Beetroot (Beta vulgaris)
Beetroot are pretty easy to grow, as long as you keep them growing well in good or reasonable soil. They are even delicious when eaten raw, boiled and then cooled for salads, and used in soups and stews. Baking them whole is the best way to keep their unique flavour.
For the best flavour, beetroot need to be grown quickly, picked when reasonably small and cooked fresh. The ornamental and colourful leaves look great in the garden - and, when young, can even be added to salads.
How to grow beetroot
Beetroot prefer a position in full sun. They will grow in light shade, but avoid areas that get no direct sun at all.
Improve the soil by digging in well-rotted compost - avoid manures and other fresh soil improvers as they can lead to bolting (going to seed early) or the roots not developing correctly. Remove any large stones and any areas of compacted soil as these can affect good root development.
Before sowing, give the soil a light dressing of a general granular feed.
Beetroot can also easily be grown in containers - providing they are deep enough.
Various beetroot shapes - round and long - and colours are now available, making beetroot a very ornamental vegetable to grow. Try growing them in the flower garden!
Most people prefer the traditional red globe varieties, although there are white, orange or yellow globes and red varieties that produce long, cylindrical, tapered roots.
The most popular variety is Boltardy, but the following are all good to grow: Albinia Vereduna, Babieto di Chioggia, Bikores, Bonel, Burpees Golden, Cheltenham Green Top, Cylindra, Detroit 2 Crimson Globe, Pablo, Red Ace and Wodan.
Wait until late March or April to sow your first beetroot as they dislike cold soil. For earlier sowing you could pre-warm the soil first with plastic sheeting or cloches. Then sow at fortnightly intervals until July for a succession of roots. Those sown from June onwards can be used for storing during winter.
Take out a drill about 2.5cm (1in) deep. Sow thinly to avoid overcrowding and having to thin out too much. Cover with soil and water in well.
When the plants are about 2.5cm (1in) high, thin out if necessary to leave them 10cm (4in) apart.
How to care for beetroot
Always try to avoid the soil drying out or the roots will turn woody, tough and lose their flavour. On the other hand, a widely fluctuating water supply causes splitting, so aim to keep the soil evenly moist, watering every 10-14 days during prolonged dry spells. You can help preserve soil moisture by adding a mulch along the row of plants.
Harvest the roots when they’re young and tender, rather than leaving them to get too big. Pull up alternate plants once they reach golf ball size, and leave the others to reach maturity. Harvest when no bigger than a cricket ball.
Beetroot may be susceptible to the following problems: Bolting, Cracking, Woody growth and texture.
|Foliage season(s)||Spring, Summer, Autumn|
|Sunlight||Partial shade, Full sun|
|Soil type||Chalky, Clay, Loamy, Sandy|
|Soil moisture||Moist but well-drained|
|Ultimate height||Up to 15cm (6in)|
|Ultimate spread||10cm (4in)|
|Time to ultimate height||3 months|