A Great Resource For The Vegetable Gardener
|Sowing to harvesting||Round Types||8-10 weeks|
|Long Types||19-20 weeks|
|Size||Plants||about 30cm (1') tall|
|Roots||between 2.5cm (1") and 9cm (31/2") in diameter|
|Yield||Round Types||40 roots per 3m (10') row|
|Long Types||20 roots per 3m (10') row|
Growing Beetroot is fairly straight forward and this along with the relatively short time frame from sowing to harvesting has made growing beetroot very popular with amateur gardeners. Beetroot has a wide variety of uses in the kitchen which means that you are unlikely to waste any of the crop. It can be used in soups, salads and chutneys, it also excellent served as a hot vegetable, and the high sugar content means that it can be used a good base for home made wine.
The type of beetroot most people are familiar with is the round which is in general a deep carmine in colour, these round types are also called globe or ball. These round type are usually eaten as a salad vegetable but can be used as a maincrop and store for winter use. The other main shape is called long but this is hardly ever grown now as it is less sweet and succulent than the round varieties.
Most varieties of beetroot are red (carmine) in colour, however there are white and golden colour varieties also available, these are round in shape and have the advantage over the red varieties of not bleeding in salads. The leaves of these can also be cooked and served like spinach.
Globe varieties are reasonably tolerant of soil conditions performing well in both heavy and well drained soil that does not dry out in summer. However the best type of soil for all beetroot varieties is a light rich soil that is in an open sunny position.
If your soil is heavy then start to prepare it in late autumn, else prepare the soil in early spring. If preparing the bed in autumn leave the soil rough to allow the winter weather to break it down and make it more friable. Remove all weeds along with their roots also remove as many stones as possible. Do not add fresh manure when preparing the bed as this will cause the roots to fork. Ideally the soil should be pH neutral.
There is no point in sowing beetroot before mid spring, unless you live in a mild area or can provide protection from the frost. Try to use bolt-resistant varieties for the early sowings. Sow in small batches on a monthly basis until mid summer for use as a salad crop. If you want to store your beetroot for use over winter then sow in early summer.
To encourage germination soak the seed in water for a few hours, but only soak as many as you are going to sow, a packet of seed will contain enough seed for several sowings. The seeds are grouped in clusters making them easy to handle. Sow in rows 30cm (1') apart and at a depth of 2.5cm (1") leaving 5cm (2") between each seed cluster. After sowing carefully rake the soil back over the drill to leave a fine surface.
Beetroot seeds normally germinate within 12 to 24 days and will need thinning out twice, once at each cluster to remove all but the strongest, this is done as soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle. Then thin them again when they are 7.5cm (3") to give a final spacing of 15cm (6")
If you prepared the bed properly there is very little needed in the way of care other than ensuring a steady supply of water especially in dry weather. However care must be taken not to over do the watering as this will lead to lots of leaf growth and no swelling of the root. Once the plants are established the thick foliage will surpress weed growth, however if weeding is necessary this should be done by hand. While the seedlings are getting established providing some protection from birds is useful.
To harvest gently pull the beet when they are about 2.5cm (1") in diameter which is about eight weeks after they are sown. This initial harvesting can be a kind of thinning if you take every other plant from the row this will leave room for the others to develop more. Continue to harvest on an as and when needed basis then once they have reached a diameter of 7.5cm (3") they need to be harvested to get the best flavour etc.
Do not cut off the leaves but rather remove them by twisting about 5cm (2") above the crown. This helps to prevent bleeding which detracts from the flavour and colour.
To store line the bottom of a container with 5cm (2") sand and place a layer of beets on this so that they do not touch each other, add a layer of sand 2.5cm (1") thick and then another layer of beets and repeat until the container is full. The containers should then be store in a cool dry place, and you should have a store that will last through the winter until you start to lift the new season beets.
It is possible to grow beetroot in containers, ideally you should use large tubs but if these are not available then the smallest pot you can get away with is 30cm (1') in diameter. Fill the bottom of the container with 5cm (2") with bits of broken pot, broken bricks or some other hardcore to act as drainage. Then fill the remainder of the container with good quality potting compost, to within 7cm (2.5") of the top. Sow the seed thinly and then cover with 5cm (2") of compost and water well using a watering can with a fine rose. Gradually thin out the seedlings to give them room to develop, and if using a 30cm (1') pot leave only 8 plants to fully develop. Water frequently in dry weather.
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