Thursday, 10 November 2016

A lot from a little

I have written several times about the concept of Value for Space Rating (VSR), which is a way of judging whether a crop is worth growing in the space you have available, based on a number of criteria:

1. The availability of the vegetable in Winter, or other times of scarcity.
2. Whether or not the homegrown item provides significantly better quality than a similar one bought in a shop.
3.Whether the vegetable is difficult and/or expensive to buy.

This post explores the concept in relation to Beetroot.

Now, I wouldn't normally consider Beetroot to have a high VSR. It is relatively cheap to buy, easily obtainable in the shops, and seldom considered to be a "premium" product. On this particular occasion though, I think it qualifies. I'll explain...

This year I grew mostly my old faithful variety "Boltardy", along with a few of "Detroit 2 Crimson Globe" - the latter being the remains of a pack left over from last year. They were sown in three rows, alongside two rows of the peas which were intended to be the main crop of this bed.

Beetroot visible along the near edge of the bed - protected by a forest of sticks

In their early days, my Beetroot suffered a lot from the depredations of the local foxes / badgers / whatever, who seemed to take great delight in digging them up on frequent occasions. My attempts to discourage this by putting in lots of short sticks were only partially successful.

To be honest, I did not have great expectations of this Beetroot, because I knew it would be overshadowed by the peas. This is the centre row, with peas either side:

I was going to say that in retrospect my biggest mistake was to omit thinning the Beetroot seedlings (which would have been quite difficult, especially in that centre row!), but actually it turned out to my advantage. This year I never got any big Beetroots at all, they were all small - and late. They really only began to take off when the peas finished cropping and were removed, which of course gave the Beetroot the light it needed. I harvested my first batch on 8th August:

8th August

Since then I have picked lots more similar batches, usually of 4, 5 or 6 roots, which is enough for a 2-person serving.

18th August

31st August

7th September

14th September

27th September

Yeah, they all look the same!

As each batch of the very overcrowded Beetroot was removed it gave some more space to the ones remaining, which were then able to expand into the available space. I suppose if you wanted to have a major pickling session you would be disappointed if your crop matured in dribs and drabs, but this sort of cropping suits us well, because we don't want large quantities of Beetroot at any given moment.

The cropping has continued through October and now into November. With the advent of colder weather the Beetroot is hardly growing at all, so the batches now have to include more roots to make a worthwhile quantity. This is the latest batch, pulled today:

As you can see, these are just tiddlers, so I picked 10 this time.

Well, as you can see, the overall crop has been good, although extended over a long period of time. And of course, the Beetroot was the secondary crop from this bed. The peas were good too!

Based on my experience this year I think that a long cropping period has to be considered as an aspect of VSR. What do you think?


  1. Mark, do you eat the leaves of the beetroot?

    1. Sometimes we eat the really tiny ones as a salad ingredient.

  2. Mark, I notice that you grew one crop of beetroot this year. Many writers talk about an early crop followed by a late crop of beetroot.
    Do you think that this is actually possible?

    1. Yes, I do think it's possible, especially if you harvest at the "baby beet" stage, though you would probably have to use cloches early and late in the season.

  3. Agreed - I'm not a fan of beets, one of the only veg I'll never add to my plate, but I do (in most but not all circumstances) prefer longer, smaller cropping over a couple of large harvests. Sugar snap peas comes to mind - we usually get a (too) big harvest over a couple of weeks and then nothing. I tried to extend the harvest by doing a staggered planting but it didn't work out with all the hot weather we had this year - I'll be trying next season.

  4. Hello Mark when did you saw the beetroot

  5. Replies
    1. I sowed the Beetroot on March 17th - it took AGES to mature, didn't it?

  6. I always sow beetroot in small clusters of seed in modules and plant out just like that, to give smaller beetroot, and like you say, when you pick a couple of larger ones in the cluster it gives space to the rest to grow into the space. Beetroot definitely scores highly for VSR. Which, btw, is a great concept and one I've been using ever since I read about it on your blog years ago!

    1. I'm flattered that you have been influenced by something I wrote! The concept is of course not mine - I learned it from Joy Larkcom.

  7. I, also, was going to ask whether you ate the leaves. They seem to feature a lot in those mixed salad leaves sold in supermarkets so we started to use them. I pickle some and make a yoghurty side salad with some too but we rarely use as a cooked vegetable. We tend to leave them and also harvest over winter until they are spoiled.

    1. The ones in the bagged salads are grown specially for that purpose, in a greenhouse, and have never been exposed to the rigours of plot life (which makes them too tough for salad unless picked really small). Some people eat the bigger leaves stir-fried.

  8. I prefer the beetroot being a smaller size. I will try and remember to try planting both of these crops together next year. Sarah x

  9. I sow beetroot later in the season, May onward, up to August. Once the weather warms up it grows very quickly if you water well. June and July sowing really grow fast. I also start them off in a big plant pot, hundreds of them bunched up and then transplant them when they have 4 leaves. Works very well for me.


Thank you for taking time to leave me a comment! Please note that Comment Moderation is enabled for older posts.