29 May 2012

Mastery Over The Radish

There's nothing like a crisp, crunchy, sweet, solid, mildly tangy radish. I looked forward to this every spring for the past ten years. But, a master gardener with landscape architect friends growing up with a gardening mom could not grow radishes. They were supposed to be easy. School children grew them. Master gardeners in my class either looked with pity on me or laughed when I told them of my inadequacy.

Every year my radishes (Raphanus sativus) sprouted. Every year they grew beautiful green foliage. End of story. As you can tell from the photos, this year was fulfillment. Break open the champagne and strike up the hallelujah chorus: it's time to celebrate! I was so excited to document the proof that I didn't even wash them before their photo shoot.

This is the only plant that I refused to give up on. I was going to grow radishes one way or another. I am not sure what did the trick this year, but here is my experience, failure by failure.
    After successive seasons sans radishes (in truth, I would eek out maybe two or three from the batch):
  • I tried a different variety, moving from Cherry Belle to Champion for the next two years. It was not a champ.
  • From there, I moved to Japanese white icicle radishes. The seed companies got richer.
  • I read that radishes bolted when the weather got hot. So, I planted early. Instead of 30 days, they took 60 days to mature (again in warm weather).
  • I tried slow release fertilizer next year.
  • I read that they should not be fertilized, so I left off all fertilizer and soil amendments.
  • I read they need more sun than my back garden might be providing, so I moved them to the side garden with lots of sun.
  • I read they can't have too much water, so I did not water them when the weather became dry.
  • This year, I tried them in the front cottage flower garden, and got radishes.

So, the front yard had the right stuff. And best of all, they contributed to the cottage garden. My 2012 radishes created a green leafy border while the zinnia and alyssum volunteers mature enough to take on their border duty. They join the spinach, pepper, onions, lettuce, and basil planted among the blooms. (The green nicotiana look so great because they overwintered. Anyone need a seedling or two?) Tidbits of information: written history shows the Greeks grew them, but no one is sure where they came from. They are planted as a companion crop because of their ability to attract flea beetles that go for the leaves (and not other plants) while not harming the crop below ground. Is there a plant that is your nemeses - everyone on the planet can grow except you? Update: The variety this year was Crimson Giant

For The Record:
  • Variety: Crimson Giant
  • Drained, fairly good loose soil
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer
  • Some slug (or flea beetle) damage to foliage

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Echinacea, nicotiana, coreopsis, peony poppy, geranium, cactus, asiatic lily
  • Harvested: 5 radish


Entangled said...
I wasn't going to plant radishes this year, until I went to the farmers' market and saw the prices they were asking. The last straw was $0.40 per radish. So I planted a couple of weeks ago. I thought it was too late but we shall see.

I've had good luck with most radishes, but it took me years to learn how to grow good eggplant and lettuce.

It seems vegetable crops encourage this kind of persistance. If we failed at, say, petunia-growing would we continue to try to grow them?

My nicotiana overwintered and bloomed very early too.
Swimray said...
I think you're right about not giving up on vegetables.
Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...
Hi Ray, I too have had zero success with radishes this year. My problem was that I planted them in the containers with the tomatoes. Lots of foliage and no root.
flwrjane said...
Oh god, after last years fiasco i didn't have the heart for it.

But look at you.....rethinking.

xo Jane