Beetroot is dead easy to grow and incredibly good for you. Forget about the stuff you buy in tins. Fresh beetroot from the garden is far superior in flavour and jam-packed with health-giving properties. There’s more to beetroot than the common round red varieties too. When you grow them yourself, you get to discover all sorts of different shapes and colours, including elongated tubers, and yellow and white flesh. And it’s not only the tubers – you can eat beetroot leaves as well and they’re great in salads. Beetroot are easy to grow from seed and you don’t need much space. So find a sunny spot and get sowing!
By
Phil Dudman

6 Sep 2012 - 3:18 PM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2017 - 11:10 AM

At a glance

Ease of culture: Easy
Where: All regions
Best climate: Warm conditions
When: Autumn-spring (subtropics), spring-autumn (cool and temperate), autumn (winter) tropical zones
Spacing: 10-15cm
Harvest: 12 weeks
pH: 5.5-6.5

 

Climate

• Beetroot prefers cool to warm conditions
• You can grow them spring to autumn in cool and temperate areas, all year in subtropics, and autumn to spring in the tropics
• They like full sun, at least 4 hours a day
• Beetroot like a little protection from the hot sun in mid-summer and will grow well at the base of bigger plants, such as tomatoes and capsicum, or under the shelter of 30-50% shadecloth

 

Soil

• Beetroot like a medium rich soil that’s well drained.
• Loosen your soil with a garden fork and break up any large clods in preparation for planting.
• Add at least 2 bucketloads of well-rotted compost and manure per square metre, and fork that into the soil along with a handful of blood and bone per square metre
• Mound the soil to improve drainage.

 

Sowing

• Sow September to February in cool and temperate areas, March to December in subtropics, and April to June in tropics
• Seedlings are readily available and unlike most root vegetables, they tolerate transplanting quite well, as long as this is done when the plants are small
• Beetroot is also very easy to sow from seeds, which is the most economical way to go
• Seeds look and feel like cork. Each 'seed" is cluster of many seeds. Two or more seedlings will appear from each one
• Sow seeds in drills 10mm deep and approximately 50mm apart, then backfill
• Thin seedlings when they are big enough to handle, leaving one plant at each growing point. If you are careful, these can be transplanted to other areas. Aim for a final spacing of 10-15cm between plants
• Sow new seed every 4-6 weeks to create an ongoing supply through the growing season

 

Watering and fertilising

• Beetroot requires a steady, even supply of moisture to form tender, juicy tubers
• Irregular water supply can lead to dry tubers and even cracking, which exposes the tubers to harmful rotting-disease organisms
• Beetroot needs a steady supply of nutrients to form good-quality leaves and tubers for eating. Liquid feed your crop at least once a fortnight with diluted liquid seaweed and fish emulsion

 

Box: Essential Boron

Boron is an important nutrient for growing beetroot and often lacking in Australian soils, particularly in alkaline soils. Boron is available in packets at nurseries. Mix no more than ½ teaspoon in a 9-litre watering can and pour it over seeds or seedlings when planting. This mix will cover an area of one square metre and one dose is enough for each crop.

 

Harvesting

• Harvest young. Beetroot are at their sweetest when 30-50mm wide. These are often referred to as 'baby beats". It takes around 2-3 months to get them to this size
• Tubers up to the size of tennis balls are still good eating. Larger tubers look good, but start to get tough and lose flavour
• Leaves can be harvested for salad from around 6 weeks on. Start with outer leaves first and always leave 5-6 on the plant so it continues to grow