Thanks for taking the time to read our article on how to grow beetroot for beginners in the UK. The best thing about beetroot, apart from the wonderful taste, is that if you grow it at home, it can be eaten all year round. That is because you can harvest it from around June until late in the Autumn, and any excess crop can be pickled and used as and when you like.
For beginners, it is important to understand that beetroot is a slow starter, but once the seedlings pop through, it grows really fast. Beetroots are mainly used to add colour and flavour to salads in the UK. In other countries they are also quite popular as a hot vegetable, and are either boiled or baked.
In the UK, most people tend to go with the convenience of pickled beetroot bought in jars from the supermarket. They are tasty and convenient but expensive to buy. They are easy to grow at home and we think they taste better as well.
There are three main varieties of beetroot:
- Globe varieties - These are by a long way the most popular variety grown by UK gardeners. These beets are quick to mature and include varieties such as Boltardy, Avonearly, Monopoly, Detroit (3 varieties). Those mentioned have the distinct red/purple colour, but you can get yellow (Burpee's Golden) and White (Albina Vereduna). Some gardeners say that they white and yellow have a better flavour.
- Cylindrical varieties - These are a better choice if you plan to store beets over the winter months. They are quite difficult to get hold of and the two most popular varieties are Furono and Cylindra. They are actually more oval in shape than a acylinder.
- Long varieties- These are popular with some UK gardeners, especially those who attend and display at exhibits. They are hard to grow and we would not advise trying these if you are a beginner to growing beetroot. They need deep sandy soil with lots of drainage. Should you fancy trying these the two most popular varieties are Long Blood Red and Cheltenham Green Top.
Beetroot is grown from seed and it is actually a fruit. They look like a cluster made from cork and each cluster contains a few seeds.
Germination time of seeds
10 - 14 days
Life expectancy of seed
Seed needed to grow a 10 feet row
Expected yield from a 10 feet row
10 lbs from globe varieties and 18 lbs from long varieties
Ease of Growing
- Seed Sowing Time - March and through to July
- Picking Time - Late May through to October
Best Soil & Planting Tips
All types of beetroot variety in a deep sandy soil. That said, the globe and cylindrical varieties will work in most types of soil as long as it is well drained.
The best time to pick a sunny spot and dig i the autumn time or early winter. You can add some peat or compost and apply some lime if you have acidic soil. In early Spring you can prepare the bed and add a fertilizer about 2-3 weeks before sowing.
If you want an early crop you can sow outside in early March under a cloche or frame. Ideally it is better to sow in mid-April and do a second sowing in mid-May to extend your harvesting time.
If you are growing with the intent to store them over the winter, then sow in early June or even July.
Plant your seeds about 4" apart in rows that are 12" apart. Sow to a depth of about 1"
When the seeds get to about 1" high, you can thin these out to leave a single plant at each point. You may also want to use a net covering to protect them from hungry birds.
It is very important to keep the bed free from weeds. They should be watered regularly and mulching is a good way of making sure they stay moist and never damp which will rot the roots.
The roots will grow to about the size of a golf ball. At this stage pull up every other plant which you can use for cooking, and let the remaining plants stay and grow to their full size.
They are full size when they get to the size of a cricket ball. Roots grown for storage should be picked in October and placed in a box with layers of dry peat. These will last until March.
When you pull a beetroot, twist off the foilage and leave a 2" crown of stalks. Don't cut the leaves as it causes bleeding.
Beetroot Pests and Problems
Generally speaking beetroot is easy to grow and usually trouble free.
Black Bean Aphid
This is the main one to look out for when growing beetroot. Blackfly will go after beetroot in the Spring. You can use a simple spray bug killer to control that as it is very effective.
These are small white bugs that burrow inside the leaves of the beetroot. The make small tunnels which eventually start to blister. This can happen early on and tend to go after younger plants. You may notice this when the leaves turn brown and it impacts on growth.
You should pick off any affected leaves and spray with a crop saver.
This goes after seedlings and as the name would suggest makes the plants turn black and shrivel up. This will mainly happen if the plants are too close together and the soil gets waterlogged.
You should remove any affected plants and water the rest with a Cheshunt compound.
Beetroot is prone to run to speed before the roots have properly developed. That is caused by the soil being too dry or a lack of organic matter. When growing avoid sowing too early. Also remember to thin out plants at an early stage when they are about an inch high.
Fanging is also known as forked roots and are caused by adding fresh manure before sowing. You get the same problem if you grow in stony soil, heavy soil or soil that has not been properly cultivated.
Try to use well cultivated soil and add compost in the Autumn before you sow in the spring.
This can be a common problem when growing beetroot. You will recognise it as leaves start to wilt in the summer months and the tops of the plant develop brown sunken patches.
Open a beetroot and it it has black areas that is usually caused by a boron deficiency. You can treat this with a Fillip spray.
Birds Slugs & Snails
A slug is basically a snail without a shell. They can devour seedlings in a very short space of time. The best way of controlling these is to just pick them out of the bed and get rid of them. If you don't like the idea of that then slug pellets works really well.
If you can at the early stage provide some netting to stop the birds from eating the plants.
This disease is noticed by yellow patches developing between the veins. That will eventually turn the whole leaf yellow and eventually to a brown colour. That is caused by a manganese deficiency. Again this can be treated with a Fillip spray.
This disease is noticed by brown spots on the leaves. This is usually just an inbalance in the soil and doesn't have any real impact on the beetroot. Pick off any leaves like this.
Hopefully we have given you enough information to be able to grow beetroot in the UK. As a beginner we would recommend trying these as they are very easy and fast to grow.