Growing Horseradish: A How-to Guide
The most common types of horseradish to grow are common and Bohemian. Both grow best when planted in the spring several weeks before the last frost, and will grow vigorously during cold fall and winter months. To plant horseradish, place the slanted, cut end on a diagonal down into the soil, with a layer of compost on the bottom. Keep horseradish plants controlled by digging up unwanted plants or planting within a bucket in the soil. Keep the plants watered and weed-free. Harvest horseradish by gently digging around the root and pulling up from underneath.
How to Choose the Best Horseradish
The two most common types of horseradish to grow are known as common horseradish and Bohemian horseradish. Common horseradish has wider, and longer, leaves and has the taste most people prefer. However, it can be more prone to disease and pest infestation.
Bohemian horseradish is said to be more pungent in flavor, but has more resistance to common disease and pests. You can distinguish Bohemian horseradish by its narrower leaves.
Both types grow in similar conditions. The type you choose to grow depends on your ability to keep your plants free from disease and pests, and your taste preferences.
You can purchase your root cuttings from the grocery store or a nursery.
When to Grow Horseradish
Horseradish plants don’t require a lot of care, as they are hardy crops that last throughout the winter. It’s best to plant in the spring, so that plants can become established before colder weather begins.
It is recommended to plant horseradish several weeks before the last frost of the season, regardless of the type of horseradish you plan to grow or where you purchased it from. If you aren’t familiar with them, research your region’s weather patterns to ensure the best time to plant, according to your typical frost seasons.
How to Plant Horseradish
Before you plant horseradish, ensure that your horseradish roots are cut on a slant at the end. This slanted end is what you will plant downward to form the rooting system.
Horseradish grows best in a moist soil with a neutral pH. Till the bed or garden area to create a depth of between six and eight inches. You should place compost or fertilizer at the bottom of each furrow for optimal nutrition to your horseradish plants. Then, cover the compost or fertilizer with another two inches of soil.
Your roots should be slanted within the soil, at about a 45-degree angle. This will allow the rooting system to grow straight down from the cut end without entangling the roots from other horseradish plants. Each root should have about two feet of space between them.
Ensure that the top of each root is about two inches below the surface of the soil, so you can place another two inches of soil over them. Water the soil thoroughly, and it should begin to grow rapidly.
Horseradish doesn’t require a lot of extra care, but you still need to keep it healthy. In the spring, once you have established plants, GrowOrganic suggests using a high-quality fertilizer on your plants. The ideal fertilizer is one that is low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus to aid growth and keep the soil at a neutral pH.
Other than this one-time fertilizer boost, you just need to keep your horseradish plants well-watered and weed-free. Some gardeners opt for mowing over the area where their plants are growing for easy weed control, or pull weeds as you see them. Water the soil whenever it begins to dry, but don’t let it get to the point of becoming dry.
Controlling Horseradish Plants
Horseradish is one of the easiest plants to care for. Once you plant it, it requires very little maintenance to grow. However, it does need to be contained once it becomes established, or you will run the risk of it overtaking your garden. Once it begins to grow out of control, it can be difficult to eliminate unwanted horseradish plants.
To control horseradish plants, you may consider:
- Digging up unwanted plants. If you do this, make sure you dig up the full root system as well, or it may entangle your other horseradish plants. You can choose to transplant the horseradish to a new area or kill off the plant.
- Prepare the soil before you plant. Consider planting a large bucket in the soil for each of your horseradish plants. This can help keep the roots for each plant contained in a manner that won’t affect the rest of your garden.
- Camouflage unwanted plants. Mow over the area of unwanted horseradish and plant grass. Your plants will remain, but they won’t overtake your garden.
Harvesting and Storing Horseradish
For best flavor, horseradish should be harvested in cooler months, as cool soil helps to produce its pungent taste. The optimal time to harvest horseradish for most regions is in late fall through early spring. This also gives you a large window in which to harvest your horseradish, so you don’t have to harvest a lot at one time and chance it spoiling.
You’ll know your horseradish is ready when its root is about 1-inch in diameter. You can check one of your roots by gently digging it from the ground. Replant it if it needs some time to grow. Horseradish typically takes a full year after planting to become established enough for harvesting. However, once it’s established, you should continue to have excellent growth each year.
To harvest horseradish, use a digging fork to loosen the soil in a circle around the plant. Then, use your fingers to determine the angle of the root, so you can more easily follow its path to dig around it. Use your fork to help you gently pull up on the root from underneath.
Wash off each root and let them dry completely. You can then store them in the refrigerator in a perforated bag, preferably in the vegetable crisper section, for about 3 months.