Best Ways to Harvest Horseradish

Horseradish is one of the few perennial plants in the vegetable garden. Since it’s aggressive, you’ll want to grow it correctly but also make sure you don’t miss any when harvesting. Timing the harvest also makes a difference.


Growing Affects Harvesting

Horseradish can be grown in the garden as a perennial or annual. It can also be grown in containers. From the standpoint of harvesting, each has advantages and disadvantages. Although it prefers full sun, it will also grow in partial shade. In any case, make sure you have fertile, well-drained soil with adequate moisture to support good root growth.

Different Ways to Grow Horseradish

How you grow horseradish affects harvesting. Each has benefits:

  • Annual – prevents the plant from becoming invasive and roots are often high quality and more pungent.
  • Perennial – it’s not as important to get all the roots; you want some to grow back.
  • Container – easy to harvest and no worries that it will become invasive.

Climate and Harvesting

Your climate affects the timing of the horseradish harvest. In temperature climates, or if growing as an annual, the usual practice is to dig the roots in the fall. It’s best to wait until you’ve had several frosts, as these promote dormancy. In frost-free climates, most experts recommend you harvest in the winter months. No matter what your climate, spring harvest is not recommended.

Harvesting Techniques

If horseradish has room to spread, the roots will do just that. It’s not uncommon to have a root ball two or three feet across. The roots can easily travel several feet into the ground. A digging fork is generally a better choice than a shovel, which is more likely to slice off the roots. If you choose a shovel, it should have a sharp blade.

How to Dig Horseradish

In the garden, begin by digging a trench around the plant. For an average-sized plant, you should dig at least one foot away from the plant itself. Once you’ve got the trench down to 18 inches, see if you can lift the root ball with the fork. If not, dig deeper. Ideally, you want the root ball to come out as a fairly intact mass.

Annual, Perennial or Container Horseradish?

When harvesting horseradish that is being grown as a perennial, leaving some of the roots is a way to ensure next year’s plants. Just dig enough to expose some roots and cut them off, then replace the soil. For annual horseradish, harvest the entire root. Make sure you get every last piece of root, or it will regrow. To harvest containers, simply dump the container and sort out the roots.