Beetroot is a very popular veg with home growers, its relatively easy to grow and can be harvested when its young and tender.
There are three basic varieties the familiar near round Globe, Cylindrical an elongated stump rooted shape and the Long variety which requires a good sandy soil to accommodate its extended tapering roots.
This crop will grow in almost any reasonable soil, with the exception of recently manured land as this causes the roots to grow misshapen. prepare a seed bed in early spring and add a good general fertilizer 2-3 weeks before sowing.
The seed look like small pieces of cork, these are really clusters of several seeds. Pelleted or ‘mono-germ’ seed are available, but give no significant advantage to the home grower.
Sowing the seeds the classical way:- two seeds, 4-6 inches apart, 1 inch deep and thinning the seedling to one plant per station produces nicely shaped veg that are perfect for cooking and storing.
I prefer to start sowing in early March under cloches, short rows, leaving three plants per station. These are allowed to grow and push themselves apart, and are harvested as baby veg. The next sowing is timed as the first has developed its second set of true leaves, this way I get a succession of crops all through the season.
If I am going to store beetroot for use over winter the last sowing (around the middle of June) will be made the classical way and allowed to grow slightly larger.
Lack of moisture in the soil will produce a woody unusable crop, a sudden return to wet conditions will lead the beetroots to split.
I’ve combated this by mulching along the row with straw and it helps immensely with water conservation in the soil. Only draw back to this is slugs love the condition too.
Pull the crop when its of a usable size, around the size of a golf ball is ideal.
For roots that are to be stored leave until they are about cricket ball size or slightly less. Any larger and you run the risk of them being woody at the core.
The way that works for me is to store in a large plastic box, between layers of dry sand (the type used for children’s sand pits, not building sand).
Stored in a dry, cool place such as a garage, the roots will last for 2-3 months.