Daikon Driller as a Cover Crop in Your Garden

Published on January 17, 2022

Cover crops can help tackle a lot of different problems in the garden such as erosion, soil quality and more. If you’re dealing with soil compaction, Daikon Driller might be just the thing to help loosen up your soil while helping you to retain its nutrients.

No-Till Gardening Improves Soil Quality

Using cover crops for no-till gardening has a lot of benefits. The roots and crops keep the soil from eroding due to exposure to wind and water, and undisturbed soil is better able to absorb water and nutrients rather than being washed away. Tilling also disturbs the microbiome and insect life that naturally occurs at the soil level.

daikon driller radish

Daikon Driller Works on Compacted Soil

However, sometimes soil is simply too compacted and hard to work with. Daikon Driller is a great choice for that. The word “daikon” literally means “big root” in Japanese, and is a word used for all Japanese white radishes. Daikon Driller grows a taproot that grows deep (sometimes up to 6 feet), drilling and breaking up the shallow layers of soil. That’s why you’ll sometimes see this radish referred to as a “biodrill” or a “tillage radish” – it’s doing the work of aerating and breaking up the soil, without the actual till! 

After the crop dies and begins to decompose, later crops use the channels dug by Daikon Driller to set up roots and penetrated compacted soil layers, without damaging the microbiome or causing so much erosion and loss of topsoil. The decaying plants also leave behind the nutrients they’ve scavanged, further enriching the soil.

Other Benefits of Daikon Driller

There are some other reasons to choose Daikon Driller. It’s known as a forage radish. Unlike some other cover crops, daikon radishes have smooth leaves, so herd animals enjoy eating it. Also, because radishes are part of the mustard family, there can be a modest benefit in terms of nematode and pest suppression. We suggest Yellow Mustard if you’re looking for more heavy duty biofumigant action.

Growing Daikon Driller Radish as a Cover Crop

Plant seeds of Daikon Driller at least 6 weeks before the first frost to allow it plenty of time to establish. When the weather gets cold (around 25°F), the cover crop will die off. Simply leave the residue to decompose and plant your crops normally in spring. However, if your winters are mild without enough frost to kill the plants, you’ll want to cut the plants down when pods appear, to prevent seed development and self-sowing in the future.

Daikon Driller is an interesting choice as a cover crop and might be exactly the choice for loosening up and enriching your soil during the off season. It can be used alone or in combination with other cover crops like Hairy Vetch or Winter Rye. These crops have different benefits, like nitrogen fixing properties and helping to further maintain soil moisture.

Sources: 

https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/covercrop/oilseed-radish-tillage-radish/
https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs142p2_022940.pdf

Written by Teresa Chandler
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