Grow Your Own Beetroot
Before the advent of the supermarket many traditional fruit and vegetable shops cooked their own beetroot on the premises. The beetroot was then sold hot, wrapped in newspaper and taken home for immediate consumption or left to cool for use in salads. The taste was a far cry from that of the beetroot on sale today. Luckily, by growing beetroot in the garden, this delicious vegetable can be enjoyed tasting as fresh and sweet as it should.
How to Grow BeetrootBeetroot prefers a sandy soil but if properly prepared any type of soil is suitable.
Dig the bed over in autumn incorporating well-rotted manure or compost if needed. It may be necessary to add lime if the soil is acid.
Rake the bed over before sowing seeds.
For an early crop that will be ready in May, sow beetroot seeds in early March under cloches. For a later crop, sow seeds between mid-April in the open until the end of June. Certain varieties can be sown in July for a late autumn harvest.
Sow seeds two at a time four inches apart in rows twelve inches apart.
Thin out the weaker of the two seedlings when they have grown to about one inch in height.
Keep the soil well-weeded and water regularly but moderately when the soil is dry. Mulch in very dry conditions.
Thin out the plants again when the beetroots are about two inches in diameter. These thinnings can be used in the kitchen. Allow the remaining beetroots to grow to about five inches in diameter. If they are left in the soil to get too big they will no longer be tender.
Never cut beetroot leaves or the red juice will bleed out of the vegetable. Twist off the leaves allowing at least two inches of leaf stalk to remain.
Different VarietiesThere are many varieties of beeroot, here are a few of the most common:
These are the more usual type of beetroot, round in shape as their name suggests and fairly easy to grow. Choose a bolt-resistant variety for early sowing. It is worth studying the characteristics of the different varieties as some are better for early sowing, some for the main crop and some store more successfully than others. There are also white or yellow types to choose from.
Cylindrical and Long Varieties
There are only a few types of cylindrical beetroot. They are good for winter storage and their shape makes them ideal for slicing. The long varieties are more difficult to grow in as much as they must have a sandy, free-draining soil.
Pests and DieseasesAt some point, your beetroot may be visited by various pests and dieseases. Here are a few to watch out for:
Symptoms: Damaged brown leaves. Young plants especially can be harmed.
Cause: Small, white grubs burrow into the leaves from May onwards.
Solution: Pick off and destroy all affected leaves.
Symptoms: Seedlings turn black and shrivel up.
Causes: Sowing seeds too densely in tightly packed soil which does not drain properly when there is rain.
Solutions: Pull up and discard affected seedlings. Thin out healthy seedlings.
Symptoms: The beetroot roots are forked.
Cause: Stony soil, heavy soil or too much fresh manure.
Solution: Dig plot well in autumn, remove any large stones and only use well-rotted manure or compost.