Real Men Sow

Don’t Throw Away Those Beet Thinnings! 6 Tips for Growing Beetroot

Posted on by in beginners with 9 Comments

Beetroots are easy to grow, and perfect if you’re a newbie GYOer.

The seeds are big and easy to handle, and from my experience beetroot isn’t fussy as to where it grows. However, I have found there are a few tips and tricks to ensuring nice, even rows of beet seedlings.

beetseedlings

1. Preparing the Drill and Sowing Seeds
Prepare a drill about 2cm deep, and pre-water. Rather than sowing two or three seeds together, 10cm or so apart as is often suggested, sprinkle the beet seeds along the row.

2. Cover the Seeds with Compost
Don’t cover over with the soil you’ve removed to make the drill. Instead, use multi-purpose compost or crumbly kitchen compost, as this won’t get crispy and tough to break through in the hot weather. I do this for lots of direct sowing now, and find it particularly useful for carrots.

3. Thin Out the Seedlings
When the seedlings reach 4cm high, give them a water and then thin out so that there is a gap of roughly 10cm between each beet.

4. Don’t Throw Away the Thinnings, Replant Them!
However, don’t throw those thinnings out! Beetroot seedlings respond well to being transplanted, so use them to pad out any gaps in the row where germination had been patchy. To do this, water the row, and using a dibber make a hole about 5cm deep. Pop the seedling into the hole and fill with soil. Water the seedling in and firm the soil around the base so that it doesn’t flop over.

Don’t worry if the leaves have drooped by the next day, or go yellow. They’ll soon pick up, or new growth will take over as long as you keep the seedlings regularly watered.

5. Sow Extra Seeds in the Gaps
If you don’t have enough thinnings to even out the row, sow extra seeds in the gaps. The beauty of using thinnings and resowing is that your harvest will then become staggered, rather than a simultaneous beety glut.

As hopefully you’ll see in the photo, there are seedlings at different levels of growth, due to replanting thinnings and sowing addition seeds in the bare bits.

6. Harvesting
For sweeter beets, you can pick them when they are golf ball size, but I prefer a bulkier beet, so let them grow on until they are as big as a tennis ball.

Beetroot can be sown all through spring and summer. A July sowing is great for harvesting in late Autumn and pickling, to use in salads through the winter.

Varieties to Try
For reliability alone, I like Boltardy or Detroit Globe. Both are tasty, readily available and dependable. If you’re looking for something with the wow factor, try Babieto di Chioggia, which reveals striking red and white rings when cut open. Check out this picture from Naomi’s Out of my Shed.

Eat the Leaves!
Don’t throw away the leaves, either. They make tasty additions to salads, and are becoming widely used in supermarket mixed salad leaf bags.

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9 Comments

  1. Di gilpinJune 27, 2013 at 5:51 amReply

    Lovely top tips! Thank you. Love this virtual ‘over the garden fence’ chat. Cover with compost. Great. And reseeding – wonderful . I always feel like a murderer pulling up those babies.
    I use Sanguine originally from Real Seed Co. and leave one or two plants to go to seed. Now self sufficient in beet. GYO seed. I also overwinter some for a winter borscht.

    • Jono

      JonoJune 27, 2013 at 9:20 pmReplyAuthor

      Hey Di, I love the virtual veg growing world. None of my mates are in to it, so very nice to have people online to bore senseless about GYO!

      Is it easy to collect beet seeds? Just becoming interesting in keeping seeds. Only doing the simple ones like peas at mo.

  2. lifeatthevillasJune 27, 2013 at 7:18 pmReply

    I’m a big beet fan too and grow Boltardy. Interesting to read that you don’t fill the drill with soil – our soil is quite heavy and sometimes seedlings find it tough-going to break through the soil crust. I have much more success sowing beetroot in a seed tray and planting out in rows once the seedlings have about four leaves. Oh, and as well as using the leaves in salads, have you tried steaming them? A bit like spinach – yum! Grated beetroot makes a fab coleslaw and finally if you boil your scrupulously cleaned beet in apple juice, allow the juice to cool then chill and serve, you have the most delicious and pretty pink summertime drink!

    • Jono

      JonoJune 27, 2013 at 9:23 pmReplyAuthor

      Hello!

      I grew my early ones in modules this year, but wasn’t so successful. Only got a couple to take properly, and they grew in an odd shape. Will definitely try again next year though.

      I like the steaming idea, especially as the leaves are big when I harvest the beets.

      Have you tried beetroot hummus? That’s really tasty: http://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/beetroot-hummus/

  3. RyanJune 27, 2013 at 7:49 pmReply

    Some nice tips – I am happy as this is the first year that I have plants that have been left alone by the slugs, something to do with an old packing case full of compost with mesh over the top of the box!

    Fingers crossed this is the first year I get some beetroot out of the garden!

  4. Jono

    JonoJune 27, 2013 at 9:29 pmReplyAuthor

    Hi Ryan – desperate times cause for desperate measures! Hope you enjoy your beets, they’ll be well worth the wait. :)

  5. CaroJune 29, 2013 at 3:53 pmReply

    I like the sound of the way you direct sow, Jono. Definitely going to try this. I’ve had great success in the past transplanting my beet seedlings and have also overwintered the older beets (sown in late August) for a spring treat. I tried Chioggia for a couple of years but really didn’t like the claggy taste, plus it goes grey when cooked (best sliced thinly and eaten raw in salad). This year going for Golden Burpees, Cheltenham Green tops and Perfect 3, my no-fail standby!

  6. Andrea MynardJuly 3, 2013 at 9:22 pmReply

    Great tips, have just been sowing in the beet gaps myself but I have to say I wasn’t very thorough about the thinnings. Now I know they can be replanted I’ll revisit my beetroot.

  7. MaggieJuly 6, 2013 at 12:34 pmReply

    Thanks for the useful tips – hoping to plant some beetroot today at new (to us ;) ) allotment. It’s a steep learning curve, so far we’ve mainly been weeding (lots of couch grass and bindweed eek!) but have managed to get a few beans and peas in… Also some courgettes, but some have been badly slugged.

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope.

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