Many types of beet grow in the food garden

Beet is actually a whole family of vegetables with many different uses and all highly nutritious. The group includes Swiss Chard, Rainbow Chard, beetroot, sugarbeet and even the so-called "Perpetual Spinach". All belong to the same plant species - Beta vulgaris.

Rainbow Chard

All the various forms of this very useful vegetable have similar growing requirements and seasons. The leaf vegetable forms make a useful addition to the garden as the do better in warmer months than Spinach, so Spring planting of chard followed by Autumn planting of Spinach will give an almost year-round supply of leafy greens.

In cooler areas, vegetables in this group can be planted from early Spring to the end of Summer, or perhaps an extra month either way in warmer regions.

They are best planted as seed, although chard can be transplanted as seedlings. Beetroot seed can be sown in a straight drill and thinned to about 3 inches apart once they reach the three-leaf stage. For chards, spacing of 15 to 18 inches between plants is required and Perpetual Spinach can us a spacing somewhere between these two extremes (although it often does better in containers).

Soils and Fertilizer

These are among some of the easiest vegetables to grow. The will do well in most soils and climates, although soil improvement will always pay dividends. They do not do well in highly fertile soils and so are best suited to the second stage of your crop rotation. It is especially important to avoid over-using Nitrogen, although the leafy chards will require a little more than root vegetable forms.

All the varieties in this group are susceptible to both Manganese and Boron deficiency, so a regular spray with a good quality kelp extract (about every two weeks) is good practice.

Pests and Diseases

These vegetables are relatively free from pests and diseases. The most common problem being snail, slug and earwig damage.

Varieties to grow

There are many varieties of each form (including many heirloom varieties). You should talk with your local Nurseryman for advice on what is best in your area.

Further Reading and Useful Links

With such a diverse group of vegetables as this, it is difficult to get all the available information together at once, so we will be adding more as we go and also building on the list of links below. However, you can also keep in touch by subscribing to our free email newsletter - The Food Gardener.

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Wikipedia - Beet
Includes a lot more about the botany, history and uses of this diverse group of vegetables.