Beetroot (also known by its colloquial name, “beets,” or beta vulgaris) is a sweet, healthy vegetable loaded with antioxidants. It’s actually these antioxidants, packed inside beetroot’s red pigments, that contain cancer-preventing and heart-protecting properties. Beetroot is generally easy to grow and is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 vegetables grown in home gardens.
Beetroot prefer to be grown in moist, fertile soil in a sunny spot, but will also thrive in raised beds or pots. We shall discuss about growing beetroot in containers in upcoming posts.
Beets should be a staple of any vegetable garden. As well as being truly delicious, they’re really easy to grow from seed – and you don’t have to wait long ’til harvest time. More importantly, you can grow them organically. Let us see on how to grow beetroots organically.
What to do
Select either seeds or seedlings: These should be readily available from your local nursery or garden center. Don’t shy away from seeds – beetroot is notoriously easy to take care of.
Varieties: The “Boltardy” variety of beetroot is best if you’re sowing early. White and golden varieties take about half as long to grow and don’t bleed in salads (the downside being they don’t have that beautiful carmine color). Apart from these things, the variety you choose will depend on the look and flavor that appeals to you most.
Some of the great varieties include:
- Detroit Dark Red(59 days)
- Crimson Globe(29 days)
- Crosby Egyptian (55 days)
- Chioggia(55 days)
- Formanova(60 days)
- Golden(55 days).
- Lutz Green Leaf(80 days).
- Boltardy (70 days)
Among these the top three are preferably grown in India.
Beetroot likes neutral, moist, fertile soil without too much lime or acidity (pH 6.5-7.0). The soil should be soft and not have too much clay or too much sand; however, since the root develops at the surface, a clay soil can be tolerated if the top has been loosened by the addition of lots of well-rotted organic matter (don’t add this unless the soil has much clay). The position needs to be sunny and open but it will tolerate part shade.
Till the soil to prepare it: Remove weeds and any other debris, as well as any stones that might impede root growth. The soil only needs tilling to one spade blade of depth. Roughly level the area and rake over the top to loosen.
Fertilizing: Till organic compost or old manure into the garden. Use compost made from organic plants and materials that weren’t sprayed with non-organic chemicals. Make sure that the organic fertilizer you are using doesn’t have high nitrogen in them as they tend to make the leaves grow which in turn reduces the root size.
How to sow seed
Which time of the year: As it comes to planting most common thing which runs in your mind is about climate well you need not have to worry. Beet roots can be grown all over the year if you are specific about color, texture, and quality cool weather would be the best.
To aid germination, soak your beet seeds in pure water for 24 hours before planting. Make a 2cm deep trench with the corner of a rake (or a cane will do) and drop in two seeds every 10cm-15cm. It’ll be easiest to plant them in rows.
For beet greens only(Yes, you can grow them for greens also), sow seeds 1.5cm or 1/2 inch apart in all directions.
If you want a plentiful supply of beetroot, sow seeds every month, keeping rows 20cm (8in) apart .After sowing, cover, water well and label them
Thin them out: Beet seeds are actually compound seeds; several individual beet seeds are contained in one seed. So multiple shoots emerge from a single trench.
Once your beetroots have about 2cm (1 inch) of leaves sprouting, cut the weakest seedlings until the remaining plants are at least 10 cm (4 inches) apart. Do not pull them by hand, since this could disturb the roots of neighbouring plants. Some people recommend a bit more space than 10 cm. If you have the space, you may want to be a bit more generous.
No thinning is necessary if you are growing them for greens alone.
Water daily until the leaves begin to sprout: At the beginning, your seeds need plenty of water to start the germination process. The roots will take moisture from the soil once they’re established.
That being said, avoid over-watering. This causes beetroot to produce more leaves and less root, risking them “bolting” (flowering and not producing a vegetable). What’s more, under-watering creates woody roots.
Once you have sprouts, only water them every 10-14 days in dry spells. Other than when the weather is unnaturally dry. That is water them only there is no moisture in soil.
Watch out for birds and weeds. Depending on your area, you may need to devise some sort of cover for your plants to keep them away from animals. As for weeds, you’ll have to take care of those by hand. As soon as you see one cropping up, get rid of it. However, be careful weeding. Avoid using hoes or other sharp objects near the roots or you might cut them. Hand weeding is best.
Harvesting and Storing Beets
Depending on variety, beetroot is ready to be picked when the roots are between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball – this is usually 50-90 days after sowing in average. To harvest, gently hold the tops and lift while levering under the root with a hand fork.
Many people harvest alternately, picking out some of the beetroots now and leaving others to develop to full maturity. This allows the others to grow bigger more quickly.
Remove the tops by twisting them off with your hands to prevent the plants bleeding their juice – don’t throw these away, they have bags of taste and can be cooked and eaten like spinach.
Store them for later consumption: Root vegetables store well. Beetroots can be stored layered in sand in wooden boxes in a dry environment.
To do this, take a container and line the bottom with 5 cm (2 inches) of sand. Place in a layer of beets. Then, repeat until the container is full. The sand keeps them from sprouting and keeps their flavours fresh.
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