How to grow beetroot
All you need to know about sowing, growing, harvesting and storing beetroot.
Growing beetroot is easy, giving you 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 in light to medium soil, 1cm deep. Space seeds 10cm apart, with 30cm between rows. Being a root crop, beetroot does best if the soil is free of large stones.
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 possible to grow beetroot 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 beetroot plants 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.
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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 eight to 10 weeks but 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.
Pests and diseases
Beetroot 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 using a cloche to protect the seedlings until they are fully established.
Cooking and eating beetroot
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 beetroots. Place them 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
Beetroot 'Boltardy' is one of the most popular beetroot varieties, bearing deep red, globe-shaped roots with an excellent sweet flavour. As its name suggests, it is resistant to bolting, which means it can be sown earlier than many other varieties. For the earliest crops, sow undercover as soon as the soil warms up at the start of the year. Later crops can be lifted in late autumn and stored in sand for use during winter.
Beetroot 'Chiogga' is a pretty variety with orange-pink skins and red and white rings on the flesh, which fade to pink when cooked. It is especially good in salads - slice in thin rings to show of its pretty flesh. The dark green leaves and red stems can also be used in salads.
Beetroot 'Kestrel' has smooth, globe-shaped roots with a high sugar content and dark red skin and flesh. It's perfect for eating as baby beets or left to mature without going 'woody'. It has good resistance to bolting.
Beetroot 'Cylindra' has long, red cylindrical roots, making it ideal for cutting into uniform slices. The roots have a rich, dark red colour, sweet flavour and store well. Its easy slicing makes this a great choice for pickling.
Beetroot 'Pablo' is a fantastic beetroot with has smooth-skinned, round roots with a dark red skin. Roots are sweet and can be eaten raw or cooked. The flesh is sweet, making 'Pablo' perfect for eating grated and raw in salads. Roots can be used as baby beets but also left to mature, without danger of them becoming 'woody'. The mature roots store well into winter.
Beetroot 'Red Ace'
Beetroot 'Red Ace' has dark red, round or oval roots with a good flavour. Growth is strong and vigorous, making plants more tolerant of dry, sandy soils than other varieties - it less likely to bolt. 'Red Ace' is particularly suitable for exhibiting.
Beetroot 'Blankoma' is a white-rooted variety, perfect for gourmet gardeners or those looking for something a little different. Roots are round or conical and earthy in flavour, with strong, tall green tops which may be used like spinach.
Beetroot 'Globe 2'
Beetroot 'Globe 2' is a popular round variety, that is often grown for exhibiting. The roots are crisp and dark in colour, and have a very good flavour.