Growing Beets – Growing Beetroot and Leaf Beet
Growing Beetroot and Leaf Beet
Beetroot and leaf beet are different forms of the same species. The yellow and white forms of beetroot also provide particularly good foliage for food, so this is a true double crop.
Beetroots vary in shape; the globe forms are the most popular nowadays, but the long and intermediate types are better for storing through the winter. Globe beets are less likely to bolt — that is, run to seed and develop tough roots. Besides the leaf beet known as perpetual spinach, another leaf-beet form has the central leaf vein developed into a thick midrib; it is called Swiss chard, silver, or seakale beet if the veins are white, and rhubarb chard or beet (or ruby chard) if the veins are reddish crimson. The rib of these varieties is often cooked separately from the leafy part, which may also be used as spinach.
Cheltenham Green Top, perhaps the best of the long-rooted beetroots. It stores and cooks well, and the flesh is bright red.
Early Wonder, another of the flattened globe type like Egyptian Turnip-Rooted. The roots are uniform in size and the foliage is a greeny-red colour. Admirable on shallow soils.
Egyptian Turnip-Rooted, a very early, flat-topped globe beetroot of good, deep colour. An excellent variety for sowing under cloches or ganwicks.
Detroit Select, a uniform, globular root of excellent quality. The flesh is deep red and free from white rings or zones.
Nutting’s Select Red, the long roots are somewhat thicker than Cheltenham Green Top and are a good deep colour. The foliage is red with a green tinge.
Obelisk, an excellent-flavoured oval, half-long beet.
Ruby Queen, smooth-skinned and uniform roots. The flesh is dark red and free from white zones.
Growing Beets – Beetroot
Most varieties of beetroot have several seeds in a cluster; this must be sown whole, but it will need thinning later. Some modern types, however, are single-seeded. The seeds or seed clusters are large enough to sow individually and should be planted in rows or blocks from late March to July, the later sowing applying particularly to the long varieties intended for winter storage. All varieties should be sown at a depth of about 20 mm (¾ in), with rows 180-300 mm (7-12 in) apart. The globe varieties should be sown at 100 mm (4 in) intervals, the long varieties at 150 mm (6 in).
If you are growing beets, they will require light or heavy soils that have been enriched the previous autumn with well-rotted compost – do not use fresh manure. The ideal for growing beets isthat was used for a well-manured crop the previous season; it should be topped-up with a general fertiliser applied two weeks before sowing. When the seedlings become established they can be thinned to one per sowing point. Keep the soil free of weeds.
When you are growing beets of the globe varieties, they should be harvested when young, usually from June onwards. It is best to twist off, rather than cut, the tops of red beet, which otherwise may ‘bleed’; the tops of yellow and white varieties, however, may be removed with a sharp knife. Long varieties may be left to develop and pulled in early winter, but it may be necessary to protect the late-pulled crop against frost by covering the soil with straw.
The beet can be stored in boxes of sand in a frost-free shed or in a clamp in the open. Before storing examine each root carefully; diseased or damaged ones must be discarded as they may rot the others. Remove the tops and soil from the roots before storing.
The leaves of young beetroot may be burrowed into by maggots of the mangold fly. Treat by spraying with dimethoate or trichlorphon. Slugs and snails should be kept at bay with Draza pellets.
GLOBE: ‘Avonearly’, good for early sowings, very slow to bolt; ‘Boltardy’, good for early sowings, slow to bolt; ‘Burpee’s Golden’, yellow-rooted, sweet, tasty leaves for ‘spinach’; Detroit ‘Little Ball’. Small globes, excellent quality, useful for late sowing and pickling; ‘Monodet’, single-seeded; ‘Snowhite’, white-rooted, sweet, good ‘spinach’ leaves.
LONG: ‘Cheltenham Green Top’, broad-topped; ‘Cheltenham Mono’. Single-seeded; ‘Cylindra’ (’Housewives Choice’), cylindrical; Long Blood Red ‘Covent Garden’, small-topped.
Growing Beets – Leaf Beet
These forms of beet are grown for their leaves only, the roots being of no value. The Swiss chard types and ‘Rhubarb Chard’ are very decorative, particularly the latter, and may be grown as attractive additions to the ornamental part of the garden. Sow from April onwards. Seeds may be sown individually at a depth of 20 — 25 mm (¾-1 in); if planted in rows, sow seeds at intervals of 200 — 250 mm (8-10 in), with rows about 450 mm (18 in) apart.
The soil for growing leaf beet, should be well prepared in the autumn, with plenty of compost dug in. After sowing, keep the soil weed-free, and moist in dry weather.
The crop can be harvested as required as soon as the leaves are large enough; do not remove all the leaves of a leaf beet plant at the same time. The leaves of the chard varieties should be pulled off; those of ‘Perpetual Spinach’ should be cut.
Protect against pests as for beetroot.
Recommended varieties: ‘Lucullus’ (Swiss chard), large leaves; ‘Perpetual Spinach’; ‘Rhubarb Chard’, a red form of Swiss chard; ‘Silver’ or ‘Seakale’ beet (Swiss chard)
Site: Open, with not too much shade
Soil: Most types; do not use fresh manure for root-beet soils
Sow: Beetroot, late March onwards; leaf beet, April onwards –
Harvest: As required, when growth is sufficient