How to grow beetroot in your home garden

This vegetable is ideal for the home garden. It’s easy to grow, tasty, and highly nutritious, says Bill Kerr.

How to grow beetroot in your home garden
Preserved beetroot with sliced onions.
Photo: Bill Kerr

Beetroot is the same species (Beta vulgaris) as Swiss chard spinach, but has been bred specifically for its roots. It contains valuable phytonutrients that help boost health.

Beetroot is easy to grow.

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Place the seed in drills about 30cm apart and cover with 1cm of soil. For quicker germination, soak the seed in water overnight, drain, and keep in a moist cloth for planting the following day.

Dry slightly in the shade to make planting easier.

Space the plants 6cm to 8cm apart in the row after thinning out. Sow a little thicker to ensure a 100% stand. As each seed is actually a number of seeds in a dry, corky structure, you will end up with a good number of plants.

Thinning is no problem; in fact, it’s a benefit of home-grown produce. Simply remove the thinnings, regardless of the size of the root, cook them like any other vegetable, and eat them whole.

This crop requires more boron than most other vegetables. A shortage will compromise growth and cause black lesions in the root. Treat the entire vegetable garden with sodium borate at 1g/ m2 soil area once every few years.

You may have to apply LAN once or twice to keep the leaves a healthy green colour. Apply it to the row of vegetables at a rate of one clenched handful every metre or two. Place it near, but not touching, the plants just before irrigation.

When harvesting, continue the thinning process to enable the remaining plants to grow larger roots.

Big roots taste just as good, provided they are not too old. I once grew roots slightly smaller than a soccer ball for a particular client and the quality was still very good.

Avoid sowing in April or May on the Highveld, and sow from March to July in subtropical areas.

Detroit is a very good variety of beetroot. Crimson Globe is hardier, with stronger leaves, but it is more inclined to produce white rings under stress.

Something to try

If you have a surplus, make a simple pickled beetroot salad with onions by:

  • boiling the vegetables until tender and slicing them.
  • Boil vinegar with a little sugar and pour the hot liquid into the container of sliced beet and onion.
  • Leave it in the fridge for three weeks.
  • This salad will last for months.
  • Afterwards, you’ll be left with the flavoured vinegar. Slice more onions and place them in the container.
  • Leave for three weeks for the mixture to permeate the onions. This makes a delicious pickle.