Question: I love horseradish but can’t always find it in the stores. Can I raise it myself here in the Northwest?
Answer: Lucky you, loving such a prolific and virtually indestructible plant. Yes, you can successfully raise horseradish with yields that would satisfy even the most ardent lover of this tongue-tingling root.
Here’s what to do. Grow it in a 10-inch container, but make sure it has ample drainage holes. Plant a few healthy crowns just below the surface of the soil. Once plants are up and growing, fertilize once a week for two weeks with an all-purpose vegetable fertilizer. That makes it certain you’ll get good, fat roots.
Dig and remove roots as needed, though you need to wait until late summer or fall to do so. Be sure to leave at least a good-sized root to ensure you’ll continue to have fresh horseradish every year.
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To process horseradish, wash and peel the roots, put 1 cup of roots and 1 ½ cups of white vinegar in a blender and blend until smooth. DO NOT INHALE! Salt to taste. Keep it, covered, in the refrigerator or even the freezer. It will keep forever, though real lovers of the root will need to harvest every year.
Q: When I look out my window, I see a huge swath of brilliant yellow. Looks like the grass is losing the spring battle against dandelions. What can I do to restore some order?
A: Ah, dandelions, always at the same time a delicious food and the scourge of every lawn grower.
Dandelions (French for tooth of the lion) is one of the most prolific and widespread of weeds, and the one species we most commonly have in the Northwest is only one of the 25 species worldwide.
In my humble opinion, the best revenge is to eat them! Harvest the fresh new leaves for your salads or stir-fries. But to get the most impact on your unwanted dandelion crop, be sure to eat them before they flower and seed. Believe it or not, farmers make millions of dollars a year commercially growing dandelions.
Great, you say, but as fast as I get rid of them — both eating and digging — they come back, bringing with them yet more relatives. Yes, what you see is the tenacious nature of dandelions. Their taproots are incredibly strong and long. It’s hard to pull them out with much of a root attached. In fact, dandelions help both farmers and gardeners, as their long roots break up the subsoil, helping other plants spread their roots deeper
If you’re loath to use herbicides, (think kids, pets, water and air) you’re left with two viable alternatives: 1) Dig them; and 2) pre-emergent agents. If you chose to dig them, get as much of the root as possible, and keep after them, as it will take several diggings to weaken the plant, eventually killing it.
I prefer the second method of combating unwanted dandelions—pre-emergent agents. My favorite, and it really works, is corn gluten. It keeps all broad-leaf plants from germinating but will not harm your lawn. It will not kill existing plants, and is best applied very early in the spring to get ahead of the problem. I usually apply it in mid-summer as well. It is easy to apply and has the added benefit of fertilizing your lawn.
There’s an additional way to fight the battle with dandelions. Stop thinking of dandelions as weeds. By another definition, they are brilliant, golden-colored flowers. If you still think you have too many of them and have young children, let them see who can pick more of the flowers, and give a reward to the victor. Make sure you count the small green buds on every plant that are soon slated to turn into the flowers. Every kid loves a competition, and every gardener needs help!
Q: What’s your take on geotextiles used in gardening?
A: Timely question, as I am currently struggling with removal of geotextile in a portion of my garden. I put it down originally to keep weeds out of an orchard, but as soil found its way over the textile, and grass took over in the soil, I had almost forgotten that it was all underlayed with geotextile. That is, until I needed to dig up a portion of the area. Then it became a battle—a shovel didn’t always work, and I was reduced to working with a pair of scissors!
So do I recommend the use of geotextiles? No. Perhaps for a short period of time, but a good thick application of mulch is a much better solution with much less potential for future problems.
Kathleen Bander of Bellingham is a life-long gardener. Her column will appear in The Bellingham Herald weekly through the summer growing season. If you have a gardening question you'd like answered in the column, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more gardening information online, go to whatcom.wsu.edu/ch/mg.html.