Vegetable expert Bill Kerr takes us through the steps of planting a beetroot crop.
Beetroot has a well-developed root system, and when planted in soil that has been throughly fertilised in the past, can retrieve nutrients leached into deeper soil. You can use manure or compost if you want to, but only a small amount. A suitable fertiliser mixture to use before planting is 2:3:4 (24). Work 1kg/20m² into the soil.
Rows can be 20cm to 25cm apart. A beetroot’s ‘seed’ is actually a cluster of seeds in corky tissue, which can complicate spacing on the row. You may have to thin out the rows, but it does not matter if two or three plants are in the same position, as long as there is enough of a gap between these clusters. On average, they should be 8cm to 10cm apart in the row.
To get plants germinating quickly and with little effort before weeds appear, soak the seed overnight in lukewarm water. Drain the next day and wrap them in a damp bag or cloth for another day or two. It’s best to irrigate the area the day before sowing. Plant the seed into the moist furrows, if you’re not using a planter. If you are using a planter, dry the seed out just enough in the shade to allow it to flow freely. Plant the seed 1cm to 2cm deep. With the germination process already started and the soil moist, you don’t need to irrigate straight away. If conditions call for it, only a light irrigation is required.
Beetroot does not recover well from any setback. So apply a dressing of LAN when the beetroot is 4cm to 5cm high to ensure there is enough nitrogen to keep the plants growing well. The rate can be 1kg/50m². Thereafter, look at the leaf colour to determine whether you need to repeat the LAN. Leaf colour should be maintained at the same level it was a few weeks after the first application. Remember, though, that this colouring will depend on rain and soil condition, and other factors.
Beetroot will suffer if it does not get enough of the trace mineral boron. To supply this, mix 50g Solubor to 20l of water, add a wetting agent and spray it on the leaves, wetting them well. Do this twice – when the leaves are 10cm tall and again a few weeks later. As the plants grow, irrigate more heavily but less frequently to encourage the roots to grow deep to find nutrients. Keep in mind, however, that beetroot does not like water stress.