Beetroot to yourself

With some vegetables, I can do everything right and sometimes it just goes wrong. Last year was officially a bad pea year – I sowed seeds in root-trainers in March, as I always do, and raised them undercover in one of my small plastic greenhouses. They were strong seedlings, but after planting out into a bed that April, they failed to grow and I had to start all over again. This year, my peas have been fantastic, and yet I had followed the same routine.

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It’s been a good year for peas

But until this year, I have never been able to grow a successful crop of beetroot, no matter what I did. They have always been small, or the seeds struggled to germinate, even if I waited until the soil was warm enough, or the ones that did were nibbled by slugs and birds. I always sowed seeds directly into the soil, because like all root veg they hate being transplanted. But this year, I decided to defy convention and started them off in modules.

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My beetroot crop this year has been fantastic

The results have been incredible: last week I dug up my first crop of 10 beetroot and they were a really good size. And there are still plenty in the ground, fattening up. Sowing in modules meant germination could be closely controlled – undercover in the greenhouse, so it was definitely warm enough, and away from slugs and birds. I waited until each seedling had healthy leaves about two inches high, meaning they would be more likely to resist (although not entirely immune from) a passing slug, and I could see the roots poking out of the bottom of the module tray. I transplanted them in early April, when the soil was consistently above 8C.

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When the module-sown seedlings were about two inches tall, they were ready for planting out

I was very careful during transplanting – lifting as much of the compost with the seedling as I could, so the disturbance was minimal. Their new bed was stone- and weed-free, with rotted manure dug in, the soil raked until it was fine and crumbly, and refreshed with water before planting. I planted each seedling four inches apart in rows six inches apart – a little bit closer than is recommended, but this hasn’t affected their size. We have foxes on our site, who love to dig up beds that look freshly raked, so I always net young seedlings to put them off. This also stops birds like pigeons carrying out raids, although it is brassicas they really love to shred to pieces.

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The seedlings were planted four inches apart and then netted to stop the birds and foxes digging them up

 

 

Succession sowing is a good idea if you want to keep your crop going into autumn – if you have the space, you could sow two rows every month. It’s not too late to get some seeds in now, for harvesting in October, although by now I would sow directly into the soil so there is no delay to their growth.

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The beetroot plants in May

I grew five varieties: ‘Boltardy’, a traditional purple coloured globe variety which is bolt-resistant, ‘Crimson King’, another globe beetroot, which comes from King’s Seeds in Essex and stores well, Rainbow Beet, which is a mixture of different colours from Thompson and Morgan, ‘Burpee’s Golden’, a deep yellow variety which looks sensational in roasts and salads, and the very popular candy-striped variety ‘Chioggia’.

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By June the beetroot plants were really lush and had grown good sized roots

They took exactly three months to grow to a decent size – halfway between a golf ball and a tennis ball, and not larger because they can start to get woody. Gluts of beetroot are easy to deal with because you can go on a major pickling expedition, or roast then freeze for later use.

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7 thoughts on “Beetroot to yourself

  1. The beetroot looks fantastic! I too have had a fantastic year with beetroot and agree the Burpees golden look brilliant. Sweeter than boltardy but we all enjoyed them. I grew some boltardy in modules. Started them in early March and had a fantastic early crop. I will be doing it again next year for sure!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a great result – success at last! I’m sure you will be repeating the technique next year… My favourite variety is the ever-reliable Boltardy. I tried the Burpee’s Golden, but found it unimpressive. It looked OK, but the taste was very mild, and too sweet for my liking.

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