Beetroot (including its leaves) have been used to treat ailments for thousands of years. Beetroot is a good source of iron and folate (naturally occurring folic acid). It also contains nitrates, betaine, magnesium and other antioxidants (notably betacyanin).
Recent health studies suggest beetroot can help lower blood pressure, boost exercise performance and prevent dementia. Seeing as it also tastes lovely too, we think it is the perfect addition for any garden.
How to grow Beetroot
Beetroot’s only dislike is soil which has had manure applied to it but otherwise it will grow perfectly in all soil types but especially light soil that can hold moisture and is positioned in the sun.
If you are growing outside in the garden create a level well raked surface of soil free from large stones and weeds.
How to sow seed
Seed can be sown directly into the soil from April to July, simply make a 2cm (0.75in) deep trench with the corner of a rake (or a cane will do) and drop in two seeds every 10cm (4in). Cover the seeds with netting or a cloche to prevent birds from taking the seed. Water well and label. Hopefully each pair of seed will germinate and as they grow remove the weakest of each pair to leave just one seedling every 10cm (4 inches). If you want bumper crops of beetroot (and remember you can pickle your harvest and store them in jars later on), then keep sowing seeds every month until July, keeping your rows 20cm (8 inches) apart.
Growing in pots
- To grow in pots (ideal for round varieties, not long cylindrical ones), choose a big pot that is at least 45cm (18 inches wide) and at least 20cm (8 inches) deep. Ensure there are drainage holes at the bottom.
- Fill the bottom of the pot with a few stones for improved drainage then cover with multi-purpose compost leaving the compost just shy of the top. Knock the pot so the soil fills any air pockets.
- Sow seeds thinly across the surface and cover with 2cm (0.75in) of compost. Water and thin out seedlings when they’re about 2cm (0.75in) tall, leaving 12cm (5in) gaps between them.
- You will find you need to water more than normal as the container will not retain water as well as open soil does.
Care and Harvesting
As your crop grows keep it well watered and weed free. Depending on the variety, beetroot is ready to be picked when the roots are between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball – this is about 90 days after sowing. To harvest, gently hold the tops and lift while levering under the root with a hand fork. You can remove the tops by twisting them off with your hands to prevent the plants bleeding their juice. You can eat the leaves like spinach, they have superfood powers themselves.
Varieties to look out for
‘Boltardy’ is a traditional choice for gardeners, producing well rounded roots and a nice deep colour. Also good for providing an early crop.
‘Alto’ is shaped like a long cylinder. It is sweet and smooth in texture to eat.
‘Wodan’ is a great year round beetroot. It can be left in the ground for long without taking a woody texture. It can also be grown quite close together.
Where to buy
You can buy your beetroot seeds, compost and containers from both our Exeter based garden centres. Call 01392 876281 (Old Rydon Lane branch) or 01392 876281 (Clyst St Mary branch) to check what varieties we have in stock before you visit.