To keep kids excited about edible gardening, you have to make sure there are some quick rewards. One of the best vegetables to grow for almost immediate satisfaction is radishes. Radishes have medium sized seeds that are easy for kids to plant. The plants germinate in a few days in the cool weather of spring or fall and mature in a month. Radishes are underground crops, so young children experience surprise and wonder when they pull a radish top and find an edible root on the bottom. Here are some tips on growing radishes with kids:
Varieties: Explain to your kids that there are many different varieties of radishes beyond the traditional red, round root they commonly see in grocery stores. Show them elongated varieties, such as ‘French Breakfast’; white varieties, such as ‘White Icicle’; and purple varieties, such as ‘Salad Rose’. These take twenty to thirty days to mature. There are also longer season varieties that can take fifty to sixty days to mature, such as Japanese daikons, Spanish black radishes, and Chinese “watermelon” radishes (white skin with rose colored flesh).
Growing: Ask your kids what they think radishes need to grow well. Explain the difference between warm-season and cool-season crops. Tell them that radishes grow well in cool conditions, but they taste peppery hot if the weather turns warm. Ask your kids what other conditions might stress the radishes (overcrowding, lack of water, poor soil fertility).
Intercropping: Ask your kids where they want to grow radishes in their garden. Explain the concept of intercropping. Intercropping is the practice of planting fast maturing, low-growing crops near slower maturing, larger crops. Ask you kids for some examples of fast maturing and slow maturing crops. Explain that the radishes can be intercropped near larger plants, such as tomatoes and eggplant. By the time the larger plants get too big, you will have harvested the radishes.
Eating: Not only are radish roots tasty to eat, but the young seedlings make great additions to salads and even the mature tops can be added to stir fries. Do a taste test with your kids so they can explore the different ways to eat radishes.