Beetroots are delicious vegetables with earthy, sweet and tangy flavours. They’re surprisingly versatile for cooking. You can boil, roast or even preserve them in vinegar – meaning that they can be eaten hot or cold, and are perfect in roasts, soup and even salads. What’s more, beetroot is widely recognised as a superfood with many research-backed health benefits.
There’s so much to be gained by eating beetroot. Even so, the satisfaction of healthy and flavourful eating that beetroots provide blooms even greater when you grow your own.
Beetroots are a relatively easy vegetable to grow. Still, it’s no small task to transform your seeds into perfect, purply spheres. That’s why we’ve written this guide to growing beetroot. Once you’ve read through it, you’ll know everything you need to be eating your own home-grown beetroots in no time.
As with any crop, the most important step in growing beetroots well is to sow them properly.
When to sow beetroot
You can sow beetroot in the UK between March and August.
To give your beetroots the best chance of surviving, it’s best to start early. March is the perfect time to sow your seeds since the ground is warm enough at this stage. However, if you have a polytunnel or cloche, you can make an early start by sowing indoors in February and planting out under cloches or a polytunnel in March.
If you’re wondering if you can grow beetroot in winter, the answer is yes – with a polytunnel. While the last sowing time for beetroot in the UK is usually August, you can actually make a sowing in July or early-August to grow on in a polytunnel. A July-August sowing will provide a harvest of tasty small roots in winter or early spring.
We recommend that you sow your seeds throughout the whole of the usual growing period. Sowing your beetroot seeds in groups two weeks apart will give you a regular supply when it comes to harvesting later on.
How to prep soil for beetroot
It’s important to prepare your soil thoroughly before sowing your beetroot seeds.
Begin by removing any stones or weeds from the area in which you’re going to plant. If you think about the size of a fully grown beetroot, you can imagine that seedlings will have a hard time reaching maturity with pesky stones nearby stunting their growth. Likewise, any weeds will snatch away vital space and nutrients from your young beetroots.
You want to use soil with good drainage – with water neither pooling in nor leaking through it. You can test how well soil drains by digging a hole 30cm in diameter and 30cm deep. Fill it with water and let it drain completely. Then fill it again and measure the depth of water every hour or so. Well-draining soil should release at least 2.5cm each hour.
To improve the drainage of your soil, simply increase the amount of organic matter by mixing in the likes of shredded bark, peat moss or – even better – high-quality compost.
This last option will have the extra effect of adding nitrogen to the soil, which is a must-have for growing healthy beetroots. Rake it into your soil to ensure even distribution. Finally, we recommend adding a small amount of fertiliser to your soil.
Prepare your soil around 2 weeks before you’re ready to sow your seeds.
How to sow beetroot
With your soil all prepared, it’s time for sowing your beetroot seeds. Place individual seeds in shallow holes 1-2cm deep. It’s best to water the holes before sowing your seeds since that way you make sure that the roots start off hydrated. Cover the seeds with soil after sowing.
Spacing is important for sowing beetroot. Space the seeds 10cm apart in a row and space rows of seeds 30cm apart.
Alternatively, place two seeds in each hole. After a few weeks, thin one of the seedlings and use the leaves as a delicious, raw addition to salads.
If you’d prefer to focus on giving your beetroots the safest possible start, you can sow them indoors and then plant them outside or in a polytunnel.
Simply sow your seeds in a container that’s large enough to allow the necessary spacings given above. Sow them during the same times as you would outside. Allow them to germinate long enough to grow at least four leaves. After this, they’re ready for planting.
Finally, plant the beetroot seedlings into soil prepared the same way as described above. Remember to use adequate spacing for planting beetroot, as when sowing.
While your beetroots are growing from seed to root, there are a few things for you to do to make sure that they come out nicely.
Caring for your growing beetroots
Growing beetroots dry up when they don’t get enough water, developing a hardy and rough texture. This won’t make for good eating, so it’s vital to keep your beetroot well-hydrated.
Give your seeds a sprinkle using a rose-nozzle watering can every two weeks to prevent them from withering. During dry spells, you can increase this frequency up to every week.
When growing beetroots in a polytunnel, you may find it useful to install an automatic overhead irrigation system to ensure that your crops receive water regularly.
Beetroot seeds “multigerm” – that is, they produce multiple crops per seed. You’ll need to thin them out gradually, so that they don’t want for space, water or food.
To do this, you can simply take a young seedling for each crop’s leaves and then a baby beetroot or two, leaving space for more mature roots to grow.
You’ll need to keep your beetroot growing area weed-free by carefully hoeing them out, without damaging the roots themselves.
The best way to prevent animal and insect pests from damaging your beetroot – without using chemicals – is to grow your beetroot under cover.
Can you grow beetroot in a polytunnel?
Yes, you can and there are many advantages of doing so.
When growing beetroot in a polytunnel, you’re able to shut out pests like slugs and snails who like to eat roots at their base, as well as birds who tend to find beetroot leaves attractive.
You’ll also have more control over your growing beetroots’ hydration, be able to keep track of it and make sure that they’re neither over nor under-watered.
What’s more, polytunnels retain heat and keep the soil warm. This will encourage greater germination from your seeds, allowing them to produce a better crop for you to harvest.
Take a look at our expansive range of polytunnels to start growing beetroots in a polytunnel.
When to harvest growing beetroot
The growing time for beetroot is relatively quick. After seven weeks you’ll have a lovely crop of baby beetroots. For fully-grown beetroots, you’ll need to wait for 12 weeks.
For regular varieties of beetroot, you don’t want to wait much longer than this since the roots will start to become tough, woody and inedible. It’s better to lift them and store them rather than lose them this way.
If you don’t want to use time as your standard for when to harvest your growing beetroot, you can also use size. Regular beetroots are ready to lift after their roots grow to roughly 2.5cm in diameter. This should be easy enough to measure since the roots grow out above the soil, as with all varieties of beetroot.
When you do harvest your beetroot, it should be easy enough for you grab onto the leaves where they meet the root and pull them up by hand. If your soil is too heavy to allow this, simply use a trowel to loosen it first.
After pulling up your beetroots, remove most of their foliage, leaving about 5cm of leaf from the root.
At all stages of harvesting, be careful not to slice the roots. If this happens, the compromised root will have a reduced storage life. Make sure to eat any damaged roots quickly and store the others for later.
Start growing beetroots in a polytunnel today
For advice on polytunnel equipment that could help you grow a delicious supply of beetroots to last you all summer long, contact us by telephone on 01282 811250, or send us an email at email@example.com.
With over 30 years of experience in gardening equipment and techniques, there’s no question of yours that we aren’t happy to answer. For all questions or queries, ranging from growing beetroot, any other garden produce or even just general advice, our friendly experts are ready to help.