How to grow beetroot
All you need to know about sowing, growing, harvesting and storing beetroot.
Beetroot is easy to grow, bearing delicious round red roots that can be boiled, roasted and pickled, and even grated into salads. the colourful young leaves can be picked fresh and used in salads and mature leaves can be wilted and used as spinach.
There's a wide variety of beetroot to grow, with orange, yellow and pink cultivars to choose from.
How to grow beetroot
Sow beetroot seeds outdoors from mid-April to late June, into a shallow drill, 1cm deep. Space seeds 10cm apart, with 30cm between rows. Water regularly and keep the area free from weeds. Harvest the beetroot when they're the size of a cricket ball - larger roots can become woody.
More on growing beetroot:
How to sow beetroot seed
Sow beetroot seeds outdoors from mid-April to late June, into a shallow drill, 1cm deep. Space seeds 10cm apart, with 30cm between rows. Being a root crop, it does best if the soil is free of large stones, and prefers light to fairly heavy soil.
For an early beetroot crop, select a variety known for its resistance to bolting and sow under cloches from the beginning of March.
It’s worth ‘station sowing’ beetroot to ensure a good crop. This means sowing two seeds at each location and thinning later to one seedling – the thinned seedlings are delicious eaten raw in salads. Label the row, then water along its length.
Beetroot grows well in large containers of sifted garden soil or high-quality compost such as John Innes No. 2. It’s an attractive crop and perfect for an ornamental kitchen garden.
In this clip from Gardeners' World, Monty Don sows beetroot in modular trays indoors, explaining which compost to use and the best way to sow the seeds for good results. He also recommends his favourite variety:
How to care for beetroot
Water the beetroot regularly. This reduces the likelihood of the roots becoming woody or splitting. Hoe around the plants to keep the row weed free, taking care not to damage the swelling beetroot roots.
More like this
How to harvest beetroot
Growing different varieties of beetroot allows you to enjoy the crop over a long period, without having to store it. Most of the globe types are ready to harvest in 8-10 weeks; longer, cylindrical varieties take nearer 20 weeks.
When harvesting beetroot, grasp the foliage firmly where it meets the top of the root and pull. Beetroot is better harvested too early rather than too late – younger roots are more tender. Pull roots the size of a cricket ball or smaller and store only those that are undamaged. After lifting, twist off foliage about 5cm from root, leaving short stalks.
Growing beetroot: problem solving
Seedlings can be eaten at the base as they emerge, by slugs and snails. Apply biological-control nematodes or grow the crop in a large container or bag of clean soil or compost out of reach of hungry molluscs. A barrier of crushed eggshells may reduce losses. The bright young leaves of the seedlings can be appealing to birds, so you may consider netting the seedlings before they are fully established.
Buy biological control nematodes from Primrose
Beetroot: preparation and uses
Wash beetroot gently in cold water, leaving on the long root and taking care not to pierce the skin. This prevents ‘bleeding’ during cooking. Beetroot can be boiled for one to two hours, depending on age, then drained and peeled, or try it wrapped in foil and baked in a low oven for around two hours.
Looking for inspiration on how to use your beetroot? Our friends at olive have curated a delicious collection of beetroot recipes, including a colourful beetroot salad bursting with citrusy flavours and creamy goat's cheese.
How to store beetroot
Store only undamaged roots. Place your beetroots in a box filled with a peat alternative, and place in a cool shed. They should last right through to March.
Great beetroot varieties to grow
- ‘Blankoma’ – unusual white and green roots
- ‘Chioggia’ – red exterior, pink and white concentric rings inside
Buy beetroot 'Chioggia' seeds on Amazon
- ‘Cylindra’ – elongated roots that are dark pink on the outside and pink within
Buy beetroot 'Cylindra' seeds on Amazon
- ‘Globe 2’ – dark crimson roots, with a wide neck and a distinctive point at the end
Buy beetroot 'Globe 2' seeds from Suttons
- ‘Kestrel’ – classic red roots that are good mature or eaten as baby beets
Buy beetroot 'Kestrel' seeds from Thompson and Morgan
- ‘Pablo’ – rich red roots with smooth skin
Buy beetroot 'Pablo' seeds from Suttons
- ‘Red Ace’ – deep red flesh, this variety will thrive in dry conditions
Buy beetroot 'Red Ace' seeds from Thompson and Morgan
Don't miss our May issue. Subscribe now and get your first 6 issues for just £14.99
Our Grow Your Own guide is full of step-by-step advice and practical know-how, plus includes four packs of veg seeds! Only £9.99.