Sunday, 4 July 2010

Growing Beetroot

  • Growing Beetroot is fairly straightforward and this along with the relatively short growing period 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. 
  • Beetroot 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 beetroots available, these are round in shape and have the advantage over the red varieties of not bleeding in salads. 
  • The leaves can also be cooked and served like spinach.
  • Globe beetroot is reasonably tolerant of soil conditions growing well in 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.
  • Seed can be sown directly into the soil from April to July.
  • Make a 2cm (0.75in) deep trench with the corner of a rake (or a cane will do) and drop in seeds every 10cm (4in). Two seeds can be sown together if you want a strong row without breaks.
  • Cover, water well and label - when the seedlings are about 2cm (0.75in) high, remove the weakest of each pair to leave one beetroot seedling every 10cm (4in).
  • If you want a plentiful supply of beetroot, sow seeds every month, keeping rows 20cm (8in) apart.

  • If you have a small garden, beetroot are easy to grow in pots.
  • To grow in pots (ideal for round varieties, not long cylindrical ones), choose containers that are 20cm (8in) in diameter and at least 20cm (8in) deep.
  • Fill loosely with multi-purpose compost leaving the compost just shy of the top.
  • Tap the pot gently to settle, and firm with your finger tips aiming to leave a 4cm (1.5in) gap between the surface of the compost and the top of the pot.
  • Sow seeds thinly across the surface and cover with 2cm (0.75in) of compost.
  • 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.  However, water frequently in dry weather, especially if grown in pots or containers.
  • Water and thin out seedlings when they're about 2cm (0.75in) tall, leaving 10cm (4in) gaps between them.
  • Once the plants are established the thick foliage will suppress 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.
  • Depending on variety, beetroot is ready to be picked when the roots are between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball - this is usually 90 days after sowing. 
  • To harvest, gently hold the tops and lift while levering under the root with a hand fork. Any attempt to wrench the plant directly out of the ground will  likely result in an undesired result.
  • Remove the tops by twisting them off with your hands to prevent the plants bleeding their juice - don't throw these away, they have bags of taste and can be cooked and eaten like spinach, and are very tasty in a stir-fry.
  • To store line the bottom of a container with 5cm (2") sand and place a layer of beetroots 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 beetroots.

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