If you’ve been put off the idea of growing beetroot because of memories of vinegary slices in salads, think again. Try growing a few and roasting them: you’ll be converted!
In this article I will teach you step by step how to grow your own beetroot from seed.
As well as the well-known red beetroots, you can also buy golden varieties. These have the advantage of not bleeding when you cut them, and the leaves can also be cooked like spinach.
Sowing and Growing
Beetroots are like carrots: they thrive best in a sandy, light soil and don’t like freshly-manured ground. As with carrots, planting them in recently manured ground or ill-prepared and stony ground can cause fanging (forks in the root). Choose a round variety (rather than the other long or cylindrical varieties) to help combat this if you live in an area with heavy soil.
From mid-April, you can plant beetroot straight into the ground in drills (rows) that are about 12 inches apart. Plant them 1 inch deep and about 2-4 inches apart. It’s a good idea to sow a small batch of seeds every few weeks until the end of June so that your crop is not all ready at once.
Don’t be impatient – the seedlings can take up to three weeks to come through. When the seedlings are about 1 inch tall, thin them out if necessary. You’re aiming for an eventual distance apart of about 4 inches to give the beetroots plenty of room to grow.
Birds will find the seedlings tasty, so deter them by stringing a web of black cotton through the leaves.
Caring For Your Crop
A consistent amount of water is what you should aim to provide. Dryness will make your beetroots woody, but a sudden deluge of water will make them split, or encourage leaf growth rather than root growth. A little and often is best.
If weeds are a problem, hand weed between the plants to avoid damaging the roots.
Light hoeing between the drills is fine if you are very careful and steer clear of the beetroots themselves.
Your crop will be ready after about 12 weeks.
You should aim to pick the beetroots when they are about 2 inches in diameter. Don’t cut off the leaves; twist them off instead to avoid breaking the skin by accident.
If your beetroots have white rings inside when you cut them, you’ve left them too long! Pick alternate plants as you need them, leaving the remainder a little more space to grow.
Once the leaves start to lose their fresh look and become limp, it means that they have stopped growing and that they are ready to harvest. If you live in a mild area of the country, you could leave the roots in the ground, covered with a layer of straw. But a hard frost will damage beetroots, so you may prefer to lift, cook and freeze them.