How to grow red chicory (radicchio)

Growing red chicory, also known as radicchio, organically is a rewarding process that adds a burst of color and a unique bitter flavor to your salads and dishes. Radicchio thrives in cool weather and can be grown successfully with a few simple steps. Here’s a concise guide on how to grow red chicory organically:

Selecting Varieties

  • Popular Varieties: Choose from varieties like ‘Chioggia,’ which forms round heads, or ‘Treviso,’ known for its elongated heads.
  • Organic Seeds: Source organic seeds from reputable suppliers to ensure healthy, non-GMO plants.

Preparing the Soil

  • Location: Select a sunny spot that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily.
  • Soil: Radicchio prefers well-drained, fertile soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.8.
  • Amendments: Incorporate organic compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility and texture.

Planting Radicchio

  • Timing: Sow seeds directly in the garden 2-4 weeks before the last spring frost or in late summer for a fall harvest.
  • Sowing Depth: Plant seeds about ΒΌ inch deep, spacing them 12-18 inches apart in rows 18-24 inches apart.
  • Thinning: Thin seedlings to 12 inches apart once they are a few inches tall to allow room for mature heads.

Watering and Mulching

  • Consistent Moisture: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Radicchio needs regular watering, especially during dry spells.
  • Mulching: Apply organic mulch, such as straw or compost, around the plants to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.


  • Organic Fertilizers: Use a balanced organic fertilizer or side-dress with compost every 3-4 weeks to provide essential nutrients.
  • Avoid Over-Fertilizing: Excessive nitrogen can lead to lush leaves but poor head formation. Follow recommended guidelines for organic fertilizers.

Pest and Disease Management

  • Pest Control: Monitor for common pests such as aphids, slugs, and snails. Use organic methods like hand-picking, insecticidal soap, or diatomaceous earth.
  • Disease Prevention: Ensure good air circulation by spacing plants properly and avoid overhead watering to prevent fungal diseases. Crop rotation can also help minimize disease risk.

Harvesting Radicchio

  • Timing: Harvest radicchio when heads are firm and full, typically 60-90 days after planting.
  • Method: Cut the heads at the base with a sharp knife. You can harvest the entire plant or pick outer leaves as needed.
  • Storage: Store harvested radicchio in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks. For longer storage, consider blanching and freezing the leaves.

Tips for Success

  • Succession Planting: For a continuous harvest, sow seeds every 2-3 weeks during the growing season.
  • Cool Weather: Radicchio thrives in cooler temperatures. In hot climates, provide some afternoon shade or plant in the fall for a better crop.

By following these steps, you can successfully grow red chicory organically, enjoying its vibrant color and distinct flavor in your garden and kitchen. This method not only ensures a healthy, chemical-free crop but also promotes sustainable gardening practices.

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