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Beetroots (UmbelliferaeBeta vulgaris)

There are few things prettier than a beetroot with its dark red stems and bright green leaves that resemble beautiful umbrellas with dark red lacework on the edges. As a vegetable the beetroot is attractive enough to earn its place as a huge asset in any type of garden. Just imagine how eye-catching the display if you plant Marigolds next to your beetroots - the Marigolds with its bright yellow blooms and the bright red foliage of the Beetroots. What is more is that the swollen root is eaten as beetroots and the leaves are eaten as spinach. No kitchen garden would be complete without a beetroot plant. The rewards of growing beetroots are plenty and depending on how you have sown your beetroot seeds and how you nurtured the beetroot plants you can harvest practically right through the year.

There are many varieties of beetroots such as the Crimson Globe, the Detroit Dark Red, the Cylindra and the Formanova that can be cultivated in the home vegetable garden.

The Crimson Red and the Detroit Dark Red beetroot will do equally well in a container garden if you find yourself short of space.

Nutrients in Beetroot

Beetroots, that are the round bulb itself, do not have high vitamin content, but it more than makes up for this deficiency in the amount of sugars that it contains. The types of vitamins that one does get in beetroot leaves are vitamins A, C and B6. Apart from the sugars contained in beetroots, the leaves of the beetroot plant are rich in iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese as well as folic acid.

How to grow Beetroot

Where and when to plant your Beetroot

Beetroots is a cool weather vegetable crop and will grow any time of the year as long as the moisture content of the garden soil is kept constant. Beetroots are not sensitive to heat; they are resistant to cold but will grow at a slower rate during winter. Any soil type will support beetroot growth, but it is preferable to make use of deep crumbly rich soil - rich in the sense that the garden soil should be amended with organic materials such as compost to ensure a superior vegetable crop. Hard compacted soil like clayey soil should be avoided since it will hamper root development.

Beetroot plants will do well in garden soil where Brassicas such as cabbages or Brussels sprouts have been cultivated and are ideal for crop rotation with these crops. Thus do not hesitate to sow your beetroot seeds in that soil. As long as you keep the top soil moist and have added a spade depth worth of good well-rotted compost or manure.

Prepare the soil by working in the compost and wetting it thoroughly. Allow the garden soil to stand for a day or two. Then ensure that the soil is evenly moist by checking it with a garden fork.

How to sow your Beetroot seeds

As is indicated on our sowing guide, beetroot seeds can be sown at practically any time of the year and almost anywhere except in winter in cold areas and in summer in sub-tropical areas. The beetroot seeds should be sown in a sunny position in your garden in drills that are ½ inches (1 ½ cm) deep and 18 inches (20 cm) apart. Alternatively sprinkle the seeds thinly in the garden bed and lightly rake over sufficient garden soil to cover the seeds. Then set the sprinkler to a gentle setting over the area where you have sown your beetroot seeds. During the germination period you should endeavor to keep the garden soil moist and shaded. Make use of mulch to help prevent the area from drying out.

It is best to sow the beetroot seeds in situ because transplanting is not recommended. One can rather thin out the seedlings at a later stage after germination.

Sow the beetroot seeds as deep as the first joint on your index finger and cover the seeds firmly with a layer of garden soil.

If you are growing your beetroots in containers then you should ensure that the container is at least 1 ft (30 cm) deep and you should plant the beetroots approximately 3 inches (7 ½ cm) apart.

Taking care of your Beetroots

Keep the soil moist until the seedlings appear. The beetroot plant is a shallow root plant and as such it should not be neglected to the point of drying out. You must make sure that the top 1 ft (30 cm) of garden soil where the beetroots are planted is always moist. Make use of mulch for this purpose.

Give your beetroots a helping hand by feeding the garden soil with a desert spoon full of Limestone Ammonium Nitrate (LAN) and watering it in four weeks after you have sown the beetroot seeds to ensure a good beetroot crop. Be vigilant for plant diseases and pests that may inflict themselves on your beetroot plants. If any pest or disease is detected treat immediately.

When thinning out your beetroot seedlings you should strive to have between 50 and 60 beetroot plants per square meter. Do not waste the thinned-out beetroot plants. Use them to eat as baby beetroots and eat the beetroot leaves as tender spinach. After thinning out the beetroot seedlings, the ones left in the soil to mature should preferable be a hand width apart.

Do weeding on a regular basis, especially when the beetroot plants are young.

If necessary make the necessary soil amendments to ensure that there are sufficient nutrients in the garden soil to ensure a good beetroot crop.

How to harvest your Beetroot crop

The beetroots can be harvested approximately between 6 to 8 weeks after sowing the beetroot seeds. By then the beetroots should be 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.

After pulling out the beetroot, twist the tops, i.e. the leaves, off the root.

Take care not to damage the root. DO not cut off the leaves. Rather wring it off.

Beetroots are tastier and cooks softer the earlier it is harvested.

Troubleshooting Beetroot crop failure and growing pains

Beetroots are misshapen

Odd shaped beetroot could be the result of the garden soil being too clayey or too compact. Plant the beetroots in organic crumbly loamy garden soil to avoid misshapen beetroots.

Beetroots bleeding and losing its color

The incorrect harvesting of the beetroots could result in the beetroots bleeding and losing its color. When you harvest your beetroots, you should not cut off the leaves but rather twist the top off the root.

Beetroot seedlings wilting and falling over

Beetroot seedlings tend to wilt and fall over as a result of cutworms attacking your beetroot seedlings. Be vigilant cutworms and keep them and other pests at bay.