I believe the quickest and easiest germinating vegetable, by far, is the radish. You can plant the seed one day and three days later you will have a nice row of tiny green sprouts. Not only is the radish fast germinating, it is also fast maturing. You can harvest a large crop of fresh, crunchy radishes in just three weeks!
The radish is a cool weather root crop that can endure a mild frost and thus, can be sown in early spring or mid to late fall. Radishes enjoy full sun and somewhat loosened soil, so pick a sunny spot and simply till the top crust of your garden by hand. You may also sow radishes in containers if you’d like. Next, take a small spade and draw rows in the soil at about 1/2 inch in depth (or draw circles if using a pot). Scatter seeds in a line inside the rows and very lightly tamp soil over the seed. Water carefully, but amply. In just a few days you will surely see sprouts – too many sprouts in fact! Give the sprouts about a week to establish themselves and then carefully pull up every other one – or more if there is an area where they are obviously too crowded. You will need to allow each plant room enough to create an inch-and-a-half round radish underground – although some radishes are shaped like traditional carrots!
Speaking of . . . there are indeed several varieties of radishes available today relative to shape, color and taste. The most common radish is perfectly round and is red on the outside and white on the inside. It is crisp, juicy and can be a little spicy at times. It is thought the hotter the weather while growing, the hotter the harvested radish will be. Round varieties also produce pink, purple, bicolored and white fruit. And, as I mentioned, there is the White Icicle variety that simply looks like a white carrot. There is even an Easter Egg seed packet you may purchase that is a mixture of the varieties mentioned above.
Although most kids and some adults do not care for the taste of radishes, they are a colorful and nutritious bonus to salads. In addition to adding color and texture to a salad or meal, radishes are high in Vitamin C, folic acid and potassium. They are also a good source of magnesium and calcium. And best of all, they are filling yet have almost no calories!
Because radishes are quick developing plants and are not in the soil for long, fortunately they are not attacked by many pests and have no known diseases that I am aware of. I have grown radishes almost every year for the past 25. Only once did I have an issue with insects on my radishes and that was just an odd gardening year all around. I had developed a root maggot infestation. It literally grosses me out to think about it even now. That particular year, the root maggot fly (which looks like a light gray house fly but a tad smaller) infested my radishes, turnips and carrots. As I pulled them out of the ground, little white wiggle worms were all over the veggies. Sadly, once a garden is infested with these pests it is hard to salvage any of your root crops. The best thing to do is to discourage the adult fly in the future by placing row nets over your plants and leaving beneficial beetles (that eat the fly) in the garden. Nematodes can also be added to the soil to deter the larva of this pest and others. Well, although I spent a lot of words describing this situation, chances are – you’ll be able to grow many crops of radishes without ever having this very undesirable issue.
So – if you’d like to spark a child’s interest in gardening, I highly recommend beginning with the rapid radish. (It is also the best veggie to begin with if you are attempting to green the thumbs of some of your impatient adult friends and family members too!) Not only is the radish easy to sow, and fast to grow, it is extremely fun to harvest. You might consider it an underground Easter egg hunt! Kiddos love pulling up the little multicolored balls from the ground – although, again, I admit they may not like to eat them. But the good news is, if you sparked their interest in gardening with the radish you may have challenged them to grow longer-season fruits and veggies like strawberries, watermelon, squash, cucumber and tomatoes. -And we all know there isn’t anything more delicious than a home-grown tomato right out of the garden with a “shake” of salt! They’ll be hooked –
Until next time,