Beta vulgaris is one of the few vegetables native to this part of the world. Its ancestor is the sea beet found on beaches around here. Beetroot is an easy vegetable to grow. They are one of the few vegetables developed from a species native to Ireland and their ancestors can be seen as 'Sea Beet' on beaches. This is why they are so well suited to our conditions.Sow them in the ground from April to August. If you want a really early crop, start them under cover in February or March. The seeds are in clusters containing several seeds in each. Sow each cluster 3cm apart in rows 2cm deep and 25cm between rows. When the seeds have germinated, thin out to the strongest seedlings, roughly 10cm apart. Keep well weeded.Pick the Beetroot while they are young and tender, before they get to tennis ball size.The later plantings can be left out all winter providing roots and leaves.Leaf Beet or Chard is a different version of the same plant where the leaves are used instead of the root.
Chard doesn't need much manure but likes lots of light. Sow the seeds 2cm apart directly the ground in April or whenever it has warmed up enough for you to work in your shirt-sleeves. Lace about 30cm between rows. If you want a really early crop, start them under cover in February or March. You can carry on sowing them till the first week in August to have small leaves throughout the winter. Harvest the leaves when small for best flavour. Spinach is believed to have originated in ancient Persia and spread across the ancient world by Arab traders.
It is a bit trickier to grow as it demands warmer, more fertile soil and short days for it to grow large, without bolting. The seeds should be sown in modules in early spring and planted out when the days are warm. In late summer it can be sown directly in the ground. Spinach is a great crop to overwinter in a polytunnel providing an early crop and finishing before tomatoes etc need to be planted out.