Breaking Up Is Easy to Do with Daikon Driller as a Cover Crop

Cover crop growing tips

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.

Person holding daikon driller cover crop

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 For Compacted Soil

Sometimes soil is simply too compacted and hard to work without a little intervention. Daikon Driller is a great choice for gardeners who still want to go the no-till route but are struggling to break up the soil. 

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 penetrate 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 scavenged, 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 them. 

Because radishes are part of the mustard family, radishes provide a modest benefit in terms of nematode and pest suppression. We suggest Yellow Mustard if you’re looking for more heavy-duty biofumigant action without the bio-drilling properties.

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.

Pairing Daikon with Other Cover Crops

Daikon Driller 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. 

Tillage radish might not be the first thing you think of when you’re considering cover crops, but it has some unique benefits, particularly its ability to loosen the soil. It might be exactly the choice for loosening up and enriching your soil during the off-season.

Written by Teresa Chandler

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