Beetroot is the edible taproot of the beet plant. High-quality beets has a high sugar content and dark internal colour. The tasty young leaves are a good source of Vitamin A. The purple roots are rich in Vitamin C. High in fiber and rich in vitamins A and C, beets have more iron than other vegetables, including spinach.
Sandy to deep, well-drained sandy loam or silt loam, high in organic matter, is recommended for beetroot.
Uniform soil moisture is essential for good quality. If the soil is compacted or the clay content is very high, roots are likely to be deformed and to develop a tough texture that reduces quality. Beetroot thrives in deep, rich sandy loam, with a pH of between 6 and 6,5.
Direct sowing can result in good germination at a temperature between 6°C and 24°C. On hot, sunny days, a high temperature at, or just below, the soil surface might injure young plants or even kill them.
Soak seeds in water 24 hours before planting so that you can separate the seeds. Sustained high temperatures can retard growth and depress yield, as well as cause an undesirable strong flavour, concentric rings and a coarse texture.
Thinning is nearly always required as seedlings emerge from a seedball of several seeds. If you don’t thin them, you will get a number of rather pathetic plants which don’t grow to an edible size.
The optimum temperature for growth is between 15°C and 20°C. Beets are not particularly sensitive to heat as long as there is enough moisture in the soil.
Although tolerant of cold, they grow extremely slowly in very cold weathers. Leaves may be damaged and growth retarded if there is frost before harvesting. Cold weather may also result in smaller tops.
The growing period varies from eight to 11 weeks in favourable climatic conditions.
Watering and fertilising
- Beetroot requires a steady, even supply of moisture to form tender, juicy tubers
• Irregular water supply can lead to dry tubers and even cracking, which exposes the tubers to harmful rotting-disease organisms
• Beetroot needs a steady supply of nutrients to form good-quality leaves and tubers for eating. Liquid feed your crop at least once a fortnight with diluted liquid seaweed and fish emulsion
Beet Growing Problems
- Rotation Resistance
Beets are relatively disease- and pest-free, and even the problems they do have are relatively easy to manage. For instance, you can prevent diseases by rotating crops of beets, spinach, and Swiss chard with other types of vegetables.
- Beet-Leaf Miners
Beet-leaf miners (Pegomya hyoscyami) can become a problem. Even if they do get into your beet leaves, you can just tear off the damaged portion.
“Do a daily inspection of the leaves by feeling around the leaves for any bumps, and apply two fingers,”. “It is the only pest that sits still to be squished!” To keep leaf miners and other pests away, simply place row covers over your beets during the insects’ busiest time
Beetroot can be harvested two ways: for leaves and for roots. Twist off the young leaves as you need them for salads and sandwiches, but only take a few from each plant or the roots will struggle to fatten up.
The roots can be harvested at any size that suits you, from ‘baby’ beets up to chunky tennis ball size. Don’t leave them in the ground for too long though, as they can become tough and woody.
Harvest the roots by gathering all the leaf stems together in one hand and pulling upwards gently. The root should easily come free from the soil but a hand fork can be used for additional leverage if required, especially with cylindrical varieties. Twist off the leaves, leaving a generous stump of stems on top of the beetroot. Don’t cut the leaves off or trim the roots, or they will ‘bleed’ and make a terrible mess!