How to Grow Beetroot - from sowing seeds to harvesting
Beetroot are easy to grow and ideal for anyone new to vegetable gardening. Most people think of it as a pickled salad vegetable. The young leaves can be used as ‘spinach’. Follow these with quick growing crops of late summer salads. The beets themselves, stands up well to oily fish like mackerel. You can also roast them, make soup (memories of a divine Beetroot consomme at a Polish wedding!) or even have them in porridge! Not tried that one but its on BBC GoodFood if you fancy it!
Careful planning can mean you have beetroot all year round. There are different varieties if you want to eat in summer or store for winter so decide your goal before you buy seeds. There are also bolt resistant varieties that take away one of the main problems that can happen with this crop. And if you want to grow sweet beetroots then see the section below on growing sweeter beetroots.
Sow three seeds 4" (10cm)) apart 1" (2.5cm) deep in rows 12" (30cm) apart. For best results, sow beetroot little and often, every 2 weeks or so from mid-April to July. You can start earlier in late February if you are going to protect them. For these early sowings, cover them to protect from late frosts. The Easy Fleece Tunnel will be perfect for this and can be packed away and hung on your shed wall as soon as the weather perks up. Sowing 2 weeks apart will give you a steady harvest of tender, golf ball size beet. You don't want to let them grow too large or they will become tough.
Where to Grow Beetroot
Beetroot seed can be sown in the ground or in a veg planter Or why not try setting up a simple Raised Bed? All the convenience of a container - just fill it and go, no digging - but the space of a garden bed.
Growing Beetroot in Containers
The round varieties rather than the long cylindrical ones are better for containers. your pot or container needs to be 8" (20cm) in diameter and at least 8" (20cm) deep. Fill loosely with multi-purpose compost leaving about 1.5" (4cm) clear at the top.
Growing Beetroot in the ground
Beetroot will grow well in any well-drained garden soil but requires fertile conditions. Prior to sowing, dig in around a bucketful of well-rotted garden compost or organic matter and rake in a handful per square metre/yard of a general purpose fertiliser.
Container & Ground
When the seedlings are about 1" (2.5cm) high, thin out to leaving the seedlings 4" (10cm) apart Water every 10-14 days in dry spells. If plants are not growing strongly, apply high nitrogen fertiliser, such as sulphate of ammonia, and water in well.
How to Grow Sweeter Beetroot
Some varieties are sweeter than others so the first step to get sweet beetroots is to choose the right variety.
Another reason your beetroot may be less sweet is water stress. Lack of water leads to the beets becoming stronger in flavor verging on bitter. They can also develop white rings.
Research has concluded that the soil is key to the sweetness of .beetroot. Too much chemical fertilisers and too little organic matter will reduce the sweetness. So to grow beets that are sweeter, stop using chemicals and use lots of organic material in the soil instead.
Eating your beetroot
People usually eat beetroots cooked in salads but you can also cook with them. But, don't just think about the root part of the beetroot. Beet leaves are delicious too. Think kale but sweeter and milder and cook them in the same way you would kale or spinach. Apart from savoury dishes you can also use beetroot for sweet recipes. How about this delicious beetroot brownie as something a little different to try?
Beetroot Problems, Pest & Diseases
This is when plants flower and set seed prematurely. Bolting is the plant in panic mode - it shoots up flower stalks to produce seeds and ensure its own survival. This generally makes the crop unusable so needs to be avoided. The best way to avoid bolting is to keep the plant happy. So sow at the correct time and keep the soil or compost moist. Not too wet or too dry. Bolting can also be triggered by a sudden cold spell so watch out for this and harvest a little early if you have to.
When you harvest depends how you like to eat your beetroot. Some people like the young tender golf ball sized ones. Some like the larger cricket ball sized ones. To get a mix - harvest every other beet, as and when you need them, leaving the ones in between to get to full size.
If you would like to know what else to plant alongside your beetroot check out this blog
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