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Growing Radishes in Containers

Cherry Belle Radishes

I pulled these Cherry Belle radishes at the end of September, not much more than a month after planting. These were all about 3/4 inches in diameter: just right for cherry belles.

My past attempts at growing radishes in containers on the balcony never worked out for me. Maybe one in every four would actually mature and form a round radish bulb. They usually took too long to grow, didn't grow big enough and never tasted that great. But recently I figured out what was wrong.

Radishes require is a constant supply of water. If allowed to dry out they will develop a sharp and woody taste. To grow tasty radishes they need to be grown fast. In hot weather they bolt and after this happens they just don't taste right. By providing them with lots of what they need to grow you'll ensure they reach maturity before they bolt. I've found that this is more of a problem with radishes grown in the spring. In the fall, temperatures drop as the crop matures and you don't have the same problem with bolting.

But something that really improved my success with container grown radishes was the realization that they need to grow under overhead sunlight, or as close to overhead as you can get. This is not a problem in a garden or even a container on a patio. But on a balcony with an overhang, you don't get overhead sunlight. I wasn't able to grow decent radishes until I moved my containers out to the edge of the balcony away from the building wall. Out there they got much more light from above. Not exactly overhead but close enough during part of the day.

French Breakfast Radishes

French Breakfast Radishes.

Black Spanish and Watermelon Radishes

Watermelon and Black Spanish Radishes. I grew these together in the same container.

This same lighting principal applies to any root crop, like beets or carrots for example. If the sunlight is always shining from the side, your plants will want to grow tall and lanky in an attempt to get as much sun exposure as possible. This causes the roots to extend out of the soil and also become long and skinny. But with overhead sunlight, the plants remain compact and the root, the part you want to eat, stays in the ground where it will form into a proper vegetable.

There are lots of radish varieties but two of my favorite are Black Spanish and Watermelon. I've also grown French Breakfast, White Icicle, Red Crimson and Cherry Belle - all in containers on my balcony.

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Black Spanish Radishes

Black Spanish radishes are not really black but certainly look that way when wet and viewed in the right light.

The Black Spanish radishes I've grown were the round variety. The largest was close to three inches in diameter. They turn out more pear-shaped than round. The skin is rough and not anything like typical North American garden radishes. The bright white flesh inside contrasts nicely with the dark outer skin. Being larger than a typical garden radish, these things need a bit more room to grow. I plant mine six inches apart which is about twice the spacing I use for the smaller radishes. The tops on these radishes are also quite long. And unlike small varieties, these need more time in the ground: about two months.

Black Spanish radishes are big container vegetables, but not that big. I've grown mine in ten inch deep containers. My only problem with the Black Spanish radish is the heat. I'm used to having small bite sized radishes I can just pop into my mouth. But these have to be sliced and the skins are rough. I find these radishes simply too big and too hot to be enjoyed as a snack.

Watermelon Radish

It's this redish pink interrior that gives the Watermelon Radish it's name.

Watermelon radishes are something of a gourmet radish if a radish could ever be considered that way. The skin is white or green and the inside red, hence the name watermelon radish. Like the Black Spanish radishes, these are much bigger than typical garden radishes. Mine grow to the size of large eggs. I plant them about six inches apart in a ten inch deep container and it takes almost two months for them to reach a mature size. Watermelon radishes are a Fall variety although you could probably attempt growing them in the spring. I suspect the time they require in the ground would mean they'd encounter hot summer weather and bolt before reaching an edible shape and size.

The colour and pattern of the inside of a Watermelon radish is very interesting. But more interesting is the taste. These are mild radishes, almost sweet. Unlike the Back Spanish rads, these are quite snackable. Sliced, they easily liven up any salad. I find a touch of vinegar makes the colours even more vibrant and the taste a wee bit sweeter.

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