From Houseplant To Horseradish — And Even Some Tomato Talk


… with an aching heart. Remember those words from a song? I do! Desert Rose is a low-maintenance, compact, woody houseplant deserving far more attention than it gets. It has a thick trunk that swells to a large size where water is stored. Oddly shaped, plump branches display leathery leaves. The plant can attain a height of 60 cm (two feet) and a width of 45 cm (18 inches).

Originating from arid regions of Africa, this plant loves heat and resents cold weather. Most of the hybrids sold today are produced in China, Taiwan, Thailand and India. Some specimens are trained to become bonsai plants and others are grafted onto oleander plants.

Desert Rose is excellent for those people who “ignore or lose every indoor plant” because it lives with little care and can take a good deal of neglect. It may sound delicate but is sturdy enough to survive. It doesn’t do well outdoors, if the temperature drops below 15 C (60 F) but can surpass your expectation as an excellent indoor container plant. For optimal growth, make sure the plant receives some direct sunlight during low-light days of winter and bright, filtered or dappled light in summer.

Desert Rose becomes larger, more interesting and more valuable every year. Well-endowed specimens of established older plants with large bases and a multitude of branches have sold for $1,000- plus. More branches mean more flowers.

Plant it in a high-drainage soil made up of two parts loam and one part coarse sand. Desert rose is susceptible to root rot, so avoid keeping it in any standing water or excessive moisture. Reduce frequency of watering to once a month during winter to induce a period of dormancy, which is essential for blooming. Excessively long and leggy branches can be cut off to encourage fresh, thicker growth and more flowers during the blooming season. This is best done in early spring between the day after the start of a new moon and full moon.


Widespread ominous symptoms of late blight infected many tomato plants early in the season this past summer. A lot of gardeners have expressed concern about disease spores left in the soil and are asking what to do.

The simple or most common answer always seems to be something like this. Choose a new growing site and don’t plant tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplant again in the same location for at least three years. That’s fine and dandy if you have the extra space. But what does a gardener with a small backyard growing area do when a change of soil rotation becomes near impossible?


Here’s the long and short of it, should you wish to use the same growing site next season. Depending on where you live, prepare your intended tomato-growing area as early in spring as weather permits. Clear it of all plant debris. Level out the soil and then moisten it (but not mucky) with water.

As soon as practical, cover the entire site with a sheet of fairly heavy clear plastic. Firm the edges in place with bricks, stones, boards or other objects to hold in place. Keep the plastic as firm and tight as you can so it won’t blow away. The objective is to bake the soil, under sunny skies to kill off disease spores.

After one week, remove the plastic covering and till the soil lightly to bring any remaining active pathogens to the surface. Moisten soil again and then return the plastic cover back in place as previously explained. Let the soil bake for an additional three weeks, but not less than two more weeks. By the end of this period, soil is so well cooked that it’s free of diseases. (Save this for reference next spring.)


Hildegunde Naber writes from Red Deer, Alta.: Dear Ted, I truly enjoy reading your column in Grainewsand learn each time a little more. I have a question to ask: how can I prepare horseradish from the horseradish plant in my garden? I would appreciate your advice. Sincerely and many thanks.

Ted’s Response: Horseradish is tough enough to withstand our Canadian winters without protection. It requires no care other than it can take over large sections of the garden. Rototill deeply around the edges to keep it confined to one area.

Dig horseradish root late in fall after a few frosts, or very early in spring as soon as ground is thawed, before any leaves appear. Clean and peel the horseradish root (wear protective gloves if skin is sensitive) and place in the freezer for two or three hours first. This helps it grind easier. A food processor with multi-function strong blades or meat grinder works well. Fill small zip-lock bags, baby food or jam jars and return the ground horseradish to the freezer for future preparation.

Here are some options for table use. Mix some fine bread crumbs with a chosen amount of ground horseradish. Add a little fresh sweet cream and sprinkles of sugar to help reduce the strong taste. Some folks I know like to add cooked, ground beets, honey mustard or mayonnaise as alternatives. Goes well with roast pork, roast beef and even on eggs. It’s all a matter of taste.


This may help change someone’s life for the better, but remember I am not a doctor and do not diagnose nor prescribe.

If you have the sniffles, stuffy nose or cold, horseradish is good medicine.

Here’s a simple remedy once recommended by old-timers as a digestive aid and for the relief of dropsy, now better known as edema. The latter is the accumulation of excess fluid in the body especially around legs, ankles, feet or hands.

2 ounces horseradish root, scraped or peeled

1/2 ounce mustard seed, bruised (i. e. partly crushed)

3 cups boiling water

Place horseradish and mustard seed in a heatproof jar and cover with boiling water. Let stand 2 hours and then strain. The suggested dose is 1 or 2 tablespoonfuls 3 times daily. It’s always good to consult with an herbalist or physician skilled in natural medicine.


Wear a pair of non-elastic light and loose-fitting socks to bed. Feet often feel colder than the rest of the body at sleep time. You could also place a hot water bottle, or a warmed magic bag filled with grain or dried fruit pits under your feet. Once the body temperature is raised under the covers, it will later drop, facilitating slumber and signalling it’s time for shut-eye. I sometimes wear socks to bed myself and place a warmed cloth bag filled with grain on my stomach. I drift right off within 10 minutes. (Also see “Sleep Well” in my Nov. 8Grainewscolumn)


… is the name of a song I wrote back in 1992. Three verses of the lyrics and refrain follow.


I received your card, Christmas Card, Have a merry, beautiful Christmas and a happy bright New Year.


1. After all there is a reason why we celebrate this season,

Something special happens at this time of year,

Spirits rise as families plan to be with loved ones if they can,

I’m coming home for Christmas that is clear.

2. Children’s faces beaming bright just like the star on that first night,

Nothing else could make me feel so glad,

May the beauty of this Christmas, bring contentment and peace to us,

Love’s the best gift to give and be had.

3. Let the blessings of this season in abundance give us reason,

To say thank you Lord for coming here,

Gifts of love and spreading joy to man and woman, girl and boy,

Is a reminder He is ever near.


… may all of its days bring good things to you and good things to me. Then let them remain ’til it’s new year again, with a heart full of love let it be.

ThisisTedMeseytontheSingingGardener andGrow-ItPoetfromPortagelaPrairie, Man.Indeadofwinterorsweatofsummer, adailywalkisimportantforallofus,but dressaccordingly.MayIsaythankyoufor joiningmeagainonthelastGrainewsSinging Gardenerpagefor2010.We’reallfamiliarwith thatstatement:Youarewhatyoueat!Whether agardenerintownorfarmeroutinthecountry, thefoodweeatthat’sgrownclosesttohome andhowwehandleitisoursourceofhealth andwellness.Joinmeonthegardenpath whenthenextissueofGrainewsarrivesin January2011.Watchforitinthemailbox.My emailaddressis [email protected]

About the author


Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.



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