This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol4", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
This crop (Rapkanus sativus) needs light warm soil which has enjoyed high cultivation long enough to contain a good deal of humus. The secret of producing good Radishes is to grow them quickly; if they take long in coming they become tough and hot, instead of being mild and nutty in flavour.
Stiff land will not do for Radishes, because not only is it too cold, but the Radishes cannot be pulled, after they are grown, without tearing off the top, which is fatal. For early sowings a warm border with a gentle slope to the south is desirable. Formerly sowings began in January and were covered with litter, successive sowings being made each fortnight, the first without litter being made in March. The litter was raked off as soon as the seeds began to appear through the ground.
Elaborate arrangements of string, feathers, and boys to pull them and shout ("when the guvnor was believed to be near") were made to scare the birds. At sign of frost all hands were called at evening to shake the litter over the beds again, to be again raked off as soon as the frost was gone, perhaps the next day. This process went on, every raking off lessening the number of Radishes, until the end of March, when the litter was carried off and stacked. The method of sowing was to mark the ground out with marks 6 ft. apart. The surface was then carefully levelled with rakes. The levelling was important in order to get all the seed through at the same time, to shorten the period of bird scaring, which had to be kept up until the seedlings were too big to be pulled up. The seed was sown broadcast by hand, the sower walking up the marks. It was covered by casting with a spade, the soil being taken from the marks, producing depressions which became alleys, into which the litter off the beds was raked.
It is quite an art to cast so as to deposit just enough soil evenly all over the bed; of course half the bed was covered at each cast. The first sowings were usually of the Long Red variety (fig. 488), which is hardier and comes on more quickly than the Turnip variety, this latter being sown after a sowing or two of the Long variety.
The growing of littered Radishes has been spoken of as a thing of the past, because at one time it was so general, especially near London, and now one hardly ever sees it. Individual growers in specially favourable situations may continue the practice. Probably the growth of Radishes as a catch crop in cold houses used for Tomato culture has done a good deal to render littered Radishes unprofitable, and perhaps the driving of market gardeners farther away from the markets, and the consequent added difficulty of getting the litter, has done the rest.
Radishes are still grown in beds as described above, particularly for the earliest sowings, which can be commenced in March if the weather is favourable, choice being made of the warmest and most sheltered spot available. Later sowings are now usually made either broadcast with the fiddle or in drills. It takes 3 to 4 bus. of seed to sow an acre.
The labour of bird scaring can be considerably minimized by dressing the seed a few days before sowing with red-lead powder and paraffin. If the red lead is shaken over the seed on the barn floor, and then paraffin sprinkled over it, and, after, all turned once or twice with a shovel, every seed will be found to be coated with red lead. If left for two or three days it will dry. A few pounds of red lead and 1/2 pt. of paraffin will do more than 1 bus. of seed.
Many sow Wood's Frame, which is a modified form of the old Long Radish, for the first sowing; then mixed Turnip in the proportion of one white to five red. The white-tipped variety called French Breakfast can be sown about the middle of March. This matures very rapidly, and requires great watchfulness to get it to market before it becomes "pithy". Sowings of Radishes can be made regularly up to the end of June, suspended during July and August, recommenced in September, when two more sowings may be made.
Radishes are sent to market in the form of bunches. Binding them costs 1d. per dozen bunches for the Long ones, which are tied in fan-shaped "hands ".; and 2d. per dozen bunches for the Turnip-shaped, which are bound in round bunches -with osier rods. The "hands" and bunches are washed with soft brushes, rinsed in clean water, and packed for market. The price is od. to 10d. per dozen bunches for the Long and from 5d. to 1s. 3d. per dozen bunches for the Turnip. A good crop is from 1000 to 1500 dozen bunches to the acre.
Fig. 488.-Radish-" Long Red".
RADISHES AT COVENT GARDEN MARKET Showing Costermongers buying.
Photos. W, J. Vasey.
Although the margin of profit over expenses per dozen is very small, Radishes can be made to pay if the grower is willing to give the necessary constant attention to securing a continuous supply. He may make up his mind to having to plough a sowing or two in during the season; but then if he keeps on he may, as a compensation, come in with a sowing or two when Radishes are scarce and the price runs up to a figure that gives the salesman genuine pleasure.
Some growers boast that they have taken five crops of Radishes off the same ground during one season. To use a colloquial expression, it need not be said that "this wants doing ". It is fairly certain that the man who just now and then puts in a crop of Radishes, and either lacks the organizing power or begrudges the persistent attention necessary to keep up a regular supply, will not get much profit out of them. [W. G. L].
Radishes in Worcestershire are sown on warm and sheltered borders for the earliest crops and in open breadths for the main crop. Care is always taken to sow them on rich soil, without which there cannot be quick growth and juicy, tender radishes. The earliest crops are sown in December on borders sloping to the south, the varieties being almost exclusively the mixed white and red turnip-rooted and Wood's Farly Frame Radish. The borders are - as far as practicable - sheltered from the north by any means available. Often the screen consists of 7-in. or 9-in.-by-l-in. boards placed on edge and nailed or screwed to posts fixed in the ground and about 3 ft. high; in other cases the shelter consists of a double row of stakes at about 1 ft. apart, with the old growth of Asparagus - which was cut down at the end of November - laid horizontally between them, thus forming a wall or screen which will, with care, last several seasons.
After the seed is sown and carefully raked-in in December or January, the whole is covered with clean straw. When the seed has germinated, and the seedlings appear above the soil, this protective covering of straw has to be carefully removed on favourable days by means of a very long-handled rake, to be again returned over the seedling Radishes before daylight fails; since, if they are not exposed to light they will perish, and if they be exposed to frost they will likewise perish.
Fig. 489. - Radish-" French Breakfast".
Later crops are sometimes covered with straw, but more frequently they are left uncovered, and birds are scared away by means of lengths of string on which are fastened old tins containing several loose stones, bells, pieces of glass, etc. The string is kept several feet above the ground by means of strong forked sticks. A boy is stationed at one end, and is sometimes armed with a noisy rattle, and it is his duty to keep the birds at a distance by scaring them with his rattle, by emitting such vocal sounds of a hideous nature as he is capable of making, and by frequently pulling the string bearing the other noise-making instruments. So that when he is simultaneously halloaing, using his rattle, and pulling the string he creates a noise that only a bird stone-deaf could bear without fright. [J. U].