Sow three seeds at 10cm (4in) intervals, 2.5cm (1in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart, at fortnightly intervals from mid-April to July for a succession of tender, tasty roots. Those sown from June onwards can be used for storing in winter, and some people use long or globe varieties for strong but round roots are suitable.
Use bolt-resistant varieties for early sowings under cloches in late February or early March. Make the first sowings outdoors with no protection in March or April.
Beetroot will grow in any well-drained garden soil but require fertile conditions, best ensured by digging in at least a bucketful of well-rotted garden compost or organic matter, and raking in 150g per sq metre of Growmore or other general purpose fertiliser before sowing. Early sowings benefit from protection with horticultural fleece or cloches.
When the seedlings are about 2.5cm (1in) high thin out to leave one seedling per 10cm (4in) station.
Water every 10-14 days in dry spells. If plants are not growing strongly, apply 30g per square metre of high nitrogen fertiliser, such as sulphate of ammonia, and water in.
Beetroot can also be grown in containers
Pull up alternate plants once they have reached golf ball size to use as a tasty treat in the kitchen, leaving the others to reach maturity. Harvest these when they are the size of a cricket ball.
The red colouration comes from the sap, but there are varieties in other colours.
'Boltardy' AGM: Delicious, smooth skinned and good for early cropping. Good resistance to ‘bolting’.
‘Regala’ AGM: Very dark roots which are quite small when mature. Bolt resistant and good for containers.
‘Cheltenham Green Top’ AGM: A tasty, old, tapering variety, with long roots. It stores well.
‘Albinia Vereduna’: Sweet with white roots and sap that does not stain clothes.
‘Babieto di Chioggia’: When sliced the flesh has white internal rings.
‘Burpee’s Golden’: Has orange skin and yellow flesh, keeps its colour when cooked and does not bleed.
Bolting: Plants flower and set seed, rather than producing edible roots. This is usually caused by stress – a cold spell or drought.
Remedy: Sow bolt-resistant varieties and keep the soil moist.
Read more information on bolting