them in a dollar store or elsewhere for bargain basement prices, grab a few packets. Then throw them in your garden and reap benefit from this garden marvel.