Vegetable Beet Gardening
BEET. This valuable root vegetable is represented by numerous varieties of different types which have been obtained by continued selection from Beta vulgaris, a plant which grows wild in the maritime districts of southern Europe. It belongs to the family Chenopodiaceae. The word Beta is the Latin name for Beet, and the source of our English word Beet.
The Chief Types. Beets, which are valued as a salad and pickle as well as a vegetable, are available for use in summer, autumn and winter from successive sowings made in spring and summer. There are two chief types, the Long Beet and the Globe Beet. Between the Globe and Long there is an Intermediate type.
When to Sow the Main Crop. The main crop of Beets to provide roots for late autumn and winter use is raised from seeds sown out of doors in late June or early July. The drills should be 1 in. deep and 12-15 in. apart. The seeds may be scattered thinly along the rows and the seedlings thinned out to 4-6 in. apart. The thinning must be done gradually, the weakest plants being removed a few at a time throughout a period of several weeks. As soon as the plants are above the soil, hoeing must be done frequently to keep down weeds and encourage growth. Hoeing should be continued throughout the growing period.
Beets need deep, friable soil, free from lumps and fresh manure. It is usual to grow Beets on a plot of ground that was deeply dug and manured the previous year for Beans, Peas, or other deep-rooting crop. Before sowing, fork in a dressing of a complete fertilizer.
Seaweed is an excellent manure for Beets, and owners of seaside gardens might use it with advantage for this crop. The seaweed should be obtained in autumn and mixed with an equal bulk of manure. The heap will soon decay if turned occasionally, and by spring will be suitable for digging into the soil.
Lifting and Storing. As the Beet is not hardy, it is usual to lift and store the roots before severe frost. The tops should be twisted off, not cut, or the roots may "bleed." They should be stored at once between layers of peat or sand in boxes in a frost proof cellar or shed, or they may be placed in a heap, between layers of soil, at the foot of a fence or wall in regions where winter cold is not severe.
The Globe Beet is recommended for the summer crop. Seeds should be sown as soon as the ground is workable in spring and at 3or 4-week intervals until July. These sowings will provide a succession of roots in July, August and September. The drills should be 12 in. apart and the seedlings thinned to 5-6 in. apart.
Crimson Globe, Crimson Ball, Detroit Dark Red and Crosby's Egyptian are reliable varieties of Beet.
Edible-leaved and Ornamental-leaved kinds. B. vulgaris variety Cicala does not develop swol
len roots as does the common Beet, but its leaves and the swollen midveins of the leaves are edible after they are cooked. It is sometimes known as Leaf Beet and Spinach Beet. The most common form of this variety is called Swiss Chard. See Swiss Chard.
Other forms of Beta vulgaris variety Cicala have brightly colored leaves and are sometimes grown as ornamentals. One of the best is known as the Chilean Beet. B. vulgaris variety cruenta also includes forms with handsomely colored foliage that are grown as ornamentals. An especially good type of this variety is named Victoria. For details of cultivation, see Beet, Ornamental.
Other Kinds of Beet. Although they are not ordinarily grown as garden plants, it is worth noting that the Sugar Beet and the Mangel are both varieties of Beta vulgaris. The former is a most important commercial source of sugar, the latter is grown as feed for livestock.