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Using Radish Plants For Compacted Soils

Root vegetables are miracle workers for the soil structure. When used correctly in the garden you can achieve high yields with other crops and improve your land. Let’s look at using root vegetables to fix compacted soils.

Planting Diakon Radish In Compacted Soils

Using the diakon radish for relieving compacted soil is a useful organic no till method to fixing hard soils. Using the tap root of the radish we are able to fracture hard clay soils without the use of tillage equipment.

Why Does Garden Soil Get Compacted?

The number one reason for garden soil compaction is traffic. If you, your dogs or children are walking across the garden soil when it is wet you are aiding in compaction. This can even include placing heavy objects, snow or even fresh soil and compost on a wet garden soil. Soil has as structure similar to that of a dry noodle when it is dry. But once soil begins to take on water it looses it structure, eventually becoming mush.

If you have a clay garden soil then you may want to look into how to repair this. First I encourage you to do a clay test just to make sure its a true clay.

Clay soil will also compact naturally if it has lost structure through tillage. Tillage will break up structures formed by plant roots and insects. This structure before disturbed is responsible for aiding in aeration and water movement in our soil. These areas are again altered with traffic or tillage.

How To Plant In Compacted Soil?

You should be planting vegetables to loosen compacted soil whenever possible. To plant in this compacted soil you want to try the following steps to see the best results:

  1. Loosen the existing soil through tillage or double digging the area
  2. Once it is loosened remove or breakdown large compacted aggregates
  3. Next you will want to level the area as much as possible
  4. Broadcast your root vegetable seeds (preferably the Daikon Radish)
  5. Next cover the area with peatmoss, vermiculite or coconut coir depending on your preference
  6. Water the area throughly once a day until seedlings are established

Starting Seeds in Compacted Soil

No matter where you are of what zone you are in starting root veggies outdoors directly in the soil is a must. Due to the tap root these plants do not enjoy being transplanted from an indoor start.

The good news is radish plants are considered a cool climate crop. Meaning they are able to germinate in cooler soil conditions. 

A pro tip for starting root vegetables is to actually winter sow them. If you choose to winter sow your vegetables you will end up with an earlier harvest and potentially the ability to plant two crops back to back this summer.

Soil Prep For Seeding Diakon Radish

There is no need to over think this. Broadcasting is the easiest method for ensuring the seed is not place too deep. This also means you will not need to rototill or loosen any soil. Allow the root vegetables to do the work for you. Once you broadcast onto the surface you can mulch the area with a thin layer of compost or manure.

A helpful hint: because compost and manure is hydrophobic when it dries out. Try pre moistening it before adding it to the garden. This step is going to save you the headache of seeds floating around in the soil mixture, making your rows a bit wavy.

Thinning The Radish Crop

This is heavily dreaded but so very important. In the past if you have noticed that your carrots are small you probably did not thin. Thinning is a simple process where you pinch off the tops of the root vegetables growing too close to a neighboring root vegetable.

To make this a bit easier on you, try to pinch off the smaller weaker plants first. Once that is completed observe what the surrounding area looks like you want approximately a one inch space around the entire root vegetable top (2” diameter)

Benefits Of Using Tap Root Crops In Compacted Soil

Root vegetables are perfect candidates for intercropping between larger plants such as corn, sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers. They are also THE vegetable to plant if you have a heavy clay soil or a soil that suffers from compaction.

Daikon radishes in particular are able to fracture the hard soil and make aggregates. This aggregation is key to increase airflow in the soil system. Air flow in the soil system is not only good for the plant roots, it is also for the microbes. When we support aerobic microbes over anaerobic microbes we have more nutrient cycling. With more nutrient cycling we have more fertilizer for our plants.

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Let me know in the comment below if you have used the radish for helping fix compacted soils.

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