by Jennifer Poindexter
Horseradish. You either love it, or you hate it. There doesn’t seem to be much of an in between with this plant. No matter your thoughts on it, most of us would agree it’s a unique crop.
In fact, horseradish can be considered either a root vegetable or an herb. Which category it falls under will depend upon your use for it.
If you love horseradish and would like to grow your own, you’re in the right place. I’m going to walk you through each step of the process.
This growing season, do something different by including horseradish in your garden.
Growing Conditions for Horseradish
Horseradish is a great crop for multiple areas. It grows well in planting zones two through nine. This crop is also a lover of cooler temperatures.
The ideal growing temperatures for horseradish range from 45- to 75-degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to plant during the time of year, in your planting zone, where these temperatures can be accommodated.
Along with cooler temperatures, horseradish likes loose soil. Where it’s a root crop, the looser soil allows the plant to dig deep and expand as needed.
The soil should also be well-draining. You don’t want your horseradish plants to feel as though they’re swimming.
Outside of the appropriate temperatures and soil, horseradish is actually a great candidate for container gardening.
The reason being, horseradish is quite invasive. It’s considered a perennial crop and, when harvesting, if you don’t remove the entire root it will continue to spread and produce.
Once you’ve decided where you can safely plant horseradish, you’re ready to learn how to get this crop moving forward in your gardening area.
How to Plant Horseradish
Horseradish is grown from sets. These are crowns, similar to what asparagus grows from. Plant the sets one month before the final frost.
Be sure to amend the soil in your planting area. If you’re planting in a bed, be sure to loosen and enrich the soil at least six inches beneath your planting location.
The sets should be placed in the ground, with one foot of space between each plant. If growing in a container, you should only plant one crown per container.
When planting, you should see the base of the crown is at an angle. Plant the pointed end deeper into the soil than the shorter side.
Cover the sets with a few inches of soil once planting is finished. These plants can grow to be approximately three feet tall, so be sure to take this into consideration when choosing how many and where you plant this crop.
You now know how to get your horseradish started. It’s time to discuss how to care for your crop while it’s growing.
How to Care for Horseradish
Horseradish only requires basic care. It needs water, fertilizer, and weeding. Water is, perhaps, the most complicated step out of this process.
It’s vital that you use a rain gauge when raising horseradish because it needs two inches of water per week. It shouldn’t get much more or less.
If you underwater, the roots will get woody and fibrous in texture. If you overwater, your harvest will be bitter.
It’s a good idea to practice deep watering with horseradish, in an effort to avoid over or underwatering. Deep watering is when you apply more water to your crop fewer days per week.
A good way to test if you need to deep water is to stick your finger into the soil next to your crop. If the soil is dry to the first knuckle, add more water. If it’s still moist, wait and test it again another day.
There should be as few weeds as possible in your horseradish bed. They’ll compete for nutrients and are an excellent place for diseases and pests to hide.
Avoid weeds by either pulling them by hand, applying mulch around your crop, or both. The mulch will not only keep weeds down, but it’ll also help keep moisture in around the plants.
Finally, be sure to fertilize your horseradish plants the first and second month after planting. Apply a fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen.
The only other grow tip that should be offered is that if your horseradish begins to flower, avoid pruning. In many herbs, when you see flowers, it’s instinct to prune the plant to make it “feel young again.”
With horseradish, you can let it go. The flowers will have no impact on the root of the plant. If you’re using the foliage as an herb, you may prune to prolong the growing season.
If you can provide these few simple things to your horseradish plants, you should have healthy and productive plants come harvest.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Horseradish
The only things that could stand between you and a gorgeous harvest are pests and diseases. Horseradish doesn’t have many enemies, but there are a few things you should look for when raising this crop.
The pests which commonly impact horseradish are flea beetles and leaf hoppers. They’re small, black bugs which chew on the foliage of your plants.
In severe cases, they can cause plants to become stunted or to wilt. You can treat them by spraying your plants with insecticidal soap.
The other pest you should be aware of are leafhoppers. These pests do as their name suggests. They jump from plant to plant and suck the sap from them as they go.
They, too, can be treated with an insecticidal soap as this will kill them in their earliest stages. Stay on top of these pests, and your plants have a great chance at thriving.
The diseases you should be aware of are white rust and root rot. White rust looks as it sounds. It begins as discolored spots forming on the leaves.
As time passes, the spots grow, impacting the entire plant. White rust is a fungus and can be treated in its early stages with the same fungicides that treat downy mildew.
However, once white rust takes over, it’s difficult to treat. Be sure to stay alert to this disease for the best chance at saving your crops.
Root rot is the other disease which impacts horseradish. This occurs when the plant isn’t placed in well-draining soil.
The roots become waterlogged and begin to rot. When this occurs, you can attempt to save your plant by uprooting it and allowing it time to air dry before transplanting in a better location with soil that drains.
In many cases, your plant may not bounce back. Therefore, it’s vital to ensure you plant horseradish in the correct growing conditions from the start.
These are the diseases which can commonly impact your horseradish crop. By staying on guard to potential threats, you’re protecting your plants and the work you’ve put into them.
How to Harvest Horseradish
Horseradish isn’t ready to harvest until after frost has occurred. When the frost kills the foliage of the plant, you know it’s time.
Harvest your horseradish crop during the fall or winter months, depending upon when you planted and what the weather is like in your planting zone.
In some planting zones, you may grow horseradish over winter and harvest in early spring. Gardeners have found that waiting to harvest until the spring provides a spicier harvest.
When your plants are ready, dig up the roots. Unless you want to treat horseradish as a perennial, ensure you remove all the roots.
Once they’re out of the ground, store them in a root cellar, packed in a crate with layers of saw dust between the roots.
You may also store them in your refrigerator for up to three weeks after harvest. When you’re ready to use fresh horseradish, peel and grate it.
Congratulations! You’ve successfully grown horseradish from start to finish at this point. Horseradish may not be a choice crop for everyone.
However, if you’re someone who prefers a natural spice, you might want to consider raising this in your garden. Remember to plant with care as horseradish likes to take over.
Now that you know how to grow and care for horseradish, it’s your turn. Consider raising this herbaceous root crop in your garden this growing season.