Beetroot or beets for short is not only a colorful and tasty vegetable that you can grow year-round. It is also quite a nutrient dense vegetable. Which is high in dietary fiber, rich in folate and manganese and contain vitamins A and C along with many other essential nutrients. While beetroot can be enjoyed all year round, it is a cold-weather plant that thrives in winter (15 to 20 degrees Celsius).
Beets are a low maintenance vegetable that doesn’t require a lot of watering and it does very well in well drained soils. Beets should be ready to harvest 7 to 8 (60 days) weeks after they are planted. Beetroot can be grown outside, indoors, in containers and greenhouses. Beets generally produces a globe shaped or cylindrical root. While there may be different varieties of beets, they will differ in regards speed to maturity, colour, disease resistance and adaptability. (Check with your local agricultural seed shop for more details on the different varieties when buying seeds.)
Need we say more about this colorful, nutrient dense vegetable? Keep reading if you would like to learn more about growing beets.
SOIL &CLIMATIC REQUIREMENTS
As we mentioned above beets are generally a winter crop, even thought they can be grown year-round. The optimum growing temperature for beets is between 12 – 19°C. Which are the average winter temperatures in Zimbabwe. You can grow beets during warmer times of the year, the maximum growing temperature they can grow in 35°C. As far as soil temperatures, for germination it has to be at least 7°C or greater. The ideal pH for beets production is between 6.0 and 8.0. It should be noted that beets grow best in well drained soils.
LAND PREPARATION & PLANTING PERIODS
Beets grow best from seed is directly sown into the ground. Field preparation is key, Beetroot. does very well in well drained soils with plenty of humus but not fresh manure. Good soil preparation can be achieved by ploughing, harrowing and levelling prior to sowing. Beetroot is generally a widely adaptable crop that can be grown under most conditions throughout the year. Avoid planting around time where your crop can be impacted by extreme weather conditions like frost conditions or plants can be scorched from excessive heat. Beetroot grow best in well prepared soil that has been raked to a fine tilth as well as a sunny, open position and moist, fertile conditions for optimal growth.
Beetroot seed is generally large with a corky exterior. The seeds are quite big and knobbly, which makes them very easy to sow. Unlike other crops, beetroot seeds are actually clumps of individual seed, i.e it’s a seed cluster with 2 – 6 seeds. So you’ll often get several sprouts from each one. Germination usually takes between 10 to 24 days. Plant seeds I.5 to 3 centimeters into the ground with about 7 centimeters row spacing and 35 centimeters inter-row spacing. Watering every two weeks especially when dry, as well as thinning is very important throughout its growth. Harvesting should be done when the crop is still tender (about 60 days from sowing).
Soil analysis is important so that the plants will not be burned, or end up showing poor growth due to too much or too little fertilizers. It is important to invest in a good soil analyzer especially if you are growing commercially. Below are some of the most commonly used fertilizers.
Nitrogen drives the formation of leaves and is part of photosynthesis. Nitrogen should be applied prior to planting and incorporated into land preparation. The remainder of the nitrogen should be applied as a side-dressing 10, 20, 30 and 40 days after sowing.
No limit is normally set for the safe rate at which phosphates may be applied, however, a rate of 50 -100kg P/ha will cover any possible shortfall. Phosphorus helps in the production of flowers and increases root growth and uptake.
Potassium fertilizer should be added based on a reliable soil test as it can cause plant injury if applied at an incorrect rate. Potassium enhances fruit development and increases resistance to disease.
Boron deficiency shows up as a breakdown and corky, dark discolouration of internal and external tissues. Foliar sprays have generally given faster and more effective results. Spray when the young plants are about 8 cm high.
Beetroot is normally ready for harvest between 75 and 90 days in summer and 100 and 120 days in winter. Beetroot can be harvested from about the size of a golf ball up to the size of a tennis ball. To harvest, gather the base of the stems and twist the root out of the soil, or alternatively, use a fork to dig them out. Leaves can be twisted off and cooked in the same way as spinach, covo or any other leafy greens. The harvested yield will vary significantly as a result of climate, fertilization, disease infestation and variety planted. The average yields range anywhere from 15 and 25 tons per hectare. Some growers can achieve yields of 40 – 45 tons.
POSTHARVEST & STORAGE
After picking beets, wash them if they will soon be used. If beets will be stored for a length of time, place them in a dry, shady place until the soil on them has dried, then gently brush the dried soil off. Wash the beets right before using. In areas with mild winters, roots sown later in the season can be left in the ground to dig up as required. Alternatively, store roots in boxes of sand in a cool but frost-free place.