Master Gardener: Time to dig horseradish roots and make potent sauce after frost

Chris Himmelwright
Pratt Tribune
Gardeners of horseradish say the roots of this potent plant are ready to dig up after the first frost.

Horseradish Alert

Horseradish is ready to dig after a hard freeze kills the foliage (usually November or December). The large roots can be harvested while smaller, pencil sized roots can be cut in 6-8 inch long sections as 'seed' or 'sets' for next year's crop which are then immediately re-planted. Another option is to leave the horseradish in the ground and dig as needed. If you choose the latter option, be sure to heavily mulch the area so that the ground doesn’t freeze. To use horseradish, peel the large, fleshy roots and cut into sections. Use a blender or food processor to chop the roots along with a small amount of water and a couple of ice cubes. Vinegar or lemon juice is added to stop the process that produces the “bite” of horseradish. Add immediately after blending for a mild flavor or wait up to 3 minutes to give the horseradish more kick. Use 2 to 3 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice per cup of horseradish sauce along with ½ teaspoon of salt for flavor. Horseradish has an extremely strong odor and so you may wish to open the blender or food processor outdoors and to keep your face away from the container when opening. Store ground horseradish in a tightly sealed jar in a refrigerator until ready for use.

Preparing Garden Soil

Autumn is an excellent time to add organic materials and till garden soils. Winter can still be a good time to take care of this chore as long as the soil isn’t frozen. It is far wiser to till now than to wait until spring when cold, wet conditions can limit your ability to work soils easily. Working soil when it is wet destroys soil structure and results in hard clods that are very slow to break down. On the other hand, dry soil may need to be watered so it can be more easily tilled. Be sure to wait several days after watering to let soil moisture levels moderate. You want the soil moist, not wet or dry, when tilling. There is a limit to how much organic material such as leaves can be added in one application. Normally, a layer 2 inches deep is adequate with 5 to 6 inches being the maximum that can be added at one time. Shredding the material before application encourages faster and more complete decomposition due to increased surface area. Remember, soil preparation is an important key to a successful garden.

Conservation Trees from the Kansas Forest Service

The Kansas Forest Service offers low-cost tree and shrub seedlings for use in conservation plantings. Plants are one to two years old and sizes vary from 8 to 18 inches, depending on species. Two types of seedlings are offered; bareroot and containerized. Containerized provide a higher survival rate and quicker establishment. Orders are accepted from now through May 1st, but order early to ensure receiving the items you want.

Orders are shipped beginning in mid-March. Approved uses for these plants include windbreaks, wood lots, wildlife habitat, timber plantations and educational and riparian (streambank) plantings. They may not be used for landscape (ornamental) plantings or grown for resale.

All items are sold in units. Each single species unit consists of 25 plants. For example, a unit of Eastern red cedar has 25 trees per unit. Though a single species unit is most commonly purchased, four special bundles are also available including a quail bundle, pheasant bundle, eastern pollinator bundle and western pollinator bundle.

Tree planting accessories are also available including marking flags, root protective slurry, rabbit protective tubes, weed barrier fabric and tree tubes. If there have been problems with deer browsing on young trees, the tree tubes are a must. For details and an order form, go to: Order forms are also available from local K-State Research and Extension offices. (Ward

Poor Drainage in Garden Areas

Winter is often a good time to fix areas in the garden where water sits and does not drain properly. Such areas often harm plant roots due to poor oxygen levels in the soil. Consider adding good topsoil so water doesn't sit. Be sure to till or spade the area to mix the new topsoil and the underlying existing soil. Plant roots do not like to cross distinct barriers caused by one type of soil sitting on top of another. Internal drainage can be improved by adding organic matter such as peat moss, rotted hay, cotton burrs, rotted silage, tree leaves or compost. This can be done by adding a 2- to 4- inch layer of organic matter to the surface of the soil and tilling or spading in as deeply as possible.

* Adapted from the Kansas State Horticulture Newsletter by Pratt County Master Gardener Chris Himmelwright.