Beetroot is such an easy to grow vegetable. When planned, successional crops can see you through from early July to mid May the following year. The swollen roots have an earthy taste and can range in colour from deep red to golden-yellow and even pale white. The traditional red colour associated with common beetroot is from a combination of betacyanin and betaxanthin. There are even varieties that have concentric pink and white rings! When harvested at the right times, the roots and leaves can all be eaten making it a very economical vegetable to grow.
Sowing and Spacing
Beetroot can either be sown in modules under cover from early March, or directly sown outside from Late March to early April. Warming the soil a few weeks before hand will help with germination. Beetroot like weed free, fertile soil, preferably manured the season before, alternatively, you can add plenty of rich compost. Try and remove as many stones as possible and create a fairly fine tilth for the seeds to grow.
Create drills 2cm deep, water liberally, then space the beetroot seeds 5cm apart in rows with 25cm between rows. The beetroot will probably still require thinning out as each beetroot seed is in fact a small cluster of seeds, unless you have specifically chosen to plant a monogerm (single seed) variety. However, do not discard these thinnings. Last season, I had tremendous success by creating additional rows of beetroot from plants that would have otherwise been destined for the compost heap!
For a continuous supply of beetroot, sow seeds monthly.
Beetroot do require plenty of watering in dry weather but too much water promotes leafy growth at the expense of the swollen roots. Keep the area weed free to stop the beetroot having to compete for nutrients.
Beetroot is ready for harvesting, approximately 90 days after sowing, or when the size of a golf ball for baby beets, or the size of a tennis ball for main crop. Gently prise the roots out of the soil with a fork, lifting them by the leaves. Twist the leaves off the tops rather than cutting them to reduce the beetroot bleeding.
Beetroot is best stored in boxes of damp sand for winter storage. Ensure that they do not touch each other in the box and store in a cool, dry place such as a garage or shed. Stored this way the beetroot should remain fresh until April if stored correctly.
Pests, Problems and Diseases
Beetroot are relatively pest and disease free. The most common problems that occur is bolting when temperatures fall below zero which is common in early Spring, but this can be rectified by growing a bolt resistant variety. Birds may also find the very young leaves very tempting so covering with a cloche for the first few weeks is beneficial.
- Boltardy (Bolt Resistant)
- Pablo (Bolt Resistant)
- Detroit Globe
- Pronto (Bolt Resistant)
- Detroit 2
- Red Ace
- Solo (Monogerm)
- Kestrel (Bolt Resistant)
- Burpees Golden
- Touchstone Gold
- Albina Verduna
- Albina Ice
- Barbabietola di Chioggia
- Candy Stripe
Hints and tips
The leaves of beetroot, when picked young, can be added to salads along with other mixed salad leaves. If a little older, the leaves can be cooked as you would spinach.
A stain free way of slicing the boiled beetroot to prevent staining of the hands is to slice with an egg slicer.
Some interesting facts and recipes for beetroot can be found on this link love beetroot.