Growing Beets, The Old Familiar Comfy Root Vegetables

Experiment growing Beets of different varieties. There are red, yellow, orange and white tasty morsels to dazzle your dinner guests with. The colourful vegetable may inspire fussy kids to actually ingest some nutritious matter.

There are different shapes to choose from as well. Apart from the usual round cricket ball the seed catalogue will reveal a cylindrical sort. Pickle them in a tall jar.

In Northern Europe where I was born Beets were a staple in the olden days and are still very common fare. As a pickle they are a delicious addition to any meals and they can be found in every respectable pantry.

We all know that beetroot juice can stain clothing and fingers, but why not take advantage of that property and use it in place of dodgy chemical food colouring.

How To Grow Beets, Beta vulgaris.

Starting: Soak seeds overnight to separate them. Sow directly five to ten cm apart. The seedlings emerge after two to three weeks. Thin as they grow. The thinnings are delicious steamed. It's normal for the top of the root to be exposed so do not cover the growing beetroot.

Soil: Rich well drained soil with a ph 6.5 to 7.5. Tolerates salt. Check soil for Boron deficiency.

Climate: Best grown in cooler climates. In warmer areas try growing them in winter.

Watering: Water regularly to avoid woody roots.

Fertilizing: Fortnightly applications of liquid fertilizer assist in growing the beets quickly. A sprinkle of potash may be neccessary to help the roots to fill out.

Harvesting beets: Lift after 8 to 12 weeks. The smaller roots are tastier. Pick young leaves for salads and stir fries. Beetroot leaves are also a great salad green to grow as a microgreen.

Containers: Minimum container depth is 25 cm. Choose the dwarf or cylindrical varieties that have become more available for pots lately.

Shady areas: Beets will grow in shade - slower.

Pests and diseases: Slugs and snails. Birds may pick at the seedlings. Nematodes can attack the roots. Caterpillars are sometimes fond of the leaves, particularly the young shoots.

An old timer from the countryside shared this tip with a friend: 'If the roots of your beets don't fill out - sprinkle a little salt in a circle around, to the size you'd like them to become.' Haven't tested this yet.

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