An earthy little root vegetable, beetroot’s perfect for pickling, roasting and boiling (if you like a pan of pink water too). Aside from when the soil’s cold and hard, you can plant and harvest beetroot practically all year round – provided you’re not after gigantic prize winners.

Beetroot soil preparation

prepare your garden soil

Pick your planting spot, then get ready to turn it. Beetroot grows best in nutrient-rich, draining soil, so fold some home compost into your patch before you get to planting. Sprinkle some fertiliser on the top to make it the best beetroot patch around, dig out some 3cm-deep rows 30cm apart then get to sowing.

Sowing beetroot

Put your beetroot seeds in your rows three at a time, with each batch of three seeds 10cm apart from the rest. You’ll be thinning these out once they get a little bigger, so you might want to dig an extra row or two if you want to make the most of what you’ve planted (without sowing seeds in the extra rows).

Water every two weeks when the weather’s dry (as it’s been this summer), otherwise don’t let them get too swamped.

And if you’re sowing at the beginning of the year, consider a fleece or cloche to keep the birds from destroying your hard work.

Growing and harvesting beetroot

Once your beetroot sprouts are about 3cm high, reduce each batch of three to one plant and either plant out your spares in those extra rows, or put them in the compost to feed next year’s crop.

The most likely crucial element to growing beetroot is nitrogen. If you find they’re growing weakly, consider applying a high-nitrogen fertiliser to give them a beetroot boost.

Your beetroot packet will tell you when it’s a likely time to harvest, but a general rule of thumb is four months after planting. Pick them out when the root is about the size of a satsuma, and harvest every other beetroot to give the remainder a bit of breathing room.

You can pick young leaves as a salad leaf, but don’t pick all of them if you want your beetroot to stay strong.

If the beetroot gets too large it’ll be tough as boots and liable to split, so harvest them before they’re bigger than an orange.

Why citrus-themed sizes? Because beetroot is a source of vitamin C!

Growing beetroot in containers

You’ll want to use a trough or raised bed if you want to grow a decent number of beetroots. Plant them 10cm apart, following the same 3-to-a-batch rule as with the veg patch. You don’t need a super-deep planter, but assume they’ll want to grow down as much as they grow upwards.

How to avoid beetroot bolting

The most common beetroot problem is bolting, where the flowers and seeds come out before you’ve harvested. It’s easily avoided, just follow your beetroot packet’s planting and harvesting times and keep the soil moist. There are bolt-resistant beetroot species available, and these are the best way of avoiding bolting from the off.

Header Photo by Emma-Jane Hobden on Unsplash
Beetroot hand Photo by Rasa Kasparaviciene on Unsplash