How to grow beetroot – an easy beginner’s guide
- By: Ashley Saunders
- May 2020
Beetroot (Beta vulgaris) is a root vegetable that’s packed full of essential nutrients. It’s easy to grow beetroot and they quickly mature, allowing you to go from seeds to plate in about 8 weeks.
As a tasty vegetable, beetroot are a fantastic source of fibre, vitamin B9, manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C. Their numerous health benefits of beetroot include improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, and increased exercise performance.
Beetroot are a versatile crop that is delicious raw, cooked or pickled. You can even eat the leaves! While we typically think of beetroot being a dark purple colour, there are many varieties that mature into several colours including yellow, white and pink.
So, here’s how to grow beetroot in you vegetable patch and ensure you have plenty to last you during winter!
Interesting beetroot facts!
Since the 16th century, beetroot juice has been used as a natural red dye. The Victorians used beetroot to dye their hair.
Beetroot can be made into a wine that tastes similar to port.
The world’s heaviest beetroot weighs 23.995 kg and was grown in 2019, in Cwmbran, Gwent by the Fortey family.
The beetroot was initially cultivated around 2,000 BC in the Mediterranean region, which makes it a natural fit for a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.
Beetroot were cherished by the Ancient Greeks. However, they ate the leaves, not the root.
Sir Alan Sugar of Apprentice fame demonstrated early entrepreneurial flair when, while at school, he got a job boiling beetroot for the local greengrocer.
One of the many reasons to grow beetroot is they will tolerate most types of soil. But ideally, you’d plant them in well-prepared, fertile soil and in full sun.
Prepare your soil by raking it and remove any rock or other objects. Clear soil will allow the roots to develop properly and result in plump, tasty beetroot.
Beetroot thrives best in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 but will tolerate slightly alkaline soils (7.0+). However, soil will a low pH (below 6.0) won’t provide the best result. So you may want to test you soil and slightly adjust it’s pH.
A few weeks before planting it’s worth covering your vegetable plot in manure or compost and let it rot into the ground. This way the soil will have plenty of nutrients, creating an excellent starting point for your crop.
There is a superb range of beetroot varieties. If you want to grow beetroot, then try one of the varieties recommended by RHS:
‘Cheltenham Green Top’ AGM
This store well and is a tasty, old, tapering variety, with long roots.
Sweet with white roots and sap that does not stain clothes.
Bolt resistant and good for containers. It has very dark roots, which are quite small when mature.
‘Babieto di Chioggia’
Has orange skin and yellow flesh, keeps its colour when cooked and does not bleed.
Good resistance to ‘bolting’. Delicious, smooth-skinned and good for early cropping.
By mid-April, the soil should be workable and so you can plant a row or two of beetroot. You can continue to plant new rows every 2 to 3 weeks until the end of July. Later planted seeds will mature in time for winter.
Ideally, you’d sow your seed directly into the soil, so you don’t have to disturb their roots later. Unlike many root crops, you can transplant beetroots while young. That said, as a cold-tolerant plant, there’s no reason not to start them outdoors.
Sow seeds about 1 cm deep and about 4 cm apart in rows. Space rows roughly 30 cm apart. Once you’ve sown them, cover the seed with a thin layer of soil.
How to nurture beetroot
As you grow beetroot, you’ll want to thin them out so that they are about 10 cm apart. When thinning, there’s no need to remove plants as this could disturb the plants you want to keep. Instead, snip off the greens and if you want, eat them.
You’ll need to water and add mulch regularly as beetroot need to maintain plenty of moisture. Mulching should keep weeds to a minimum, however, you will still need to deal with any that appear. Be gentle when wedding as beetroot have shallow roots that are easily disturbed.
It typically takes between 55 and 70 days for most varieties of beetroot to mature. This means your crop will be ready for harvest about 2 months after planting.
When they are a golf-ball-size or lager, they are ready to be harvested. To remove the beetroot, you need to loosen the soil around them and gently pull it from the ground.
You can remove the leaves at any point as long as they look mature. However, as the crop needs the leaves to fully develop, you only want to remove one or two at a time.
How to store fresh beetroot
After you’ve harvested your beetroot, you can store them in a variety of ways. For example, you can freeze, can and pickled beetroot.
Fresh beetroot can be stored in the vegetable draw of a fridge for up to 7 days. For the best results, clip the tops off and store the greens separately.
Alternatively, you can store them in a cool, dry place. Simply brush off any soil clinging to the roots, lay on trays and surround with dry sand or sawdust.
If your beetroot start to sprout, you’ll want to use quickly as this is a sign of poor storage which leads to fast decay.
Common pests and problems
As with growing any vegetable, you might encounter a few pests and diseases. Thankfully, beetroot is a largely easy, trouble-free crop. It can be quite fun to grow beetroot!
You do need to watch out for bolting, which is when a crop flowers and produces seeds prematurely. Thankfully most modern varieties are bolt-resistant, making beetroot ideal for beginners and children to grow.
That’s how to grow beetroot!
After you’ve tried growing beetroot, it’s worth trying to grow onions, potatoes and cabbage. All are fun to grow and can be used in a wide range of dishes. Plus by growing vegetables, you lower your food miles and protect the planet. So, that’s how to grow beetroot!