This sweet salad-vegetable has a high food value. It needs good deep soil, and is best suited to occupy a place where a previous non-root crop has been grown. Do not add fresh manure as this is inclined to cause forking of the root. If, instead of growing vegetables in the kitchen garden, they are grown in the oldfashioned cottager’s way interspersed with flowering plants, the beetroot is a most suitable plant, since the round or turnip-shaped beet has generally fine decorative crimson leaves. In addition to the round beet there are two other forms obtainable, a long-rooted, and an inter-mediate type, called tankard or canister-shaped. Good named kinds are: ‘Crimson Globe’, ‘Veitch’s Intermediate’, ‘Chelten-ham Green Top’ and ‘Nutting’s Red Globe’. All are forms of Beta vulgaris.
The soil must be of an open well-worked, but not recently manured type. Ammonium sulphate should be given at the rate of 1 oz. Per square yard, potassium sulphate at the same rate, and 4 oz. Of calcium superphosphate also to each square yard.
Sow the globe-rooted beet in April; the others may follow in May. Make drills, 12 inches apart, space seeds 5 inches apart. A point to note is that each so-called ‘seed’ is, in fact, a ‘seed-ball’ containing several seeds and more than one may germinate. It is necessary to single the seedlings to one at each point when they are 1 inch high.
Another most important point to re-member with Beetroot is the extreme care required when the roots are harvested. On no account should root or top growth be damaged, or the result is quite likely to be a most unpalatable, anaemic-looking thing instead of the rich wine-red and appetising vegetable it should be. The roots should only be shaken free of soil as they are dug in August or September, and then stored in a shed, giving some cover in the form of dry soil, peat or leaves. Top growth may be carefully twisted off to avoid damage. Do not leave the roots to get hard and woody before digging them. After the beets have been cooked they may be cut without damaging their appearance, but if they are cut before cooking they will certainly be spoiled.
There are three distinct types of beetroot, grown for their roots — the globe, or roundtrooted, the intermediate, or cylindrical-rooted, and the long. The first is valuable for early crops, but the others are capable of giving heavier crops and should, in consequence, be planted for the maincrop. Spinach and seakale beetroots are grown for their stems and leaves and not for their roots, and are separately dealt with,. Dig the soil thoroughly, work in manure or compost at the rate of 1 cwt. to 20 sq. yd., if none has been applied for a previous crop, and, just prior to sowing, rake in a dressing of the following mixture at 3 to 4 oz. per square yard: 1 part of sulphate of ammonia, 1 part of sulphate of potash, 5 parts of superphosphate of lime.
Seed for an early crop may be sown at the end of April, and for the main crop from the beginning to the middle of May. Draw drills 1 in. deep and 12-15 in. apart, and sow seeds in small groups 6 in. apart for round and 8 in. for intermediate and longtrooted varieties. Reduce seedlings to one at each cluster. After thinning, dust sulphate of ammonia or nitrate of soda between the rows at the rate of 1 oz. to every 12 ft. Germination of beetroot seed is usually rather poor.
Lift early kinds from the end of June onwards, as required. Maincrop beetroot should be lifted in September and stored in sand or peat in a dry, frosttproof place. Twist off the tops.
Good kinds are Crimson Globe, Detroit, Cylindra, and Cheltenham Greentop.
Foes seldom give much trouble, but cutworms may damage the roots while leaves are occasionally attacked by leaf miners.