Growing tasty and healthy beetroot

Growing beetroot is essential for the home gardener, as this wonderful root veg is super healthy. With successional sowing and storing, you can have your own for months and months. Beetroot loves a sunny spot in the garden and a good free draining soil, growing them in a shade or heavy soil is not recommended.

There are many different beetroot varieties are available, but the standard globe shaped deep red beetroots growing in many gardens and allotments up and down the UK.

Also popular beetroot the yellow Boldor F1 variety and the Chioggia for an added interest as the this beetroot has stripy roots. Choose wisely among the different beetroot varieties, for storing beetroot the best are Boltardy and Detroit. For slicing the best are the cylindrical varieties like Cylindra.

Sowing beetroot seeds

Dig the garden soil in the spring, few weeks before sowing as beetroot likes a loose and light soil and plenty of sunshine. Dig in a small amount of well rotted manure the previous year, as beetroot does not like very rich soil, and rake well. The beetroot seeds need quite a lot of moisture to germinate.

Avoid growing beetroot in semi shade, beetroot thrives in full sun. I had the last two rows of my plants in a semi shaded area by accident this year, they were in shade for about the last third of the day, and they have hardly produced. If sowing in pots and containers used quality seed compost.

Sow beetroot indoors

Sow the beetroot seeds inside in the unheated greenhouse when there is no fros expected. Use ordinary seed sowing compost and multi purpose compost.

This way you can have a had starting comparing to direct outside sowings. You can sow them in modules, see below, to plant out later on in the growing season. And you can also sow the beetroot in guttering just like peas, so you can plant them out in an easy way when the soil is warm outside.

This means that you will not need to thin out the seedlings, as the seeds are quite large and you should be able to space them out evenly in the guttering. And if you plant out your home grown plug plants you do not need thinning out.

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Growing beetroot from seeds is very easy and nobody should buy plug plants in my opinion, as from a packet of seeds you get many plants. You can sow some seeds every month from March inside to July direct outside to have fresh, young roots all season long. Baby beetroot is just the most delicious semi cooked in a salad, or a side dish.

Leave about 30 cm between the rows so weeding will be easier and the plants will have plenty of room to grow.

Sowing direct outside

Dig the soil in the autumn or in the spring, remove stones and weeds, beetroot loves loose, sandy soil, and rake to a fine tilth. Sow the seeds from early April direct outside in shallow drill. Heavy soil planting will result in deformed roots and poor growth and most likely that not even one plant will thrive.

Water lightly and the seeds will germinate in 14 – 20 days depending on the temperatures. If it gets really cold the germination could get eradicated so it is best to wait till mid spring to sow the beetroot seeds.

If it happens I just carefully prick out the crowded beetroot seedlings with a trowel and plant them into the gaps; as at places the beet seedlings still will be crowded. The beetroot seeds are in clusters which means that what looks like one beetroot seed it is actually 3 – 5.

Sowing beetroot in pots

If you only have a small space available or you would like to try to grow beetroot in larger pots you can do so and have a good crop. Choose a pot at least 20 cm deep. You can sow the seeds in the greenhouse this way as early as March. And later on you can put the pots outside when the weather warms up. Other than regular watering, the plants in the pots will not need any other care.

The sowing time will depend on where you will keep the pots. Growing beetroot near the house will mean a more sheltered location and you can sow the seeds early April, but if the containers in a more exposed spot in the garden wait till late April.

Sowing in modules

If you want to have a head start you can sow beetroot seed in modules inside, under cover. The germination will be faster this way than in the cold ground early spring. Sowing indoors in early spring gives you plenty of head start for the approaching season, as outside the soil temperature is still low, your seeds would not germinate.

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Plant one seed per module and it will give you 3 seedlings. You can leave all the three as sometimes it is a difficult task to remove the side seedlings. This way essentially you create your won beetroot plug plants.

And if you plant beetroot in a well prepared raised bed, all the seedlings will grow fine as they push each other apart, and as mentioned before just pick the biggest one gently when the roots are golf ball size. This way you can enjoy the smaller roots, and waste less seedlings.

Growing beetroot in containers

It is perfectly possible to grow beetroot in containers, make sure the container is at least 20 cm deep. And you can try to grow beetroot in larger containers and pots, for example in old water tank or old wheelbarrow. You can easily harvest the mature roots from a large container.

Grow beetroot in polytunnel or greenhouse

Growing beetroot indoors have many advantages:

  • Beetroots can have an early start as you extend the growing season by starting seeds earlier in the season for a really early crop, you can do this in February. Also you can sow beetroot inside in early summer for a late autumn harvest.
  • Less reliance on the weather
  • Less diseases and bugs

Caring for beetroot plants

Beetroot needs very little care, but occasionally the need some attention to encourage leafy growth, especially if the young plants had a setback early in the spring due to cold weather. If you grow beetroot in a rich, fertile soil, you are already set up for a bumper harvest.

Thinning beetroot seedlings

This is only needed if you sow the seeds direct in the ground. Just pull out the young seedlings if they are too crowded, and you can just rinse them in cold water and use them in salads in whole, as the young leaves are delicious.

Later on you might need to thin them again, leaving 10 cm between the beetroot plants. Also remember that the beetroot seeds are multigerm, which means that more than one seedlings will appear from one seeds, so you do need to thin these out.

Feeding

If your soil is poor and rocky it is worth adding some organic matter in the autumn, and some fertiliser in the spring, and also sand to loosen the soil. During the growing the beetroots do not need any extra feeding, only of your soil is really poor; use home made liquid fertiliser in this case.

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Watering

Water regularly especially in the summer months and during any dry spells as the root growth need plenty of moisture in the soil. This will help the beetroot plants to develop larger roots and for you to have bumper crop and a great harvest. You do need to water the plants more if your grow beetroot in raised beds, as the water tend to run through the beds easily if the soil is too loose.

Pests and diseases

Planting beetroot inside generally avoids most problems during the growing period. Outside in the main season there are few problems you have to watch out for.

Slugs and birds can eat them he young plants. Prevent from slug damage by using some crashed eggshells around the beetroot beds. And use temporary netting to protect from birds.

Flee beetles can be a problem, try to plant garlic around the beetroots to deter them.

Harvesting and storing beetroot

Harvest beetroot by pulling the plants and gently twisting them, also tear off the leaves rather than cut them, this will prevent bleeding and use a fork to help lifting up the beetroot. You can harvest baby beets from as little as 8 weeks after sowing beetroot. The young leaves are delicious too and can be eaten raw. And the young roots don’t even need peeling if they have a perfect smooth skin.

Gently pull roots up and protect the small feeding roots too, which are the little beard like features growing from the big root, especially if you want to store your harvest, they contain some extra moisture which the main bulb can use.

And the good news is the the beetroot leaves are edible too, and they are delicious not just when young but when older as well. Beetroot really is a brilliant vegetable as you can eat the whole plant from young till they are mature. And have a steady supply of beetroot for many months.

Place the beetroots in wooden boxes or strong cardboard boxes with sand and keep them in a cool dry place, out of light and out of frost. This way the roots will store 3 -4 months and all your efforts growing beetroot can be enjoyed for a long time.

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