Horseradish: How to Plant and Care for in Your Garden

Horseradish - Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz

Introduction: What is Horseradish and Why Grow It in Your Garden?

Horseradish is a perennial plant with a long history of medicinal and culinary uses. It is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes other popular vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Horseradish has a distinctive, pungent flavor that can add a unique kick to many dishes. It is also high in vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants, making it a healthy addition to any diet.

Growing it in your garden is a great way to ensure a fresh supply of this versatile plant. It is relatively easy to grow and requires little maintenance once established. By planting it in your garden, you can also save money by avoiding the high cost of buying fresh horseradish at the grocery store.

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know to successfully plant and care for horseradish in your garden. From selecting the right location to harvesting and preserving your crop, we will provide you with all the information you need to grow delicious, healthy horseradish at home.

Selecting a Location for Horseradish Bed

Choosing the right location for your bed is crucial for a successful harvest. Horseradish prefers full sun, but it can tolerate some shade. A well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5 is ideal. Before planting, clear the area of weeds and rocks, and loosen the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches (30 cm). If your soil is heavy and clay-like, amend it with organic matter such as compost or aged manure to improve drainage. Make sure the planting site is not located near trees or shrubs, as the roots of these plants can compete with horseradish for nutrients and water.

Preparing the Soil for Horseradish Planting

The key to successful horseradish cultivation is to start with rich, loose, and well-draining soil. The soil should be worked to a depth of at least 12 inches (30 cm) to allow the roots to penetrate deeply. If your soil is heavy or clay-like, amend it with organic matter such as compost, well-rotted manure, or chopped leaves to improve its structure and drainage.

Avoid using fresh manure, which can burn the roots and stunt growth. Instead, use aged manure or a balanced fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in equal proportions. Test your soil pH and aim for a slightly acidic range of 6.0 to 6.5.

Remove any weeds or rocks from the planting area and break up any clumps of soil. Rake the soil smooth and level, and water it well to help settle it. Allow the soil to rest for a few days before planting. This will give any remaining weed seeds a chance to germinate, and you can remove them before planting your horseradish.

Starting Horseradish from Seed or Root Cuttings

Horseradish can be started from either seed or root cuttings. Growing from root cuttings is the most common method and is easier and faster than growing from seed. If you are growing it for the first time, it is recommended to start with root cuttings.

To start from root cuttings, dig up some horseradish roots from an established plant in early spring or fall, when the plant is dormant. Look for healthy, firm roots that are about the thickness of a pencil and at least 10 inches (25 cm) long. Cut the roots into pieces that are 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) long, making sure each piece has at least one bud or “eye” on it.

If you are starting from seed, sow the seeds indoors in late winter, about 6 weeks before the last expected frost date. Sow the seeds ¼ inch (0.6 cm) deep in moist, well-draining soil. Keep the soil moist and at a temperature of around 70°F (21°C) until the seedlings emerge.

Whether starting from seed or root cuttings, plant the horseradish in a sunny location with well-draining soil that has been prepared as described in the previous chapter. Plant the root cuttings or seedlings about 2 inches (5 cm) deep and 12 inches (30 cm) apart, with the buds or growing tips facing upwards.

Planting Horseradish: Spacing, Depth, and Timing

Once you have prepared the soil and obtained your horseradish starts or root cuttings, it’s time to plant them. When planting, spacing and depth are important factors to consider.


When planting horseradish, you should space the plants about 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm) apart in rows that are 30 inches (75 cm) apart. This allows enough room for the roots to develop properly and prevents overcrowding, which can lead to stunted growth.


The depth at which you plant horseradish depends on the size of the root cutting or start. If you’re planting root cuttings, plant them at a depth of about 2 inches (5 cm) with the bud pointing upward. If you’re planting starts, plant them slightly deeper at about 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) deep, with the crown just below the surface of the soil.


Horseradish is a cool-season crop that prefers to grow in temperatures ranging from 55 to 75°F (13 to 24°C). For best results, plant in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked, typically in late March or early April. You can also plant it in the fall, about 4 to 6 weeks before the first expected frost. However, fall-planted horseradish may not yield as much as spring-planted.

Once you have planted your horseradish, be sure to water it well and keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. In the next chapter, we will discuss how to care for your plants to ensure they grow healthy and strong.

Watering and Fertilizing Horseradish Plants

Once your horseradish plants are established, you’ll want to make sure they’re getting the right amount of water and nutrients to keep them healthy and productive. Here are some tips for watering and fertilizing the plants:

  1. Watering: Horseradish plants prefer consistently moist soil, so it’s important to keep them well-watered. However, be careful not to overwater them, as this can lead to root rot. A good rule of thumb is to water your plants deeply once a week, and more often during hot, dry spells. Make sure the soil is moist to a depth of at least 6 inches (15 cm) each time you water.
  2. Fertilizing: Horseradish plants are heavy feeders and require plenty of nutrients to grow well. You can fertilize them with a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer once a month during the growing season. Alternatively, you can use a slow-release fertilizer at the beginning of the season, which will gradually release nutrients over time. Be careful not to over-fertilize your horseradish plants, as this can lead to excessive foliage growth at the expense of root development.
  3. Mulching: Adding a layer of mulch around your plants can help to conserve moisture in the soil and suppress weed growth. Good mulching materials include straw, leaves, or grass clippings. Apply a layer of mulch about 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) thick, taking care not to cover the base of the plant.

By following these tips for watering and fertilizing your horseradish plants, you’ll help ensure that they grow strong and healthy, and produce a bountiful harvest of flavorful roots.

Mulching and Weed Control for Horseradish Beds

Mulching and weed control are important steps in maintaining healthy and productive horseradish plants. Mulching helps to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weed growth, and regulate soil temperature. Weed control is important because weeds compete with thr plants for nutrients and water, which can reduce yields.

When to Mulch

Mulch your horseradish beds in the spring, after the soil has warmed up and you have added any necessary fertilizer. A layer of 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) of mulch is sufficient to provide the benefits mentioned above. Avoid mulching too early in the season as this can delay soil warming and hinder plant growth.

What Mulch to Use

Any organic material can be used for mulching, including straw, leaves, grass clippings, and wood chips. Avoid using fresh manure or other materials that may contain weed seeds. The mulch should be spread evenly over the bed, making sure to leave a small gap around the plant stems to prevent rot.

Weed Control

Weeds can quickly overtake a horseradish bed, so it is important to stay on top of weed control. Hand pulling weeds is the most effective way to remove them without damaging the horseradish plants. If you have a large area to cover, a hoe or cultivator can be used to loosen the soil and uproot the weeds.

Another effective method of weed control is to use a pre-emergent herbicide before planting. This will prevent weed seeds from germinating and reduce the need for hand weeding. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and apply the herbicide before planting.


Mulching and weed control are simple and effective ways to keep your horseradish plants healthy and productive. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your plants have the nutrients and moisture they need to thrive, while reducing competition from weeds.

Companion Planting with Horseradish

Companion planting can be a great way to enhance the health and productivity of your horseradish bed. Here are some companion plants that can be beneficial when planted alongside:

  1. Potatoes: Horseradish is said to deter potato bugs, so planting potatoes nearby can help keep them away.
  2. Peppers: Peppers and other nightshade plants, such as tomatoes and eggplants, are believed to benefit from the natural insect-repelling qualities of horseradish.
  3. Radishes: Radishes can help attract beneficial insects like ladybugs, which can help control harmful pests in your bed.
  4. Marigolds: Marigolds are known to repel a variety of pests, and they also add beautiful color to your garden.
  5. Chives: Chives are said to improve the flavor of horseradish when planted together.
  6. Beets: Horseradish can help to repel leaf miners, which can be a pest for beets. Additionally, beets can help to improve the soil by adding organic matter.
  7. Carrots: Carrots and horseradish can both benefit from being planted together, as the carrots can help to break up the soil and make it easier to grow.
  8. Spinach: Horseradish can help to repel slugs, which can be a problem for spinach. Additionally, spinach can help to shade the soil and prevent weeds from growing.

When companion planting with horseradish, make sure to give each plant enough space to grow and thrive. As a general rule, horseradish should be spaced 18-24 inches (45-60 cm) apart in rows that are 24-36 inches (60-90 cm) apart. Be sure to also provide adequate water and fertilization to all of your companion plants, and monitor for any signs of pests or disease. With the right companion plants and proper care, your horseradish bed can flourish and provide you with a bountiful harvest

Harvesting and Storing Horseradish

When horseradish plants are mature and the foliage begins to die back, it is time to harvest the roots. This typically occurs in the fall, but can also happen in the spring depending on when the plants were planted.

To harvest, use a digging fork or spade to loosen the soil around the base of the plant. Carefully lift the roots out of the soil, taking care not to damage them. Rinse off any excess soil, and trim the tops and roots to about 2 inches (5 cm) in length.

At this point, you can choose to store the roots for later use, or you can prepare them for immediate consumption. To store the roots, wrap them in damp paper towels and place them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They should last for several weeks when stored this way.

To prepare the roots for consumption, wash them thoroughly and use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer. Grate the roots using a fine grater or food processor, and mix with vinegar, salt, and a small amount of sugar to make a traditional horseradish sauce.

When using fresh horseradish, it is important to work in a well-ventilated area or outdoors, as the fumes can be quite strong and can cause eye irritation. You may also want to wear gloves to protect your skin.

Overall, harvesting and storing horseradish roots is a simple process that can provide you with a flavorful addition to your meals for weeks to come. With proper care and storage, you can enjoy the unique taste and health benefits of horseradish all year round.

Pests and Diseases: How to Prevent and Treat Them

Pests and diseases can cause serious damage to your horseradish crop if left unchecked. Here are some common pests and diseases to watch out for, and tips on how to prevent and treat them.

  1. Aphids: These small, soft-bodied insects can suck the sap from your horseradish plants, causing stunted growth and yellowing leaves. To prevent aphids, keep your plants well-watered and fertilized, and remove any infested leaves or plants. You can also use insecticidal soap or neem oil to kill aphids.
  2. Slugs and snails: These slimy creatures can eat large holes in the leaves of your horseradish plants. To prevent slugs and snails, keep your garden free of debris and mulch, and avoid overwatering. You can also use copper tape or diatomaceous earth to create a barrier around your plants.
  3. Root maggots: These tiny white larvae can bore into the roots of your horseradish plants, causing stunted growth and wilting. To prevent root maggots, rotate your crops each year, and remove any infested plants. You can also use row covers to prevent adult flies from laying eggs on your plants.
  4. Clubroot: This soil-borne disease can cause stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and swollen, deformed roots. To prevent clubroot, avoid planting horseradish in the same spot for more than two years, and make sure the soil is well-draining and rich in organic matter. You can also use fungicides to treat clubroot.
  5. Powdery mildew: This fungal disease can cause a white, powdery coating on the leaves of your horseradish plants. To prevent powdery mildew, keep your plants well-ventilated and avoid overcrowding. You can also use fungicides or a mixture of milk and water to treat powdery mildew.

By taking proactive steps to prevent and treat pests and diseases, you can ensure a healthy and bountiful harvest of horseradish.

Uses for Horseradish in Cooking and Beyond

Horseradish is a versatile root that can be used in a variety of dishes, both in cooking and beyond. Here are some creative ideas for using horseradish:

  1. Condiment: Horseradish sauce is a classic accompaniment to roast beef, but it can also be used as a condiment for other meats, sandwiches, and even as a dip for vegetables.
  2. Marinade: Mix horseradish with oil, vinegar, and spices to create a flavorful marinade for meat, poultry, or fish.
  3. Dressing: Use horseradish to add a kick to salad dressings or creamy dips.
  4. Cocktail sauce: Mix horseradish with ketchup, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce to make a spicy cocktail sauce for shrimp and other seafood.
  5. Bloody Mary: Add horseradish to a Bloody Mary for a fiery kick.
  6. Wasabi substitute: If you can’t find wasabi, use horseradish instead. It has a similar taste and can be used in sushi, sashimi, and other Japanese dishes.
  7. Pickling: Horseradish can be pickled and used as a condiment for sandwiches, salads, and meat dishes.
  8. Potato salad: Add horseradish to potato salad for a tangy twist.
  9. Deviled eggs: Mix horseradish into the yolk mixture for deviled eggs to add a zesty flavor.
  10. Grilled vegetables: Brush grilled vegetables with a mixture of olive oil and horseradish for a bold and spicy flavor.

Beyond the kitchen, horseradish can also be used in a variety of other ways

  1. Natural medicine: Horseradish has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments, including respiratory infections, joint pain, and sinus congestion.
  2. Insect repellent: Horseradish can be used as a natural insect repellent. Simply mix horseradish with water and spray it on plants to keep bugs away.
  3. Cleaning: It can be used as a natural cleaning agent. Mix it with vinegar and water to create a powerful cleaning solution for surfaces and floors.
  4. Skincare: Horseradish can be used in skincare products to brighten and tone the skin. Mix horseradish with honey and apply it to your face for a natural glow.

With so many uses for horseradish, it’s no wonder this root is a staple in many kitchens. Whether you’re using it to spice up your favorite dishes or as a natural remedy, horseradish is a versatile and flavorful ingredient.

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