Forget those mushy, vinegary things that come vacuum packed from supermarkets – beetroot from your own garden is a sweet and earthy treat. Best of all, it is not at all difficult to grow and will produce a decent crop in most soil conditions and growing locations.

Growing beetroot:

This tolerant and forgiving vegetable prefers full sun and a light soil that can hold moisture but will still do well in other soil types and in partial shade. Good news for those with tiny or non-existent gardens, beetroot also do rather well when grown in containers.

Seeds can be sown in spring around the last frost date for your area, or sooner under cover or with protection. They do not require too much care - simply water them deeply when it is dry – better larger amounts at spaced out intervals than little and often – and do a bit of weeding.

Be sure not to add anything too nitrogen rich to the beetroot bed or feed them with a nitrogen rich feed because they will then tend to produce lots of excellent leaf but the root will not form as it should. Don't worry too much about stones – while a stone free bed will result in better roots, any misshapen roots will taste just the same and if you are worried about appearances you could always serve them grated in a salad or coleslaw type dish.

Beetroot take around two-three weeks to appear. They should be thinned when plants are around 8cm high – at this point the baby beetroot that you have thinned out can be eaten. Ideally the remaining beetroot should be around 10cm apart. Baby beetroot are a little fiddly but chuck them in boiling water mud and all and they will slip right out of their skins and make for some delicious sweet treats in a summer salad.

Beetroot can be grown straight in a vegetable bed if you have the space but it is perfect for raised beds or container growing because the light soil is ideal for them and ensures that the globe roots will be perfectly formed. Just take care not to over water or allow soil to completely dry out.

While seedlings are still small, birds can be a real pest. They love to eat the foliage and pull up the seedlings. Those who are having bird problems can only net their seedlings to prevent the destruction.

Beetroot should ideally be picked before the roots are golf ball size. Though they will grow much larger, when they have been in the soil for too long the roots can tend to become woody. When harvesting beetroot, just take hold of the foliage and pull gently to release the root from the soil.

Why grow beetroot in the garden?

First and foremost, for the taste, to which vinegary supermarket ones do not compare. And do not throw the leaves away! The leaves, especially on young, tender beetroot, are a delicious leafy vegetable like spinach or chard. They are high in magnesium and their vibrant colours can enliven a mixed salad.

Beetroot are excellent companion plants for brassicas, onions and lettuce, though no not plant beets near beans as they may stunt each other's growth.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Beta Vulgaris