Beetroot

Although it took me the best part of 25 years to discover it, fresh beetroot is tasty, versatile and packed with goodness. Can the can!

Site and soil

Beetroot like fertile, well drained and well worked soil and plenty of sun.  They will benefit from the addition of compost or manure, but be careful not to add too much nitrogen or you will end up with lush foliage and not much root development. They like good levels of potassium and phosphorus and prefer to follow an above-ground crop.

Planting

Best time for planting is late spring-summer for seeds and early summer for seedlings.  Plant seeds at a depth of 1-2 cm about 10 cm apart, with about 20-30 cm between rows. Keep soil moist until seedlings emerge in 10-14 days.  Seeds are actually clusters of 1-4 true seeds in a corky outer casing, so thinning is usually necessary after germination. Soaking seeds for about 2 hours in water just before planting is said to speed up germination.  Seedlings can be transplanted once they’ve formed their first proper leaves. Ensure seedlings are are kept moist during transplanting.

Cultivating

Beetroot needs lots of water – insufficient or irregular watering will lead to cracking or forking.  They may need:- to be thin out while young, if they do and you are careful you will be able to transplant these.

Harvesting

Maturity is between 8 and 10 weeks from planting. Older roots will become tough and fibrous while smaller vegetables will be sweeter, so try to harvest before 10 cm in diameter. Use a garden fork to lift from the soil.

Problems

Beetroot is not generally bothered by pests, but the leaves can occasionally be attacked by grubs or chewing insects.

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