Q. There is a horseradish festival in Collinsville every year, but when you try to find out how to grow horseradish, there aren’t too many people who know. I have tried to dig a hole in the ground and place the root vertically in it, but this does not work too well. Do you know anything about this plant’s culture?
— J. K. of Granite City
A. Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is one of the most labor-intensive crops grown by farmers. Most of it is done by hand.
In the spring, place the root horizontally and kick soil over the smaller diameter end of the root, then firm it with your foot. root and then is firmed up by foot. About three weeks later, inspect the root. Reduce the number of shoots to just three by removing the rest by hand. Horseradish does not have any stems, just roots and leaves that may grow up to 3 feet tall.
A few weeks later, lift up the front of the root and remove any vertical roots that are trying to develop so that they do not grow downward and make the harvesting in the fall impossible. They will grow too deeply and take some of the energy which helps the horizontal root grow larger.
Keep the weeds hoed around the plant so it can receive all the nutrients possible. In the fall, after a hard frost kills the upward shoots of leaves, the root may be dug and harvested. Take the roots into an unheated barn to clean off any soil and cut off the dried-up stems. There may be two small roots, called sets, at the end of the larger root. Place the sets into a burlapped crate and place them in a trench in the soil to keep them alive until ready to plant in the spring.
The horseradish plants grown in the American Bottom area is the most pungent (HOT) of any growing location in the world. This is one of the reasons for the festival being located in Collinsville. It is estimated that 6 million gallons of prepared horseradish are produced every year.
There is a legend where Delphic oracle’s words to Apollo are: “The radish is worth its weight in lead, the beet its weight in silver and the horseradish its weight in gold.”
By the way, the horseradish plant is poisonous to horses.
Q. Our raspberry plants have finished bearing fruit and are beginning to die back. What should we do?
— G. L. of Fairview Heights
A. Raspberry plants produce canes (stems) the first year and flowers and fruit the second year (biennial). The canes naturally die after the second year. Pruning should be done late in summer by removing the entire stem of all the canes that bore berries. Then you can also prune back the first-year canes 3 to 4 inches to encourage more branches to develop. If you look closely, there may be smaller plants forming at the base of the mother plant. They can be cut and dug up for more plants in the future. Check these younger starts of plants for any signs of virus, which may appear as yellowing, spots on the leaves, or wilting, before trying to propagate more.
Do it now
SPRING BULBS: Get the soil ready for planting; it is too early to plant the bulbs.
HERBS: You can begin making cuttings from your herb plants to overwinter for next year.