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.
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
· For prize-winning long roots you will
need deep, sandy soil but almost any reasonable
land will produce good crops if it is adequately
· 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.
Sow 2 ‘seeds’ 4in (10cm) apart 1in
(2.5cm) deep and cover with soil. Rows should
be 12in (30cm) apart.
· 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
· 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.
· 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
· 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.
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.
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.
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’.
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’.
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
Furono: An improved version of the old favourite
Formanova. Full-grown roots are an ideal family
size – 7in (17cm) long and 2in (5cm) across.
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.
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)