Greetings crop pickers, here's the run down of the current top 12 polytunnel crops. Each of our 'Top of the Crops' have detailed growing guides, working with author and long-time polytunnel gardener, Andy McKee, we have produced a series of guides complete with all the do's and don'ts of growing the most popular crops. Whether you are looking to try growing something new, or just want to improve your existing crops these guides will make sure your polytunnel gardening is a big hit with all the family...
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With its sweet, earthy flavour and striking colour, beetroot is easy to grow outside in the summer. It also stores well, but the flavour deteriorates a bit. This is where the polytunnel comes into its own, because beetroot sown in late summer tolerates the cold well enough to stand through the coldest of weather, giving a harvest that stays absolutely fresh well into the spring. A brilliant crop for beginners!
Varieties: ‘Detroit 2 Bolivar’, ‘Cylindra’
Sowing: Beetroot can be sown in the polytunnel any time the temperature is over 5°C, but will germinate much better around 25°C. If you’re sowing when the weather is cold, use pots or large modules. Sow several seeds in each at a depth of 1cm, and thin them to the best plant once the seedlings emerge. In warmer weather you can sow directly into the soil, at one seed every 2cm in rows 15cm apart, then thin to roughly 10cms.
Once the seedlings are up, beetroot are slow to get started and don’t like competition. Thin them out before growth gets crowded and keep the area free of weeds. Don’t allow the bed to dry out, as this can make them run to seed.
Diseases and pests: Slugs are likely to be the biggest problem for young plants, so make sure that your polytunnel is kept free of low, crowded growth (which encourages them) and consider protecting the plants until they are big enough to grow away from any damage.
For the very best flavour, beetroot should be lifted while they are still small: most varieties go woody if they are allowed to get too big.
Loosen the ground with a hand fork, lift the whole plant out, and twist the tops off immediately to stop the root from drying out. Don't forget that you can eat the leaves; treat them like chard.
Recipes: Beetroots are incredibly versatile, they can be used to make many things including...
roast beetroot (with honey)
chutney, relish and puree
even make chocolate and beetroot cakes!