Beetroots give salads colour, texture and bite; they can be preserved in vinegar and used as an accompaniment to dishes such as Hotpot or Hash, or cooked in main course meals. There are two types, the round, which are sown a little earlier, and the longer varieties, which are known as the main beet crop.
Beetroots do best in light, sandy loam but will do well in other types of soil if they are first prepared to make them lighter. In clay soil dig the plot over the previous autumn adding plenty of manure at a rate of a bucketful to the yard. Let it stand rough so that the winter frosts and winds can break down the soil making it much easier to rake over the following season. In soils that are lighter add plenty of compost in autumn; root crops should not be fertilized the same season as they are planted. Just before sowing, add bone meal or fish manure with 6 per cent potash content at 4 oz. (120g) to the sq. yd. and rake in lightly.
For the round or globe types, sow the seeds in rows 1 ft. (30cm) apart by 1 in. (25mm) deep; the longer varieties need a little more space, about 1 ½ ft. (45cm) apart. After sowing, cover the seeds by using the back of a rake and firm over. Globe varieties can be sown about the middle of April for the first sowing, the second in the middle of May and the third sowing during July. The last sowing will be ready to harvest just as autumn approaches when the tasty, young, tender roots are at their best. The longer types are sown in June and are left in the soil until they are fully mature before they are harvested.
Thin out the seedlings when the shoots are about 1 ½ in. (38mm) high to give space so that the roots will have about 8 in. (203mm) between each plant and will have room to fully develop. At this stage the beetroots that are pulled out will be just big enough to make a tasty dish so they will not be wasted. Keep the area clear of weeds the aid of a Dutch hoe.
The early crops can be pulled up as soon as they reach a suitable size, while the later crop are generally lifted in November and can be stored in a frost proof shed until they are required. However, care must be taken not to damage them so that they bleed, as they will not keep.
Terry Blackburn. Internet Marketing Consultant, living in South Shields in the North-East of England. Author and Producer of blog http://www.lawnsurgeon.blogspot.com Author of "Your Perfect Lawn," a 90 Page eBook devoted to Lawn Preparation, Lawn Care and Maintenance. Find it at http://www.lawnsurgeon.com
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