Having a homegrown holiday is always on the agenda for many small farmers. We raise and prepare our own turkeys, cook our stored sweet potatoes and eat our own frozen heirloom corn. Eating fresh from the farm is especially cherished during the holidays, when we can share the flavors and health benefits of our homegrown goodies with our family and friends. If you’re looking to increase the amount of homegrown produce on your holiday table, you’d do well to expand your winter gardening skills and start a crop of radishes right now. If you do, they’ll be plump and juicy just in time for Christmas.
Radishes are a cool-season crop that relish the colder weather of spring and fall. While most of us think of radish as a spring crop, fall is an excellent time to sow more seeds of this crispy veggie. Insect pressure is reduced and the plants mature a little more slowly, without risk of bolting due to the arrival of warm weather.
Most radish varieties are ready for harvest a mere 30-45 days after the seeds are sown, making them a fall crop that can be timed to reach maturity just when the holidays arrive. But, to ensure the plants don’t get frozen out if cold weather arrives before Christmas does, here are three winter gardening techniques you can employ to make sure your radish crop is ready to pull at the perfect time.
3 Winter Gardening Ideas to Grow Holiday Radishes
1. Grow Christmas Radishes in a Container
This is the easiest way to grow winter radishes. Simply fill a wide, shallow container with a 50/50 mixture of high-quality potting soil and finished compost. The pot should be at least six inches deep. Sow the radish seeds according to package instructions in early to mid November. Don’t space the seeds too thickly or the roots will not have room to “head up” properly. Keep the container well watered and leave it outdoors in a sheltered site. If night-time temperatures dip much below freezing, bring the container inside for the night. On particularly cold days, cover the pot with a tent of clear plastic sheeting, and if you live where it’s very cold, keep the pot next to a window in an attached garage on particularly cold days. You can move it back outside and place it in a sunny area when days are above freezing.
2. Grow Radishes Under a Cloche
Cloches are an important tool for winter gardening as they’re essentially a mini-greenhouse placed over a plant. They absorb the sun’s heat throughout the day and use it to insulate the plants housed inside during chilly nights. Because radish are fairly cold tolerant, cloches work well to protect the plants through all but the coldest winter weather. To grow winter radishes using a cloche, sow seeds in clusters of three to five in a sunny garden spot. Cover each seed cluster with a homemade cloche made of a translucent milk jug with the bottom cut out and the cap removed. On very cold nights, put the cap back on. On very warm days, remove the cloche completely to keep the plants from bolting due to the increased heat inside the cloche. Just remember to replace the cloche at night. Cloche-covered radishes should be sown anytime between early and mid November for a Christmas harvest. Selecting extra cold-tolerant radish varieties is helpful when using this technique.
3. Grow Winter Radishes via Below-Grade Trench Planting
This technique uses the insulative properties of the soil to help protect your radish crop from extreme cold weather. Here’s more on winter below-grade trench planting. Essentially, a foot-deep planting trench is dug in the garden and radish seeds are sown in the bottom of the trench. The trench is then covered with a sheet of plastic for the winter. The plastic and soil work to retain the heat in the trench and prolong the harvest of the crop housed inside.
Use one of these three methods and enjoy a homegrown holiday, filled with friends, family and lots of homegrown goodness.