Like the cheerful spheres I hang on my Christmas Tree, these gorgeous globes hide beneath their luscious tops (delicious delights, seldom discovered), storing health to nourish our bodies, until they harvested out from beneath the blanket of soil. Paint your garden red and discover with me how to grow your own?
|PARTS YOU CAN EAT:||Swollen roots, young leaves|
|SOWING SEASON:||Spring to autumn – see sowing chart|
|LIGHT:||Full sun to partial shade|
|SOIL pH:||pH 6.0-7.0|
|HOW MANY:||25 plants every 4 people|
|PLANT AGAIN:||Every 4 – 5 weeks in growing season|
|SEED SPACING:||Seeds 5 – 10cm apart / Rows 20 – 30cm apart|
|GERMINATION:||8 – 18 Days|
|HARVEST:||8 – 10 weeks after sowing|
|STORE:||Refrigerate or pickle|
|COMPANION PLANTS:||Lettuce, onions, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, cabbage, parsnips|
|HEIRLOOM SEED:||Candy Cane, Cylindria, Golden Detroit|
GROW BEETROOT IN 5 EASY STEPS…
Beetroot are very adaptable and I grow mine almost throughout the year but September to March seem to be particularly good sowing months. I tried them in container gardening and they work!
Beetroot grows best in rich, loose, friable soil which has good drainage, helping the tap root grow plump & strong, not compacted or lumpy soil as the roots will be stumpy & misshapen. I like to add bone meal & aged compost before sowing, to encourage fast root growth – which keeps them sweet & tender.
Beetroot seed looks like a clump & is actually a cluster of 3 – 5 true seeds. I sow mine directly, 5 cm apart, in shallow farrows of about 2.5cm (which I make with my dibber) & cover with soil. I thin out mine by removing every other seedling to be 7 – 10cm apart as the roots begin to form – this extends the harvest period.
*TIP: soak seeds overnight to speed up germination period which is 8-18 days.
3 – WATERING BEETROOT:
Beetroot must be kept moist (but not wet = rot) as a sudden lack of water can interrupt growth and make them stringy and tough. I mulch the soil with wood chips or grass cuttings as this stops the soil from drying out. Remember: don’t add too much nitrogen as this leads to excess leaf production & smaller roots.
4 – HARVESTING:
I harvest my beetroot when the roots are between 5 – 7cm long; after this they begin to loose flavor. Always twist off leaves about 5cm above the root to stop the leaves depleting the nutrients. I plant 2 x 1.5m rows, every 4-5 weeks in the growing season, to ensure a constant harvest. Sow to harvest = 8-10 weeks.
I came across some beautifully different beetroot seed in my travels like the cylindrical shaped beetroot aptly named “Cylindra” or the STAIN FREE candy-striped “Chioggia” , or the golden orange “Golden Detroit“. I find that beetroot does well as a follow-on crop, especially after heavy feeders like tomatoes.
GOOD COMPANIONS: Lettuce, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, parsnips and garlic (improves flavour and growth)
BAD COMPANIONS: Runner beans, mustard.
I get rid of pests like Cutworms & Leaf Spot with organic Bioneem and Copper Soap. Beetroot are a soil and compost improver as they accumulate minerals, especially magnesium so I throw the leaves removed from the harvested roots back on top of the soil as leaf mulch. I also eat my young leaves in salad or stir-fry.
FACT: Beetroot is an excellent source of vitamin A and are high in fiber and anti-oxidants. They are among the sweetest vegetables and contain even more sugar that carrots or sweetcorn!