Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Daikon Radishes as a Cover Crop

You know those instances when you've never heard of something until you read about it, and then it enters your life through another venue a short time later? Sometimes it will even show up with regularity after that and you wonder how in the world you've gotten to be 55 years old before hearing about it for the first time.

There's probably a name for this, and it's not ignorance either. Life's experiences come to us at different times and I'm always grateful for new ones. If we all knew everything about everything, life would be very boring indeed.

I'd heard of Daikon radishes briefly in recent years, but they didn't spark enough interest for me to investigate just what they were exactly. Then I saw an article online last fall about using them as a cover crop.

Not two weeks after I read that article, Daikon radishes would appear before my eyes, right across the road from my house.

October 8, 2012

I had noticed something had been planted in the field this past fall, after the wheat was long gone, but I really never gave it another thought. A casual conversation with my next-door neighbor, who works for a seed company, informed me that the green growth was Daikon radishes.

Neighbor Witt decided to give them a try - dirt and all.  :-)

Daikon radishes (Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus) are growing in popularity in agriculture and in the home garden. Yes, they're certainly edible, but these radishes aren't being grown for eating.

As a cover crop, they have many advantages:

Neighbor Nyle shows a young Daikon in
October.  They get a LOT larger.
  • They grow deep roots and that helps with soil compaction.

  • They're allelopathic, which means they give off a biochemical (glycosinolate  compounds) that inhibits weed growth.

  • The top growth helps reduce soil erosion.

  • They naturally take up nitrogen and after dying during the winter, they release it back into the soil for use by the subsequent crop.

I can see that the radishes are already dying and decomposing. By spring, I would imagine the field will be a big mass of radish mush, just as planned.

Daikon radishes - January 13, 2013

 I may try growing Daikons next year as a cover crop in my own vegetable garden.


ElenaW said...

This is new to me. I currently have crimsonclover cover crop in my western WA garden.

Jennah's Garden said...

I TOTALLY want to do this. I've been investigating cover crops, but really don't want something that reseeds. I guess this wouldn't work as an early spring cover, though?

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I am so glad that you wrote this article Kylee. The farmers are using this around here and I (and several others) have been wondering what in the world it was. It is great that the farmers are using a more natural method to keep weeds from their fields. GREAT!

Heidi/ IN woodland garden said...

How interesting!! I didn't know radishes were considered a cover crop!
Here in se Indiana, we have a farmer who plants tomatoes for Red Gold. In the winter he plants a covercrop-- it stinks like dirty underware. :-P Would you happen to know what that might be? I want to make sure I don't plant it in my raised veggie beds along the sunny side of our woodland home.

Ellen from Georgia said...

I really enjoy reading your blog. When did you plant the radish? I'm assuming it is a cold weather veggie? I live in North East, Georgia and was thinking of planting some now. We really don't have very harsh winters here, just lots of rain now. I planted some mustard greens, carrots and parsnips last week. So now I will try the radish when the rain stops. Ellen from Georgia

Pamela said...

How long do the radishes last before they freeze and get all gunky? And are they just meant to be "green manure," or are they also harvested for food?

Jason said...

I've heard they make great pickles.

Unknown said...

I've never heard of this being used as a cover crop--very interesting! I love the photo of the little boy eating it, dirt and all. When I work with kids in school gardens, most of them doing exactly that--they harvest and eat their goodies, soil and all! (I usually try to keep some water handy to give it a quick rinse for them, but some of those kiddos are too quick!) ;-)

Marie said...

Do the glycosinolate compounds disintegrate with the radishes?

Kylee Baumle said...

Elena ~ I knew about using clover as a cover crop and have considered doing that before, too. I just never got around to planting it.

Jennah ~ No, I don't think that would work. It would be no different than growing regular red radishes then.

Lisa ~ I wondered myself, which is why I did some investigating! They also grew another crop next to this one and I forget what my neighbor told me it was. I'll have to ask him about that one, too.

Heidi ~ I never knew it before either! And I'm not sure what the stinky stuff you're smelling is. I haven't noticed any smell emanating from the radish field...yet. LOL.

Ellen ~ Thanks, Ellen! I didn't plant it; the farmer who farms the field across from our house did. As a spring crop for eating, you would plant it at the same time you plant your carrots. Radishes are considered to be a cool season crop.

Pamela ~ Daikon radishes are edible, but in this case, they're used expressly for the reasons stated in the blog post. I'm not sure how long before they get mushy, but by the time the farmer works the field up for planting, they'll be sufficiently decomposed.

Jason ~ I don't care for radishes of any type, but pickled radishes might be another matter. I might have to grow some radishes just for pickling so I can find out if I like those or not!

Julie ~ I don't think that dirt hurts kids one bit, unless manure is used for fertilizing!

Marie ~ That's a good question. I'll see if I can find the answer to that.

Unknown said...

I thought of you last night, Kylee--I was at a dinner where one of the sides was Daikon and crab salad. Oh. My. Delicious!

Anonymous said...

There is a name for it, the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. It occurs when a person, after having learned some (usually obscure) fact, word, phrase, or other item for the first time, encounters that item again, perhaps several times, shortly after having learned it.

Kylee and Lisa
Radishes are grown with turnips as cover crops in SW Missouri.

RobinL said...

Mystery solved! There is a farmer's field nearby, and it alternates between corn, wheat and soybeans, like all good Ohio fields will do. But this fall, we watched a strange crop come up, only to be turned to mush once winter came on. I swore they were sugar beets, but this Daikon radish as a cover crop is just right!

dewey69usa said...

I recently was introduced to the book "1 Straw Revolution" and then I encountered a video where Gabe Brown of North Dakota was discussing using the daikon radishes on his 5000 acre ranch. I wish I had found this method years ago. It would have made my organic gardening adventure much more fun, not that it hasn't been all along. I live in Fairport Harbor, so I will be watching and reading.

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