Can Radishes Survive a Frost (& How to Make Sure They Do)


I have a confession to make.  In my younger years, I didn’t particularly like radishes. If they happened to come with a salad, I’d eat them.  Otherwise, I didn’t give them a second thought.

But, once I started growing my own radishes and tasted that fresh, crisp bite, that all changed. In fact, I now think radishes make a great addition to any veggie garden. 

They’re a root vegetable, meaning the roots because they’re larger and fleshier, is the part usually eaten. Though the tops are also edible.

Radishes are best planted in spring and late summer/early fall.  But, for many gardeners, that time of year can be chancy. What happens if there’s a frost?  Will your radishes survive?

Radishes can survive a frost. They’re a hardy plant and a cold-tolerant vegetable.  In general, young radishes can survive temperatures drops to 26 ℉, and mature radishes to drops as low as 21 ℉. However, the radish type, amount of cold exposure, and what, if any, protection is provided, can affect the quality.

Let’s look at how you can protect your radishes from cold weather and what radish varieties are better for those frosty nights.

Can Radishes Survive a Frost

Radishes are a cool weather crop.  This means they’ll do better in spring and fall when the weather’s not too hot.  

And not only can you plant them in either spring or fall, but, in fact, there are also spring and winter radish varieties.

Radish bunch
Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay

When you say “radish”, a spring radish is what usually comes to mind. Think those little red, round radishes you see in grocery stores. 

Spring radishes are quick-growing. They take roughly 18 to 45 days to mature.

Two daikon radishes laying side by side.
Image by John Loo / CC By

Winter radishes, on the other hand, take longer to grow. Usually, anywhere from 45 to 70 days. Winter varieties are also tasty and are a great option for fall planting.

These radishes continue to grow throughout the fall without becoming woody, and bitter as a spring radish would. And they’re better at tolerating the cold ground.

How to Protect Your Radishes From Frost

Because radishes are such cold-hardy plants, providing frost protection is not an absolute necessity. This is especially true if you’re planning on harvesting your radishes shortly after a fall frost, or if you experience an early spring frost.

However, if you’re leaving your radishes in the ground throughout the fall, where they may be exposed to multiple touches of frost, then adding protection is a good idea. 

Protecting your plants helps keep the plant and ground warmer during those chilly nights.  And this in turn helps keep the roots, which in this case are the radishes, warmer.

When it comes to frost protection, the first thing to consider is where you’re planting your seeds.  Choose a sunny spot that’s protected from the wind. 


To learn more about growing radishes, take a look here at my how-to guide.  You’ll find it helpful.


To provide added protection, you’ll need to cover your radishes when you anticipate a frost.

The easiest way to cover your plants is using things such as mulch, straw, gathered leaves, or leaf mold. Oftentimes, gardeners have these types of these materials on hand.

Wheelbarrow next to a pile of mulch.
Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

When covering your plants with a loose substance, aim for a depth of about 3 to 6 inches. 

If the idea of spreading mulch and like doesn’t appeal, there are other options.  

Many people purchase frost blankets or row covers to protect their vegetables.  These items are designed specifically to protect plants during cold spells. Other options include covering your crops with plastic or burlap.

If the expense of premade covers is not in your budget, then consider using old bed sheets, cardboard, or even newspaper.

For more information on preparing your garden for winter in general, take a look at my article on the subject. You’ll find it helpful.

Can Radishes Be Left in the Ground All Winter?

In general, you shouldn’t leave your radishes in the ground all winter long. However,  depending on your climate zone, and the radish planted, wintering your radish in the ground may be a possibility.

The colder your climate zone, the more chance your radish will spoil as the ground freezes.

Small spring varieties will not do well with continued cold exposure. These types of radishes are meant to grow fast and die young. They turn woody and bitter if left too long. And if left in the ground throughout the winter, they’ll become mushy.

Individual radish emerging from the ground.
Image by Dirk (Beeki®) Schumacher from Pixabay

Winter radishes, on the other hand, have a better chance of surviving the winter.

In fact, during the fall, they should be left in the ground until ready to be picked, rather than harvested all at once. This is because winter radishes continue to grow as the season progresses. But, unlike spring radishes, they’ll still retain their tastiness and will continue to get juicier.

Tip: Winter radishes should be planted in late summer/early fall. But take care not to plant your winter radish too early. Or, just as when you leave zucchini too long, you might end up with giant radishes by the time you’re ready to harvest.

If you are planning on wintering your radish in the ground, it’s imperative you provide some type of protection for your radishes. Even winter radishes will have difficulty if you’re not covering them.

And make sure to pull your radishes early in the spring, before you start seeing new growth.

The truth is, regardless of what radishes you’re growing, when you leave radishes in the ground all winter season, you are taking a chance that your radishes will freeze and be inedible when harvested.  

You’re much better off picking your radishes before the ground freezes. Winter radishes last longer than spring, a month or more when stored properly.  

I wrote an article on when it’s too late to plant radishes. You’ll find it has good information if you’re considering a late-season planting.

3 Types of Winter Radishes

1.    Black Radishes

Black radishes, sometimes called black Spanish radishes, are large and round.  They have black skin and white, firm flesh, that has a stronger, hotter radish flavor.  They’re great for salads and stir-fries.

2.    Daikon Radish

You’ve likely seen daikon radishes in the Asian section of your grocery store. These radishes are long, thick, and white. They have a mild flavor and can be used in salads or thrown into stews. This radish will continue to grow and grow and can become quite huge. Yet, they remain tender. Once harvested, they won’t last as long as other winter radishes.

3. Watermelon Radish

Watermelon radishes are round, with green skin and bright pink interiors. But don’t let the name fool you. Watermelon radishes don’t taste like watermelon. They have a mild, slightly sweet, yet peppery taste. Add them to salads or fish dishes.

Tasty Winter Radish Recipes

  1. https://foodsguy.com/recipes-with-daikon-radish/
  2. https://www.peelwithzeal.com/watermelon-radish-recipes/
  3. https://www.organiclea.org.uk/2019/10/black-spanish-radish/

Final Thoughts

  • Radishes can survive a frost.
  • Radishes are cold tolerant, root vegetables. 
  • There are winter and spring varieties of radishes. 
  • Winter varieties are more suited for fall planting.
  • Leaving your radishes in the ground during winter is not recommended. But, you may be able to do so depending on your location and the type of radish planted.
  • Protecting your radish from frost is not a necessity unless you’re planning on leaving them in the ground for extended cold periods or over winter.

If you enjoyed this article on whether radishes can survive a frost, feel free to share it. 

Angela

Hi! My name is Angela Carr. I started this site to share my love for plants and gardening. My aim is to provide my readers with easy tips and tricks on plant care, fun facts, and encouragement for the new plant owner or anyone questioning the colour of their thumb!

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