The chances of getting a salad without beetroots on top of everything on the plate are slim to none in the UK. The general public, and particularly the country’s best chefs, have just come to realise what grow-your-own gardeners always knew: beetroots are sweet and earthy and do not require much.
They can be grown in your garden for both the rich red root and the tender young greens. Plus, they are easy to grow, and you don’t have to wait long to enjoy their delicious taste. You will learn in this guide everything you need to know about planting and harvesting beetroots and how to properly store them. After that, you may want to grow some tomatoes, broccoli or even garlic to upgrade your menu!
Table of Contents
What is beetroot?
Beetroot, also known as beta Vulgaris or simply “beets”, is a cool-season crop that grows quickly in full sun and is easy to raise from seed in well-prepared soil. Plus, they can also withstand frost and near-freezing conditions. This makes them an excellent autumn crop.
Beets come in a variety of colours, shapes, and sizes, with deep red, yellow, white, or striped roots. They can be picked when they are the size of a golf ball to a tennis ball. Larger roots can be stiff and woody. Beet greens are much more nutritious than the roots and have a wonderful and distinct flavour. Here are some of the varieties:
It is one of the most popular types, with deep red, globe-shaped roots that have a sweet taste. It is resistant to bolting, as its name implies. Thus, it can be planted sooner than many other kinds.
It’s an attractive cultivar with orange-pink skins and red and white rings on the flesh that turn pink when cooked. It’s great in salads with dark green tops and red stems.
It has smooth tasty roots with dark red skin and high sugar content. It can be eaten as baby beets or allowed to mature without becoming woody. It is also resistant to bolting.
It has long, red cylindrical roots that make it easy to slice into uniform slices. The roots have a deep, dark red colour, a delicious flavour, and may be stored for a long time. Because of its ease of slicing, it’s an excellent pickled vegetable.
It’s an excellent variety with dark red colour and smooth-skinned, spherical roots which are sweet and can be cooked or eaten raw. Roots can be used as baby beets, but they can also be let to mature without turning woody. The grown roots can be stored for a long time.
When is the right time for planting?
Begin planting beets as soon as the soil is workable in early spring. Plantings should be made every 2 to 3 weeks till mid-summer. They can be repeated throughout the summer as long as daily temperatures do not exceed 24 °C.
Germination takes 5 to 8 days in soil with a minimum temperature of 10 °C. It may take 2 to 3 weeks, though, in soil that is cooler than that. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before planting to speed up germination or when sowing in locations with little moisture and rainfall.
Sow the seeds from mid-summer to early autumn, commencing approximately 4 to 6 weeks before your first autumn frost, for an autumn crop. For a winter harvest, plant beets in the early to late autumn.
Preparing the planting site
Beetroot thrives in an open, sunny spot with light to medium soil. If the soil has already been manured for a prior crop, no further organic matter is required. They should get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Because Swiss chard and spinach are cousins of beets and are prone to comparable pests and diseases, avoid planting beets where they have recently been cultivated. Beets like fertile, well-prepared soil, but they may survive ordinary to low fertility.
The soil should be clear of rocks and other barriers to allow the round beetroots to develop properly. Soils with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 are ideal, though slightly alkaline (7.0+) soils can also be tolerated. Poor soil can be treated prior to planting by using a balanced fertiliser. Plus, dig over the soil and add a tiny bit of compost if it wasn’t already there.
How to plant your beetroot
There is a reason why it is ranked as one of the top 10 vegetables that can be grown in home gardens – It is easy to plant:
1. Choose either seeds or seedlings
These should be accessible at your neighbourhood nursery or garden centre. Don’t be afraid of seeds. Beetroot is known for its ease of care. In early sowings, the “Boltardy” type is recommended. White and golden types grow in half the time and don’t bleed in salads. Aside from these considerations, the kind you select will be determined by the look and flavour that most appeals to you.
2. Choose an appropriate location to grow
Beetroot prefers soil that is neutral, moist, and fertile. The soil should be soft and free of excessive clay or sand. Because roots develop at the surface, clay soil can be tolerated provided the top layer has been loosened by adding plenty of organic well-rotted matter. If the soil contains a lot of clay, don’t use it. The location must be sunny and open, but part shade is fine.
3. Add compost
Fill the soil with loose, multi-purpose compost all the way to the top. After that, thinly scatter the seeds throughout the area and cover them with 2 cm of compost.
4. Till the soil
Remove any weeds or debris, as well as any stones that could obstruct root growth. The soil simply needs to be tilled to a depth of one spade blade. Roughly level the area and scrape it to loosen it up. Late autumn is the greatest time to prepare heavy soil. Aim for early spring if the weather is mild. If you’re planting in the autumn, leave the top layer of soil rough to allow the winter weather to break it down.
5. Now sow the seeds
Sow seeds about two centimetres deep. Maintain a spacing of at least 10 to 15cm between seeds or plants. Planting them in rows will be the most convenient. For a continual yield, seed your plants every 14 days.
6. Thin the seedlings out
Once your seedlings have sprouted roughly 2cm of leaves, cut the weakest ones until the remaining plants are at least 10 cm apart. Pulling them out by hand may cause damage to the roots, so use a tool for a better result.
Beetroot proper care
The good thing about these plants is that they don’t require a lot of attention and they are not susceptible to pests or diseases. Have a look at the things you need to keep in mind:
Because beets are typically planted as a root crop, they prefer full sun but can also thrive in partial shade. Beets can be tucked into the garden between taller plants.
Beets love acidic conditions. It’s best to have light, well-drained soil. Rocks, clay, and anything else that could get in the way of root growth should be removed. Boron is required by beets to prevent black heart, a disease characterised by distorted leaves and corky black blotches on the roots. Compost or seaweed extract can be used as a soil amendment to deliver boron. Keep the area clean of weeds to avoid distorted roots.
Watering your plants the right way is always vital. You need to provide at least 2 centimetres of water to the top surface of the soil every week. Plus, consider mulching as it can prevent the soil from drying out and becoming too hot.
Temperature and humidity
Beets aren’t as cold-hardy as other cool-season veggies like broccoli, but they can handle a light frost. It is recommended that you keep them in cool weather. Ideally, this can be spring or autumn.
Supplemental feeding will be required about two weeks after the beets emerge if your soil is lacking in organic matter. Any good vegetable plant food will serve the purpose here.
How to harvest beetroots
But, how do you know when beets are ready to harvest? Harvesting beetroots will take place at different times depending on when the beets were planted, the temperature, and what you exactly look for in the crop. Plus, when to harvest them is determined by the size of the plant you want. Beets’ shoulders will protrude from the dirt and they are best when dark in colour and with a smooth surface.
Smaller ones are the most flavourful. Those that are larger can become fibrous, squishy, or wrinkled. All that is required to transport beets from the garden to the table, stove, or storage room is to follow these tips when you go harvesting:
- You may wish to irrigate the beet crop a day or two before harvesting to help them slip out of the soil more easily, depending on the soil and recent rainfall. This is especially true if you intend to pick beets by hand.
- To harvest beets by hand, grip the place where the leaves meet the beetroot and pull it out of the ground with a firm and steady pull. Beets can be harvested in a variety of ways, including digging. Dig carefully around and beneath the growing beets, making sure not to slice them through and then remove them out of the ground.
- If you’re going to use the beets right away, wash them after picking them. If you’re going to keep beets for a long time, keep them in a dry, shady spot until the soil on them has dried, then carefully brush it off. Beet greens can be clipped from the root sparingly and individually while the roots are still in the ground, or chopped off the beetroot in a bundle after the beet is harvested.
- Always plan ahead for the beet harvest, as beet greens will only stay a few days in the fridge and beetroots will only last a few weeks unless stored in sand or sawdust in a cool spot. When harvesting beets, try to eat some of them right away to get the most flavour and nutrition.
How to store beetroots
Beets can last long if you know how to store them properly:
- Before storing them, gently brush the soil off of them. Don’t wash roots prior to storing. If you do, make sure they’re completely dry. They should be kept in a cool, damp environment as close to freezing as possible without actually freezing (0°-4°C) and with a relative humidity of 95%. Beets should be stored in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper drawer of the fridge. By doing so, they will last 1 to 3 months in the fridge.
- If there isn’t enough room in the fridge, they can also be packed in a container. Just make sure to leave 5 cm of insulating material around the top, bottom, and sides of the stored roots. Regularly inspect roots in storage and discard any that show indications of decay.
Even if this is your first time growing beetroots, you won’t be able to resist growing them again and again now that you know how to do so with this guide. Above all, when you grow your own, you will be able to enjoy the tasty leaves that are generally all but gone by the time they reach the store shelves. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time for gardening!