Sowing beetroot – April/May

You can grow beetroot by sowing directly into well prepared beds, but it is also possible to grow this crop by starting the seed in trays transplanting to their final position after about 4 weeks. The advantage of this approach is that it gives the young seedlings protection from the weather and also birds who will find the young plants are quite a tasty treat. (Young beetroot leaves can be harvested and eaten like spinach).

Beetroots grow best in loose fertile soil which has had a lot of organic matter dug in – but avoid beds where you have recently incorporated manure as this can cause problems with the roots. Beetroot prefers free-draining soil, so planting in raised beds will be better if the soil is heavy and prone to becoming waterlogged.

Beetroot seeds come in ‘clusters’. So each ‘seed’ will actually produce three or four seedlings which you need to thin out after germination.

Sowing seeds for transplanting later…

If you decide to go this route, plant the seeds in modular trays using a seed compost which will be finer and lower in nutrients than a multi-purpose compost. Fill the tray with compost and tap it to let the compost settle rather than pressing it down. Make a hole approximately 2.5 cm deep and drop one seed into each cell. Then cover the seeds with another thin layer of compost. Gently water the seeds in, but avoid overwatering. Keep the compost moist. As the seedlings emerge, select the strongest seedling and remove the others by snipping them out (rather than pulling them which might disturb the roots of the stronger seedling). The young plants should be ready for planting out after 4 weeks. Plant the young beetroots 10 cm apart in rows 20cm apart and water well after planting.

Sowing Direct

Work the soil until you have a fine, granular consistency. Then rake the bed level  and form a trench about 2.5 cm (1″) deep with the edge of a hoe or a trowel. Plant the seeds about 10cm (4″) apart. Space rows about 20cm (8″) apart. Cover the seeds over with soil and water well. As the seedlings emerge remove the weakest and thin out to one plant every 10cm.

Planting out broad beans – April

If you sowed your broad beans in pots earlier in the year, they will be ready for planting out in April (maybe the last week in March if the weather is good!).

The generally accepted advice is plant them in double rows allowing 20cm-25cm between plants and 30cm or so between the double rows to allow access. If planting in a raised bed where you don’t need to walk between rows, then you might consider diagonal rows 20cm apart and 20cm between plants. (There is method in this approach which I will explain later).

Broad beans are amongst the most resilient of legumes and will tolerate low temperatures, but you will need to cover them with fleece if frosts are still likely. (I’ve got a micromesh frame that fits over the raised bed with a removable top cover which also protects my plants from other hazards such as pigeons in the early stages of growth).

Depending on the variety, the plants grow to a height of around 1.2m and will need some form of support. But unlike peas and runner beans, broad bean plants aren’t climbers so using cane ‘wigwams’ or a climbing net won’t work.

Using posts at the corners of the bed and enclosing the plants in a string framework will do the trick although a better method of supporting the growing plants is to use canes and then form a lattice work with string at different heights between the canes. Here’s where diagonal rows can help. Using canes around the bed and spaced along the diagonals, a criss-cross string lattice is easy to build allowing the plants to grow up through the ‘cells’ of the lattice.