Beetroot

Why Grow Beetroot?

Beetroot comes in many shapes and colours, red, yellow, white and ringed, and globe, cylindrical or flat.

Beetroot is best known as a cold salad vegetable; (often doused in vinegar, which can destroy the delicate beetroot flavour); but it is also a delicious hot vegetable. It is usually boiled, but can also be baked or added to a dish of roasted root vegetables, and is the main ingredient of borsch soup. And do not forget the foliage! The leaves are usually discarded to the compost heap, but are a delicious vegetable in themselves. Cook them as for spinach, or include the younger leaves raw in salads. The leaves have high in vitamin A and C, iron, calcium and trace minerals.

Quick Facts
Botanical Name : Beta vulgaris
Sowing Time : Heated Greenhouse – January
Unheated Greenhouse – February
For outdoors – Sow indoors early March, plant out early June
Harvest Time : June to Mid October
Hardiness : Not hardy – Protect From Frost
Position : Full Sun, Sheltered from strong winds
Soil Type : Well drained and fertile
Average Plant Height : 60cm / 24in
Spacing : 60-75cm / 24-30in
Spread : 60cm / 24in
Soil and Preparation

Choose a sunny spot for your beetroot, if you are growing long roots for the show bench you will need deep, sandy soil, otherwise beetroot will grow in almost any soil. Dig over the bed in the autumn or early winter and incorporate some well-rotted manure, if the soil is known to acid add some lime at the same time.

Prepare the seedbed in spring, creating a good fine tilth. 2 – 3 weeks before you intend to sow your beetroot, rake in some Growmore type fertilizer, this will give your seedlings a good start.

Seeds and Sowing

Each “seed” is a small cluster of several actual seeds, which will create their own space in the ground and therefore limit the eventual size of the root. If sown carefully, thinning is not necessary, but by leaving them until the largest roots are of an eatable size, this will leave room for the smaller ones to grow on. Alternatively you could use some of the plants for a delicious baby leaf salad. Beetroot needs a minimum temperature of 7C (45F) to germinate, so for an early crop indoor sowing in modules is recommended. Young plants exposed to temperatures below 10C (50F) are likely to bolt, so covering early summer sowings with fleece is a good precaution.

Caring for your Crop

Seedlings may need protection from birds. Keep your bed free from weeds, just be careful not to damage the roots if you are using a hoe. During dry spells keep them watered to avoid the roots going tough and ‘woody’.

Harvesting

Beetroot can be harvested from 8 to 12 weeks onwards, depending on soil and climatic conditions. Pull up alternate plants when they reach the size of a golf ball, serve them as baby beet, and leave the remaining plants to reach maturity. Harvest them when they are about the size of a cricket ball. When handling the roots be careful not to damage the roots or they will “bleed”, the same applies to the foliage; twist them off as cutting causes “bleeding”.

Storage

Beetroots can be left in the soil to overwinter with extra protection from a layer of straw. If conditions are more severe it is advisable to lift the roots and store them in moist sand in a frost-free shed.