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.
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 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 makes 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.
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.