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Beetroot

UK Garden Centre - Information about Beetroot

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Home-grown beetroot can be eaten all year round – pulled for use fresh from the garden from June until late autumn and then taken from store until March. The gap between March and June is bridged by pickled beets, making beetroot a year-round easy-to-grow vegetable which is justifiably popular. This vegetable is rather slow to start but growth is rapid once the seedlings are through. The secret is to avoid any check to growth and to pull the roots before they become large and woody like so many shop-bought specimens. This calls for sowing short rows at monthly intervals and watering in dry weather – in this way you can gather beets in peak condition right through the summer.

Seed facts
Beetroot ‘seed’ is really a fruit, each corky cluster containing several true seeds. Pelleted seed is available.
Expected germination time: 10-14 days – To hasten germination, soak ‘seeds’ for several hours before sowing
Approximate number per ounce: 2000
Expected yield from a 10ft double row: 10lb (5kg) (Globe varieties); 18lb (9kg) (long varieties)
Life expectancy of stored seed: 3 years.
Approximate time between sowing and lifting: 11 weeks (Globe varieties); 16weeks (Long varieties)
Ease of cultivation: Easy

Soil facts
· For prize-winning long roots you will need deep, sandy soil but almost any reasonable land will produce good crops if it is adequately prepared.
· Pick a sunny spot and dig in autumn or early winter – add peat or well-rotted compost if the humus content is low. Apply lime if the soil if known to be acid. In spring prepare the seed bed – rake in Growmore fertilizer 2-3 weeks before sowing.

Seed sowing
Sow 2 ‘seeds’ 4in (10cm) apart 1in (2.5cm) deep and cover with soil. Rows should be 12in (30cm) apart.

Calendar
· For a very early crop which will be ready in late May or early June, sow a bolt-resistant variety under cloches or in a frame in early March.
· The main sowing period begins outdoors in mid April. A second sowing of Globe varieties in mid May will provide a regular supply of tender roots.
· When growing for winter storage sow in late May or June – the roots from earlier sowings may be too coarse at lifting time in October.
· For a late autumn crop sow Detroit-Little Ball in July.
Sowing time: Mid April to June – sometimes mid March to the end of July.
Lifting time: Mid June to the beginning of October; can be from mid May to mid November.

Looking after the crop
· When the seedlings are about 1in (2.5cm) high, thin out to leave a single plant at each station. Throw away these thinnings – do not attempt to plant them. Protection against birds may be necessary at this stage.
· The ground must be kept weed-free. Use a hoe, taking great care not to touch the roots.
· Dryness leads to woodiness and low yields – a sudden return to wet conditions can lead to splitting. To avoid these problems, water moderately at fortnightly intervals during dry spells. Mulching will conserve moisture.
· When the roots have reached golf-ball size, pull up alternate plants and use these thinnings for cooking. Leave the remainder to reach maturity.

Harvesting
· Pull out roots of Globe varieties as required. They should not be left to grow larger than cricket balls – there should be no white rings when a root is cut in half.
· Roots grown for storage should be lifted in October. Long varieties should be carefully prised out of the soil with a fork, making sure that the prongs never touch the roots. Shake off the soil and discard all damaged specimens. Place the roots between layers of dry peat in a stout box and store in a shed. The crop will keep until March.
· After pulling beetroot for immediate use or for storage, twist off the foliage to leave a 2in (5cm) crown of stalks. Cutting off the leaves with a knife will result in bleeding.

Varieties
Globe varieties
Other names: Round or ball varieties. The Globe varieties are by far the most popular group for the ordinary gardener. These beets are generally quick-maturing and are the ones chosen to provide roots for cooking in summer. There are now monogerm types available which produce a single seedling from each ‘seed’ – this makes thinning a much easier task but the space between ‘seeds’ should be reduced to 2in (5cm).
For early sowing choose a bolt-resistant type – one which will not readily run to seed in poor growing conditions. For May or June sowing you have the whole range to choose from – the Detroit group is usually chosen to provide a maincrop for late summer use or storage.
The red-rooted varieties remain the usual choice, adding colour to salads and occasionally to tablecloths. Try a white- or yellow-fleshed variety for a change. The leaves can be cooked as ‘greens’ and the roots have an excellent flavour.

Red
Boltardy: Widely available – the usual choice for early sowing. Bolt-resistant. Smooth-skinned with deep red flesh.
Detroit: The standard maincrop Globe variety for later planting. Renowned for its flavour – roots can be stored over winter.
Monopoly: Bolt-resistant like Boltardy with the added advantage of being a monogerm variety (one seedling per ‘seed’)
Avonearly: A wholly satisfactory alternative to Boltardy for early sowing. Bolt-resistant. Flesh is almost ring-free.
Detroit-Little Ball: The favourite choice for late sowing. Produces ‘baby’ beets which are excellent for pickling and bottling.
Detroit-New Globe: A good choice for the show bench. The shape is uniform, the texture is good and the flesh is free from rings.

Yellow
Burpee’s Golden: A fine variety from the U.S. which is now widely available in Britain. The skin is orange, and the yellow flesh does not bleed when cut. Many consider the flavour to be superior to red varieties – leaves can be cooked as ‘greens’.

White
Albina Vereduna: The most popular white variety – sometimes sold as Snowhite. Not widely available like Burpee’s Golden or the popular reds, but well worth looking for. The flavour is excellent and the leaves can be cooked as ‘greens’.

Cylindrical varieties
Other names: Tankard or Intermediate varieties. Not many types are listed in the catalogues, although these beetroots are a good choice if you are growing for winter storage. Each root provides many slices of similar size.
Cylindra: An oval beet with excellent keeping qualities. Deep red flesh. It is the most popular Cylindrical variety.
Furono: An improved version of the old favourite Formanova. Full-grown roots are an ideal family size – 7in (17cm) long and 2in (5cm) across.

Long varieties
Other names: Long-rooted or Tapered varieties. The Long varieties require sandy, free-draining soil outdoors and a large pan indoors, so they are not really suitable for the average household. Their popularity has declined, but they remain favourites with the keen exhibitor.
Cheltenham Green Top: By far the most popular and highly recommended Long variety. Stores well.
Long Blood Red: A medium-sized variety for winning prizes at the vegetable show. Deep red flesh.

Troubles
Beetroot is an easy crop to grow, and is generally trouble-free. Black bean aphid and mangold fly are occasionally troublesome, but yields are not usually seriously affected. You may find that the leaves are discoloured – beetroot is one of the most sensitive indicators of trace element deficiency in the soil.
Mangold Fly (Leaf Miner)
Heart Rot
Black Leg
Bolting
Speckled Yellows
Leaf Spot
Fanging


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