Beetroot is a half-hardy biennial which is grown as an annual.
|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 easier than most other crops and is also one of the quicker growing crops. This combination has made it a very popular vegetable 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. Some of it's uses are in soups, salads and chutneys, it also excellent served as a hot vegetable. The high sugar content means that it makes 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.
Round types are usually eaten as a salad vegetable but are also used as a maincrop and stored for winter use.
The other main shape are the long varieties. But these are hardly ever grown as they are less sweet and succulent than the round varieties
Most varieties of beetroot have a deep red (carmine) colour. There are also white and golden colour varieties 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.
A suitable soil and site.
Globe varieties will tolerant a variety of soil conditions. They grow well in both heavy, and well drained soil as long as it 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 work on it. This will help 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. The ideal soil should be pH neutral.
Sowing the seeds
If you cannot provide frost protection there is no point in sowing beetroot before the end of April. You may be able to sow without crop protection if you live in an area which has mild weather. It is best 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. Do not soak all the seeds in the packet only do as many as you are going to sow. A packet of seeds 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 take between 12 and 24 days to germinate. They will need thinning out twice. The first time is when the seedlings are large enough to handle. At each cluster remove all but the strongest seedling. Then thin them again when they are 7.5cm (3") to give a final spacing of 15cm (6")
Care and Cultivation
If you prepared the bed properly then there is very little needed in the way of care. The exception being ensuring a steady supply of water especially in dry weather. But take care not to over do the watering as this will lead to lots of leaf growth and no swelling of the root.
Once the plants have become established the thick foliage will suppress weed growth. If weeding is necessary, hand weeding is the best option to avoid damaging the beets. While the seedlings are getting established providing some protection from birds is useful.
Harvesting and Storing
To harvest gently pull the beet when they are about 2.5cm (1") in diameter. This will be about eight weeks after they are sown.
By harvesting every other plant from the row you will leave room for the others to develop more. Continue to harvest as needed.
Once they have reached a diameter of 7.5cm (3") it is time to harvest the remaining beets 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 the harvested beets, line the bottom of a container with 5cm (2") sand. Then 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.
Once full place the containers in a cool dry location. You should have a store that will last through the winter until you start to lift the new season beets.
Growing in containers
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.
Cover the bottom 5cm (2") with bits of broken pot to act as drainage. Any broken hardcore will do. 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 as often as is necessary especially in dry weather.