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Planting radishes — a balcony vegetable for spring and autumn

Good news for all radish lovers: This crunchy vegetable fares brilliantly on balconies. You don't need to be an experienced gardener to plant radishes.

The history of the radish

Word has it that radishes originally came from China — but there is no evidence for this. The small bulb first found its way onto our continent in the 16th century and took it by storm. To the delight of all city gardeners, this peppery plant feels perfectly at home on a roof terrace or balcony. So get away from the boring varieties in the supermarket and grow your own vitamin bombs. Your own radishes will not have been trimmed to facilitate transportation or storage, and will taste all the better for it. Depending on the variety, you can plant these small spheres in your outdoor oasis in spring, summer or autumn.

Location and soil conditions

If you want to plant radishes, you should give this plant a sunny or at least partially shady spot on your balcony. Three to four hours of sunlight a day is ideal for these red bulbs. Don't worry if your outdoor area is not wind and rainproof: The plants can cope with unpleasant weather particularly well.

Radishes are especially happy in humus-rich, water-permeable soil. Like all plants that are not specifically native to wetlands, radishes cannot cope with waterlogging. Our first piece of advice for looking after radishes is therefore: make sure that you maintain a consistent level of moisture in the soil. Radishes may look robust, but too much water is too much of a good thing and causes them to split. Tip for greater water permeability: mix in a little sand underneath the soil as this will help the water drain better. Since radishes are light feeders, they do not need much in the way of extra nutrients. Ideally, use compost as a fertiliser — work it into the soil on the surface.

Advantages of planting on a balcony

Still have concerns about whether sowing the seeds in a window box is a good idea? Then let us win you over with these two arguments:

  • The bulbs need very little space. A 100x20 cm window box is sufficient for planting radishes. This means that there is plenty of space left for other types of vegetables and decorative plants. Incidentally, you can grow around 40 of these energisers from a mini-bed.
  • Radishes ripen in next to no time. You will be harvesting your first mini radishes just four to six weeks after sowing the seeds. If you sow new seeds every four weeks, you can enjoy a fresh supply of radishes from May to October. 

Planting radishes — how to do it

You can usually start to plant these vegetables outside from April onwards. The plants start to sprout from a temperature of just 5°C. Anyone who believes that the only type of radish is red and round is wrong. Radishes come in many shapes and colours: yellow, purple, oblong, oval and cylinder-shaped. You can grow different varieties depending on the season. Popular spring and summer radishes include:

  • April Cross
  • Bunny Tail
  • Cherry Belle
  • Champion

The following are ideal for winter:

  • Black Spanish              
  • Oriental radish
  • Rudi
  • Parat

When planting radishes, the most important thing is to make sure that you leave the correct distance between the seeds — ideally this is around 4-5 cm. Also leave 10 cm between the rows. Using these measurements, you will be able to sow two rows of radishes in a window box that will not get in each other's way as they grow. Because radishes are shallow-rooted plants, you only need to plant the seeds one centimetre deep in fine crumbly soil. Then keep the soil moist so that your charges can thrive.

That doesn't sound so difficult, does it? It's not, either. After just one short week, you will be able to spot the first small seed leaves coming through. Continue to keep the soil moist. Radishes may not like being waterlogged, but they are no more a fan of the other extreme. 

Harvesting radishes — the right time

Harvesting those crunchy bulbs at the right time is crucial. If you forget about your radishes in all the hustle and bustle of the city and only get round to picking them when they have already bloomed, then they will have lost their flavour. At this stage, they form wood cells inside and also take on a woody flavour. It is therefore best to taste-test a few radishes after four weeks.

Another characteristic of a tasty radish is a diameter of approx. 4-5 cm. As a general rule of thumb, the larger and older the plants are, the woodier they will taste.
The actual harvesting is a piece of cake: Simply pull the entire plant out of the soil and remove the green bits — that's it. The only time you need to take a break from radishes is in winter — at least, as far as growing your own on the balcony is concerned. This is because the robust cabbage family is not a hardy one — so it is even more exciting when May comes around and you can indulge in home-grown radishes once more.

Radishes — good for your stomach

Radishes are an extremely healthy indulgence, incidentally. They contain all sorts of goodness: calcium, potassium and iron, as well as vitamins A, B1, B2 and C. The bulbs also contain mustard oil, which is responsible for the unique hot flavour of radishes. It is also good for you! This is because mustard oil has an anti-bacterial effect. If you sometimes suffer from gastrointestinal discomfort, these plants should help.

You can conjure up all kinds of delicious recipes using these flavoursome little vegetables. You could spice up your salads, prepare a radish smoothie with cress or simply enjoy these little vitamin bombs raw.