With a little bit of preparation and planning its possible to have a year-round supply of beetroot with minimum effort, all for the cost of a packet of seeds. It’s an easy vegetable to grow and is ideal for beginners. The leaves of the plant are tough and give very few problems through their growing period. If you want to try growing in a small space, beetroot also grows well in containers, set close together in good quality multipurpose compost.
Boltardy is a traditional variety with evenly deep coloured roots.
Rainbow Beet is a mixture of different coloured beets to brighten up meals.
Ace F1 gives large quality roots. It is a good option for poorer or drier soils.
Detroit 2 Crimson Globe is an improved version of the popular Detroit. It has rich maroon roots with good flavour.
Rubidus – If you cant wait for the first crop of the season this is the best choice. You can start harvesting earlier.
Moneta is the best option for the lazy farmer because no thinning is required! It produces bumper crops of smooth and tasty roots.
Pablo F1 is a variety that produces smooth-skinned, round roots with a dark red skin. It is reliable and high yielding and you’ll never get that bitter taste.
Beetroot Alto F1 is a cylindrical beetroot that produces large long roots. It’s the best space saver because it allows you to plant more plants per row.
Boldor – an improved golden variety, producing sweet colourful roots for a wide range of uses.
The hybrid cultivar varieties are meant for summer production. However, the seed is expensive, but they are of a better quality, are more adaptable to extreme high temperatures, produce greater yield, more uniform in shape, and have better internal colour. Cultivars include: Detroit Dark Red, Crimson Globe, Star 1105, Globe Dark Red, Merlin, Osprey and Early Wonder.
Preparing the soil
The growing period for beetroot varies from 55 to 65 days. The optimum temperature for growth is between 15°C and 20°C and the best time to grow it is between May and August. Beetroot thrives in deep, rich sandy loam, with a pH of between 6 and 6,5. If the soil is compacted or the clay content is very high, roots are likely to be deformed and to develop a tough texture that reduces quality. Beetroot performs very well when planted in a sunny spot (in cool weather), in free-draining soil that is high in nitrogen and lots of organic matter. Prepare the soil two weeks before planting and mix in a high nitrogen feed. Alternatively, you can use bone meal or chicken manure, but ensure you give a second application midway through their growth.
One tonne of beetroot removes 2 kg of nitrogen, 4.5 kg of phosphorus and 4.5 kg of potash. Usually 60-70 kg of nitrogen, 100-120 kg of potash per hectare are applied to the soil at the time of preparation with 10-15 tonnes of manure. Beetroot is susceptible to boron deficiency causing internal break of the roots. hence, borax or boric acid should be added in boron deficient soil.
Beet root plants are best grown in rows spaced 30 cm apart, spacing plants up to 10 cm in the row. You can plant the seeds thicker in the row. You can use the leaves you thin out of the row as salad leaves.
You can plant seeds every two weeks from May until early July for a regular supply. The seeds are relatively large and are easy to handle and space out along the row. Plant in a sunny spot. However, it’s important to note that sustained high temperatures can retard growth and reduce your yield, as well as cause an undesirable strong flavour, a coarse texture and concentric rings.
Control weeds because the drastically decrease yield. Try clean and shallow hoeing to check for weeds. Beetroot is relatively free from pests and diseases. the most common disease is leaf spot. Crop rotation helps to suppress this disease.Another is root knot nematodes which causes swellings in the roots with stunted plants.
The roots are ready in as little as 7 weeks if picked young, but can be grown on for around 12 weeks for larger roots. If you want to store, leave them for 12 weeks so that they have time to develop into a good storage size. Make sure you keep watering to prevent the young seedlings from withering in the heat.
Once the roots reach a minimum of 2.5 cm in diameter, you can start harvesting. If you leave them longer than 12 weeks, the roots can turn coarse. Beetroot has shallow rooting and should easily lift with a pull to the foliage. Roots should pull easily from the soil by hand. If you use a fork or trowel , be careful not to slice into the roots, which reduces their storage life. After harvesting, remove dead and injured leaves and tie in bunches of 4-6 beets with their tops on. The average yield is 25,000 to 30,000 kg per hectare.