radish(129118)Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rave_%28Raphanus_sativus%29.jpg

   So you are wondering what would be an easy vegetable to grow in your home garden this year. Radishes! Radishes are an easy plant to grow for most people and they grow well in most places as long as the weather is not too hot and dry. And you can even plant radishes earlier in the spring than most other vegetables in your garden. The quickest maturing varieties of radishes only take about 20 days to be ready for harvest.

    There are many different types of radishes. If you live in North America, the most familiar type to you is probably the cherry belle radishes that you see so often at your local supermarket. But when it comes to this tasty root crop, cherry belle is just the tip of the iceberg. Radishes come in many different colors of the rainbow and sizes from small marble size to giant daikon radishes that can grow to well over 20 pounds. One of my favorites that can rarely be found for sale in produce departments but is widely available in seed packets is the white icicle type, which is a delicious and sweet somewhat carrot shaped variety that keeps its edibility well even when left in the ground longer and allowed to grow to a larger size.  The larger a root gets the more likely it is to develop a hotter flavor or a pithy texture. If you want them to taste good make sure to harvest your roots from your garden before they start putting up flower heads as this is when they will most certainly become inedible.

    If  you check with mail order seed companies you will find an array of different types and colors of radishes are available, many of which you may not have known even existed. Growing exotic varieties of vegetables that are not found in grocery stores can make gardening even more fun, especially for the kids.

    Radishes make a great companion crop to almost all vegetables so don’t be afraid to plant a few seeds intermixed with your other plants. Planting the seeds in the rows with your other seeds can be a great way to mark the rows since radishes will probably sprout quicker than whatever else you are planting.  Expect to see them sprout within 2 to 5 days depending on temperature.  They are the perfect companion plant to plant with lettuce and it also works great to plant rows of radish seeds in between rows of strawberries in the spring when transplanting new beds of strawberries for the first time.

    Radishes prefer a light well drained garden soil and cool weather as well as fertile soil that is rich in organic matter. They will tolerate light frosts and may continue to thrive even when night time temperatures fall as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important to make sure the soil stays moist at all times to prevent cracking and to encourage a sweeter milder flavor. Cool weather will also produce better tasting roots. If you want to try to grow them in warmer weather, I recommend planting in the shade, especially afternoon shade,  or try to plant a variety that is more heat tolerant such as crimson giant radishes or the white icicle type. In my personal experience crimson giant will do better in warmer weather than the more common cherry belle type. For the best flavor anytime of the year, harvest your radishes as soon as they reach eating size, or you could let a few go to seed. The flowers are very pretty and each plant will have lots of flowers on it.  The seeds grow in little pods that have several seeds in each one of them. You will know when the seeds in the pods get ready because they will take on a dry brownish look to them. Whether you decide to save your own seed or just buy seeds online or in a store, radishes are one of the easiest and quickest maturing crops you can grow. So get some seeds and get digging this spring and you will have a harvest in no time.