Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why Are My Radishes All Leaves? - Also Lettuce Growing Hints

Recently, a young man wrote to a local garden group about the trouble he was having growing radishes. They were always straggly! All leaves. No radish bulbs. Stringy roots.

The usual reason, lack of thinning-severely. This is what I wrote:

"I've seen it time and time again especially with so many new gardeners. They don't read the package or, worse yet, the seed company failed to clearly tell them how to plant radishes!

Usually, the package will tell you to sow the seeds thinly and after they have come up, thin to about 1 inch apart. A lot of people don't. They all look so pretty there, they just don't have the heart to thin a bunch of those baby plants out.

The new radishes touch each other (unthinned) and stop growing horizontally - and just grow Up. They put on tremendous foliage and a bulb is about as big as a pencil lead.
Try to plant your radishes and lettuce as thinly as possible. Try for about one seed per inch. Some people - to get more control - mix fine sand with the seeds before putting them in rows. You probably won't be able to even come close to one inch per seed, but try it as a goal. It's a good start. You can't go wrong.

As soon as the radishes and lettuce are about an inch tall thin them mercylessly:

* Thin at least one inch apart for the Radishes.

* Thin about 6 to 8 inches or better for Head Lettuce.

* Thin 3 to 4 inches minimum for Leaf Lettuce.

Keep both watered daily. Even twice on exceptionally hot days. Be sure to plant both Radishes and Lettuce (as well as Cabbages, Cauliflower, Brocaley, Carrots, Turnips, Parsley, Celery, etc and other "Cold Weather Crops" as early in spring as possible. Immediately after the last frost if possible. Hot weather will surely make them "Bolt" and jump immediately into making seeds - ruining your production. Over fertilization can also make a forest of leaves and no root produce.

Follow these rules, and you have a good chance of getting real radishes and nice lettuce. Also try to plant these in light slightly sandy soil with a little compost mixed in. They will love it.

It works for me.

PS: If you can't stand killing off all those extra lettuces, They transplant easily to another part of the garden. or give them to a friend. Use an old table knife - or your wifes new one if that's all you can find, and she isn't looking- Moisten the soil if it is dry. Take them out by soil chunks of about a square inch of plants at a time. Keep them moist. Throw a damp rag or piece of newspaper over them until you have them transplanted. Should be within an hour or two.

Dig a spoon sized hole. put in a few ounces of water. Then gently seperate a baby lettuce and put it in the wet hole up to the original ground lever it grew at. Firm the soil gently around the baby plant with a finger being careful not to damage the stem. Add another few dribbles of water.

Done. The orphaned lettuce plants will never know they were given a new home. Try to do this whole operation when it is cool (evening or early morning. Try to give them a little shade for a few days during the heat of the day. One packet of lettuce seeds will make enough lettuce starts for half of Haysville and a good part of Wichita!
Copyright Robert Mader 2009
All Rights Reserved
Let me know how you did!
Amateurs Welcome to write!



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