How I Grow Big Daikon In My IBC Aquaponic Systems

I've discovered that daikon (Japanese radish) grow really well in aquaponics!

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Mom has been growing daikon (white radish) for many, many years right in our yard. We doubted daikon would grow well in my aquaponic systems (both Japanese and Korean), but decided to try it out anyway. Turns out, they grow extremely well in aquaponics! Here’s how I grow these root vegetables so they’re straight and easy to cook.

Aloha with love,
Amy

My 6th daikon harvest was another success!
My 6th daikon harvest was another success!

Growing daikon in the ground

According to Mom who has been growing daikon for years, all they need is some soil and water when grown here in Hawaii. They easily grow between 1 – 2 feet in length and it’s so much fun to watch them as they get noticeably bigger and bigger every day.

Japanese daikon are relatively available at almost all of the local grocery stores and farmers’ markets here, but we rarely see them as big as the ones we grow ourselves. At our local Foodland, they’re $2.89 a pound ($2.59 with the Maika’i Card) so it’s convenient enough for us to grow ourselves.

Korean daikon are harder to find, but you’ll see them at Palama Supermarket (local Korean grocery). They also sell young daikon leaves, which can be pickled for kimchee or used in other Korean dishes.

This daikon in my Mom's garden is ready to pick any time. We just need some space in the fridge...
This daikon in my Mom’s garden is ready to pick any time. We just need some space in the fridge…
We were bored one morning so I told Mom to kiss the daikon she just harvested for a photo opp. This is a great time to harvest daikon, when it's half white and half green.
We were bored one morning so I told Mom to kiss the daikon she just harvested for a photo opp. This is a great time to harvest daikon, when it’s half white and half green.

As an Asian-American family (Japanese and Chinese – Mom’s family immigrated to Taiwan), we eat a lot of daikon. Daikon recipes we most often prepare are:

The daikon kimchee is ready! Now we just need to wait a day for the spices to soak in.
The daikon kimchee is ready! Now we just need to wait a day for the spices to soak in.

Daikon seeds

Over the years we’ve migrated from seed to seed and brand to brand, but right now these are the ones we currently use. Our favorite by far are the seeds on the left in the picture below. These are Korean daikon seeds and were purchased from Palama Supermarket. Their speedy growth and size easily gives you the biggest bang for your buck.

In the middle is a smaller Korean daikon also from Palama Supermarket that grows more tender leaves. According to an older Korean aunty with broken English at the store, she let us know that if you want to use daikon leaves in your cooking, these are the best ones.

The three daikon seeds we use.
The three daikon seeds we use.

For the long Japanese daikon, we use seeds from Aina Ola or Fukuda (not pictured). Both are local seeds in Hawaii, which is always a plus since local seeds generally fare better than seeds from the mainland and aren’t used to our weather.

You can buy local seed packets from a variety of gardening stores and other companies such as City Mill and Wal-Mart. They sell out fast though so keep an eye out for them in the beginning of the grow season.

Japanese daikon grown from our garden turns out long and skinny.
Japanese daikon grown from our garden turns out long and skinny.

Growing in aquaponics

Growing daikon in aquaponics with black lava rock as a media is easy. The seeds go in about an inch deep and sprout in a couple of days. I cut the tops off of water bottles and cover the sprouts for as long as possible because I’ve noticed that the birds will sneak down and peck at the leaves until the stems are broken, killing the plant.

Sprouting daikon leaves in my IBC aquaponics system. I leave the bottle top to block the birds from breaking the leaves off.
Sprouting daikon leaves in my IBC aquaponics system. I leave the bottle top to block the birds from breaking the leaves off.
Daikons in the system just beginning to thicken up.
Daikons in the system just beginning to thicken up.

Initially I started planting 3 daikon in a row in my IBC setup, but some of them would split and grow into abnormal shapes. Now I stick with planting only 2 in a row which allows the leaves to grow as wide as they possibly can without touching each other. So far, this has resulted in straight daikon at harvest time.

Put the daikon too close and they'll start to grow in weird shapes.
Put the daikon too close and they’ll start to grow in weird shapes.

Soil or aquaponics?

Personally, I think both are about the same. As long as you remember to water it, you don’t really need to care for it too much. Just provide them with full sun and enough space and you should be good.

I have noticed that the daikon grown in the soil do grow a bit faster and larger than the aquaponic ones. But I suspect this has more to do with the lack of certain nutrients in my system. I’m still fiddling with adding in nutrients since I’m still learning, while the soil in Mom’s garden is extremely rich with years and years of compost and red wrigglers.

If you have an aquaponics system that’s at least a foot deep, I’d recommend trying to grow your own daikon at least once. It’s really hard to “mess them up” and your harvest will be extra impressive next to your leafy vegetables like bok choy or lettuce.

Mom's largest daikon grown from soil measured two feet.
Mom’s largest daikon grown from soil measured two feet.

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