Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The "Great Garden Goof" and the Great Excavation

I spent several hours working in my garden this weekend. I picked the last of the Hungarian wax peppers and composted what remained of the plants. I also pulled out the dying cherry tomato plants. I snipped, pulled, and tugged the beans out of the ground and from around my green-bean tepees. I planted garlic, tulips, and crocus bulbs. And I dug up (or rather, tried really hard to dig up) the gigantic horseradish plant that I mistakenly planted smack dab in the middle of my garden.

The horseradish plant in the middle of the garden
Notice how it towers over the leeks behind it.

This is the horseradish excavation site — a good foot and a half
down (farther in some areas) and up to 2 feet wide!

Okay, I didn't exactly mistakenly plant it. But I didn't bother to inform myself on the invasive properties of the horseradish root before I dug a little hole and planted a straggly little weed of a thing. It was given to me by my neighbor and meant as a nice gesture. I thought, "This is great; I'll just stick it in between these rows of garlic and see if it does anything."

Well, it did something all right — it grew into a big leafy bush with Go-Go-Gadget* roots . At first I was excited about the plant's success, considering that, when I planted it, it really didn't look so healthy.

Better late than never, right?

Months later, when I wanted to read about harvesting, I pulled my trusty Vegetable Gardener's Bible off the bookshelf and read about this hardy root veggie. I'm not so sure the optimistic statement in the last paragraph holds true in this particular instance. Oh, how I wish I had read about Ed Smith's "Great Garden Goof" before I popped the little sprout in the soil. I fear for my garden next year. You will understand better if you read exactly what Ed said on these matters.

I have excerpted a few paragraphs directly from The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith:

Some people claim to grow horseradish, but this vegetable is so easy it really grows itself. Rather than growing from seeds, this perennial develops from pieces of roots called root cuttings. You just plant the cuttings and stand back. The first season, let the plants grow and develop strong roots. Harvest the following fall after the first hard frost.

The Site
Let me share with you one of my Great Garden Goofs: I planted horseradish in the garden. So what’s the problem? The problem is that the horseradish has decided to colonize the whole garden; I’ve been trying for two years to root it out and still haven’t stopped the invasion. (Every broken piece of root I leave behind becomes a new plant. Horseradish makes the Hydra look like a household pet by comparison.) Were I to have the chance to do it over again, I’d give horseradish its very own plot a good ways from the garden, or grow it in a pot.

You see, I made the same goof as author Ed Smith. I tried to correct my error. I dug, and dug, and dug some more, trying to get all the crazy tentacles of the monstrous squidlike root from deep in my garden. I really tried to get every piece, but I am certain that a few probably still remain. Only time will tell — I will know for sure in the spring.

It was impossible not to break these tentacle-like roots.
They sprawled out and under in every direction while
getting smaller and more fragile. Even the littlest piece
will form another monstrosity next garden season!

The full horseradish harvest (or product of my excavation)

And here is the final kicker: I don't even like horseradish all that much! I plan to process it sometime this week and pack it into jars with vinegar. I will give some to friends and family who like it. But yes, this was a "Great Garden Goof" for sure!

— Kristy L. Rustay, Marketing Manager

*A reference to Inspector Gadget, a cartoon from my childhood


Kathleen C. said...

I know it's all chemical and scary but what about treating it with something like Roundup? Spray on a leaf and it spreads to the whole root system. Save a cutting first and plant it in a pot...

Kristy Rustay said...

Thanks for your input — it would be a great solution if I hadn't planted the horseradish in the center of my organic garden. I plan to plant more veggies in the same spot next year, and I don't want the to poison the food I will eat and share with others. I am hoping that once they begin to sprout, it will be easier to locate them and dig them up while they are still small. I'll be sure to update everyone come late spring.