I love this time of the year. Firstly it’s a time of the year when all your hard work in the garden has paid off as you harvest the fruits (and vegetables) of your labour. Secondly, September for me, and I think this is what I love most, is a time when you can share all your homegrown goodies. I have memories as a young child being asked to bring either a fruit or a vegetable into school for harvest celebrations, which were then put into baskets to give to those who needed a little extra help. I still enjoy, after being blessed with a lovely garden to work in and all the wonderful crops that grow in it, giving some of our fruit and vegetables away.
My plant of the month is one that you can harvest throughout the summer, yet is one that brings a lot of joy to me in September. The plant I’m loving at the moment is beetroot or if you live in America, beets. With its vibrant green leaves, pink stems and round, purply-pink vegetable, what’s not to love? A perfect injection of colour to your garden at this time of year when other plants in the garden are beginning to die off and also once fully grown, a vegetable that can be used and prepared in a number of different ways.
Beetroot is a an example of a root vegetable, yet it’s anatomy is slightly different to the other members of this family. The name ‘root vegetable’ simply means that the vegetable you eat is actually the main root of the plant. Other common examples of root vegetables are carrots and parsnips. To grow carrots and parsnips, you must sow them directly into the ground as they do not like being moved from a seed tray once they have started to grow. Moving a carrot or parsnip could spell trouble because you are disrupting the main root of a plant. Beetroots, however, can be sown into seed trays and then moved to your garden soil as the beetroot vegetable itself is not the main root.
We used to sow our beetroot seed directly into the soil, however, we never had a great deal of success, probably due to the stones and clay in our garden soil. We now find it much more effective to sow our seeds into little trays, a couple of seeds into each compartment. When the seedlings have grown to a good size they are then transferred into the garden. This method not only allows you to improve the success of germination and to take better care of young seedlings but also minimises the need to disturb growing seedlings further once they are in the ground as there is no need to thin out.
When you sow root vegetable seed directly into the garden soil, you will find that the seedlings grow closely together. Thinning out means removing some of the weaker seedlings to make more space around the stronger ones that you leave behind. Thinning out encourages the remaining seedlings to grow bigger and better as they don’t have to compete for space and nutrients but there is always a risk you can damage adjacent seedlings that you leave in the ground.
Tips for thinning out:
- Make sure you don’t thin out during a hot part of the day.
- Be gentle when picking out the weaker ones so as not to disturb the stronger ones you leave in the ground.
- Always give the remaining growing plants a good drink of water afterwards.
As time passes over the Summer, the sight of a beetroot ‘head’ peeping through the soil is indeed a joy to any gardener and is also a sign that the vegetable is near ready for harvesting. We have had a great success this year and have been able to use our beetroot in a number of different ways from pickling in vinegar, making relish and roasting.