Here is our guide to growing beetroot. Beetroot is a marvellous crop, mainly used to add colour and flavour to salads, although it is becoming an increasingly popular addition to sweet treats. It can seem a slow-starting crop, but will speed up once the seedlings emerge. Growing and caring for beetroot is simple, they don’t require a great deal of space to grow, so are perfect for gardeners with little space as well.
If you are growing beetroot from seed, softening the hard seed cover is key as this well help to speed up the maturity process. To do this, soak the beetroot seeds in a bowl of warm water overnight so the shell is softened and the seed swells. Once you are ready to sow your beetroot, choose a sunny spot that has rich, well-drained soil (beetroot doesn’t like wet soil). Sow your beetroot seeds 1-2 cm deep in rows 20cm apart. After you have planted your beetroot seeds, go back and cover them with a light dusting of loose soil. If you’re growing your beetroot in a pot or container, select one with sufficient drainage and a depth of 25 – 30cm as this will encourage the roots to develop. In about 14 days you should begin to see the beetroot sprouting.
When you first plant your beetroot (the first 14 days) be sure to water them every day. Once the plant begins to sprout you’ll need to only water it every 10-14 days. Beetroot are sensitive to changes on water levels – a dry soil will result in low yields and a woody flavour to your beets.
Beetroot seeds are made up of a cluster of 2 or 3 seeds, so thin out the weakest seedlings as soon as possible. You can do this around 4 weeks into the growing process. This will allow your remaining seedlings to thrive and grow a decent size.
If you are planting beetroot seedlings, gently pull them apart and allow 5-10cm between each to allow space to grow and to reduce competition for nutrients.
The leaves of beetroot can be harvested at any time and can be enjoyed in salads or cooked like spinach. Make sure you start with the outer leaves, however leave a few on so that the plant continues to grow. Beets are ready to harvest about 7-13 weeks after they were planted. If you want to harvest the root of the beet, wait until the outer leaves are about 6 inches long. This will help you determine if the buried root is ready without pulling the entire beet out. Do not leave them to reach the size of a cricket ball as they will have a woody taste to them.
To harvest your beetroot, gently loosen the soil around it and pull. When you bring them in, be sure to twist off their tops instead of cutting them. Leave a 5cm crown of stalks above the beetroot. The reason is that cutting them could cause them to bleed. When they bleed they lose some of their color and taste.