Beetroot is incredibly easy to grow, thriving in damp weather, but also coping well if it’s dry. The roots may attract the odd nibble from slugs later in the season, but that’s the only pest you’re likely to contend with.
We always grow a combination – Bolivar because it’s a purple classic. Detroit Golden because it provides a wonderful colour contrast with Bolivar. And Barbabatola di Chioggia with its striking purple and white rings for adding raw to salads.
Time from seed to plate: 8 weeks
Sow beetroot anytime from April to July. If you've got time, soak beetroot seeds overnight in water to remove the natural germination inhibitor from them to speed up sprouting.
Drag a trowel across your bed to create a shallow groove in the soil about half an inch deep. Leave about 2 inches between each seed, and 12 inches between each row. Cover with soil, firm, and water.
If we're short of space, or want to get the plants off to a quick start we sow our seeds in gutters filled with compost. About four weeks after sowing, slide the whole lot out into a pre-formed groove in your plot. Have a look at the video.
There's no need to thin out the seedlings that come up. The roots will push against each other to create their own space.
There's no need to water beetroot unless the ground is very parched, because this encourages leaf growth, when you want the roots to swell!
Pick a few young leaves for salads. They’re bright green with purple/golden stems so they add wonderful colour.
Start harvesting roots when they reach golf ball size. Pick out the bigger ones, creating extra growing space for the ones you leave behind. There’s no need to be in a rush to harvest them, they taste wonderful even up to the size of a tennis ball.
When you pull them up twist off the leaves rather than cutting them. This stops the bulbs ‘bleeding’, preserving colour and flavour.
Try and harvest the entire crop before the frosts that normally arrive in October. You can leave a couple in the ground to give you a few salad leaves in the spring, but don’t try and eat these roots though - they’ll taste like old wood!