Always early to arrive in the Food Garden at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG), fellow volunteer Neil was hard at work clearing the expanding forests of horseradish plants – just the tops, not digging down for their tasty roots. Not yet. Another time. Trust me, none of this is any holiday!
As wonderful as the root is for sauces and to add zest and spice to a meal, the plant is desperate to grow deep and explore more and more ground and can become a nuisance. Once you have a horseradish plant in the ground, it is almost impossible to contain or to remove. The roots are deep and resist lifting in their entirety. They are always determined to leave a little piece of themselves to start anew. One that I was growing in a pot at home, let it’s root leave through the hole in the pot’s bottom and off it went. When I lifted the pot with great difficulty, I was astonished how far the root had spread. With repetitive effort I have stopped the spread. The pot now sits on a barren rock and, right now, the plant is looking a little unwell – it wants more space, it wants to spread. For the time being, I will do what happened to the RTBG Food Garden horseradish plants – nip off the leaves and stalks to ground level.
While the Food Garden’s store of horseradish was being brought to ground, tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchinis, quinces and more were harvested ready to take to charity.
Elsewhere, in a small garden bed, a couple of us looked in awe at two weeks growth of lettuces from the recent thrashing.
Over time we relocated a selection of those plants to their own bed giving them space to grow. They will provide a ground cover to protect the soil from drying out too much and a harvestable crop (if the wallabies don’t chew them down overnight) for charity in a few weeks’ time. After watering in, handfuls of blood and bone were distributed around the garden edge and across the bed – as a smelly deterrent to the wallabies and to provide nourishment for the plants.
Meanwhile a couple of others carried five tray loads of silver beet plants and gave them a new home.
Once these jobs were finished, a buggy load of compost was brought to the Food Garden and then shovelled across the horseradish beds, and raked.
During the afternoon we tackled the fresh growth of weeds in the tea plantation: irritating flick weed, devious brown oxalis, occasional purslane, and a few other less frequent varieties. Our amiable chatter, in the warm autumn sun, was a fitting conclusion to a productive work day. I felt revitalised with a spring in my step as I headed off to catch the bus home. Back home, I looked around my garden and felt inspired again.