In today’s article, we discuss seeding and cultivation of red turnip, also known as red beetroot, garden beet, or red carrot. This colorful vegetable is loved by both farmers for its high yield and consumers for its special taste and numerous nutritional and beneficial properties (as previously mentioned in our post). To cultivate this vegetable organically in our home garden, certain considerations are essential. It is crucial to understand the plant and its care requirements.
Let’s explore the appropriate sowing periods and necessary attention for healthy and thriving growth.
Characteristics of Red Turnip
Carrot, turnip, and red beet are just a few names for Beta vulgaris var. cruenta. Regardless of the name, it is cultivated for its swollen roots. It belongs to the botanical family Chenopodiaceae and is native to the Mediterranean.
Red beet is a biennial herbaceous crop but is cultivated annually in gardens. This means that the roots swell and are harvested in the same year as sowing, while flowering and seed maturation occur in the second year.
The edible part consists of both the large root and the elongated rosette leaves, which have red veins and stems; the roots are fleshy and round, although some varieties have flat or cylindrical shapes. The flesh is sweet, with a characteristic deep red color. When fully grown, the root can reach a diameter of 12 cm, tapering down to a thinner root that does not go deep into the soil.
Red Turnip Varieties to Cultivate
The cultivation of red turnip includes various varieties with different shapes and growth cycles. The main ones are:
- Early Chioggia: Rather small and round, with remarkable earliness and delicate flavor. The flesh of this variety has concentric veins.
- Egyptian Flat Crimson: Good earliness, with a crop cycle of about two months. It has a typically flat shape, with firm and delicious flesh.
- Round Ball of Fire: Has a large round root. It is robust and productive but late to mature, with a crop cycle lasting 3-4 months.
- Cylindrical: A variety with a distinctly elongated and cylindrical shape, highly appreciated in the kitchen.
Cultivating Red Turnip
Red turnip grows well in various climates, but it thrives particularly in temperate cool regions. It generally has good cold resistance, although growth stops when temperatures drop below 5 degrees Celsius.
Sowing Period and Technique
Sowing of red beetroot takes place from February to March, depending on the climatic conditions, and continues until July. This allows for staggered harvesting.
Early varieties for summer harvest are preferably sown in spring, while late varieties for autumn and winter consumption are planted in summer.
Seeds are sown directly in the ground, either scattered or in regular rows. When the seedlings have 3-4 leaves, thin them to leave a spacing of 20 cm between each plant. Sowing with polystyrene seedlings is not recommended, as it may result in deformed roots. To ensure proper development of regular red beet, the seeds should not be buried more than 1 cm deep.
Soil and Fertilization
Red turnip thrives best in loose, deeply worked soil (at least 30 cm deep) enriched with decomposed organic matter. Avoid using fresh manure directly, and instead, cultivate beetroots in a plot where manure was distributed in the previous crop to allow for decomposition.
Potassium is essential for this crop, and it can be supplied by distributing wood ash.
Garden beet requires weeding to remove unwanted plants. Applying natural mulch can help control weeds and keep the soil moist. Regular irrigation, especially during summer, is necessary to avoid water stress that may hinder proper growth.
Harvesting takes place gradually during the summer and autumn seasons by uprooting individual plants. Select the best-developed and fully formed roots for each harvest.
Depending on the sowing period and variety, the roots take between two to four months to grow to full size. Once mature, they should be removed from the ground to avoid becoming tough and woody. In autumn, before the arrival of cold weather, remaining roots should be harvested, and after removing the leaves, they can be preserved by layering them in dry sand and storing them in a cool room. This preservation method can keep the roots fresh for several months.
Red beet has many properties and uses in the kitchen, as previously discussed. While we are used to buying pre-boiled vacuum-packed red beets, nothing compares to the taste of organically grown produce.
Regarding its uses, we remind you of the benefits of red beet juice, a true elixir of goodness.
Biological Pest Control
Several insects can disturb the growth of red beet in our organic garden, especially those that attack the above-ground part of the plant. These include the beet leafhopper, aphids, and red spider mites.
To control beet leafhoppers, we recommend using neem oil, as previously discussed and available at this link. For aphids, natural nettle macerates and garlic macerates can be effective. Finally, for red spider mites, which are problematic especially in summer, cold-water spraying can interrupt their reproduction cycle.
And that’s all about red turnip. Happy organic cultivation!
- PubMed – “The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease” – A study on the potential health benefits of red beetroot supplementation.
- NCBI – “Beetroot as a functional food with huge health benefits: Antioxidant…” – An article discussing beetroot as a functional food with significant health benefits, including antioxidant properties.
- Clinmed Journals – “Red Beetroot: Composition and Health Effects – A Review” – Another review focusing on the composition and health effects of red beetroot.
- Wiley Online Library – “Red beetroot: Health benefits, production techniques, and quality…” – An article on the health benefits, production techniques, and quality aspects of red beetroot.
- NCBI – “A Narrative Review on the Potential of Red Beetroot as an Adjuvant…” – A narrative review on the potential of red beetroot as an adjuvant treatment for clinical conditions.
- Academic Journals – “Effect of red beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) intake on the level of some…” – A study on the effect of red beetroot intake on certain biochemical parameters.
- Europe PMC – “Biological effects of red beetroot and betalains: A review.” – A review of the biological effects of red beetroot and betalains.
- NCBI – “Effect of red beetroot juice on oxidative status and islet insulin…” – A study on the effect of red beetroot juice on oxidative status and islet insulin secretion.
- ScienceDirect – “Valorization of discarded red beetroot through the recovery of…” – An article on the valorization of discarded red beetroot through the recovery of valuable compounds.