The beetroot (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris var. vulgaris), also known as the table beet, garden beet, red beet or informally simply as beet, is one of the many cultivated varieties of beets and arguably the most commonly encountered variety in North America and Britain.
Beetroot prefer to be grown in moist, fertile soil in a sunny spot, but will also thrive in raised beds or pots. Although early sowings can be made from late winter, raising plants can be tricky, so for foolproof beetroot, sow seeds directly into the soil from mid-spring
To make a seed bed, remove weeds and dig over the site with a spade, removing any particularly large stones. Level roughly and then work over the area with a rake to leave a fine finish. If you can, two or three weeks before sowing, spread a general granular fertiliser across the site and rake into the soil.
Seed can be sown directly into the soil from April to July.
Make a 2cm (0.75in) deep trench with the corner of a rake (or a cane will do) and drop in two seeds every 10cm (4in). Cover, water well and label - when the seedlings are about 2cm (0.75in) high, remove the weakest of each pair to leave one beetroot seedling every 10cm (4in).
If you want a plentiful supply of beetroot, sow seeds every month, keeping rows 20cm (8in) apart.
If you have a small garden, beetroot are easy to grow in pots.
To grow in pots (ideal for round varieties, not long cylindrical ones), choose containers that are 20cm (8in) in diameter and at least 20cm (8in) deep. Fill loosely with multi-purpose compost leaving the compost just shy of the top. Tap the pot gently to settle, and firm with your finger tips aiming to leave a 4cm (1.5in) gap between the surface of the compost and the top of the pot. Sow seeds thinly across the surface and cover with 2cm (0.75in) of compost. Water and thin out seedlings when they're about 2cm (0.75in) tall, leaving 12cm (5in) gaps between them.
Remove weeds and keep seedlings well watered, especially during dry periods as this will stunt the growth of plants.
Depending on variety, beetroot is ready to be picked when the roots are between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball - this is usually 90 days after sowing. To harvest, gently hold the tops and lift while levering under the root with a hand fork.
Remove the tops by twisting them off with your hands to prevent the plants bleeding their juice, the tops can be cooked and eaten like spinach