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How to grow Beetroot: From Seed to Harvest

Most of us have eaten Beetroot at some point and had it make a mess, usually of the tablecloth or on our favourite clean shirt. Although most of us buy it in a can and add it to a salad or our favourite burger, growing beetroot is as easy as it is to stain your shirt with it!

What is Beetroot

Beetroot doesn’t really need any introduction as most of us have seen it and eaten it. That being said, here are a few tips for those of you who would like to grow your own beetroot.

Beetroot is a root vegetable, and the big red/purple bulb is actually the taproot of the Beetroot plant. This is the part that we are most interested in in this article. The leaves are also edible as a salad leaf when young, and are quite delicious. Beetroot can be known by different names depending on where you live in the world. You may know them as beets, table beets, garden beets, red beets, dinner beets and golden beets.

Sliced Fresh Beetroot
Sliced Fresh Beetroot
Growing Beetroot from Seeds
Beetroot Seeds

It’s best to grow Beetroot from seeds

Growing Beetroot is really easy if you follow a few simple rules. You will often see root vegetables as seedlings in your local plant nursery or garden centre, but like all root vegetables, beetroots are best grown from seed rather than seedlings as they simply don’t like to be transplanted because it disturbs the taproots.

When to grow Beetroot in Australia

In the warmer areas of Australia, like Brisbane and further north, Beetroot can be grown all year round although it is best to avoid the rainy season in the tropics.

In temperate or Mediterranean climates, Sydney to Melbourne and Adelaide, Beetroot can be planted from July to March.

In cooler areas like Tasmania, highland areas of NSW and Victoria, Beetroot is best planted in September through to February.

If you’re in Perth, Beetroot can be planted all year, but it does best in Autumn and spring

Australian Climate Classification map - BOM
Australian Climate Zones - Image courtesy of Bureau of Meteorology

Planting Beetroot seeds

The easiest way to plant Beetroot seeds is to make a furrow or trench around 1.5 to 2cm deep and place the seeds around 5cm apart. Lightly backfill the trench to cover the seeds and be aware not to cover too deep - 1.5 cm is just about the ideal depth for Beetroot.

This next part is a bit of a juggling act, you need to keep the area that has been planted moist but not over wet, if you have a really good non-caking, well-drained soil just give them a light sprinkling of water every day. But if your soil is inclined to cake and leave a hard surface, the easiest way is to cover the area with some hessian or an old bed sheet and lightly water this every couple of days just to keep the soil moist.

After a week, start lifting one corner of the covering to see if the Beetroot has germinated and are starting to poke their heads out of the ground. Once they are starting to germinate you can remove the covering for good. This method works well for most vegetables. Once the Beetroot starts to grow you can thin them out if required.

Do Beetroots like sun or shade?

When it comes to positioning your plants, Beetroots are not that fussy. They don’t mind full sun or part shade and they don’t mind being in dappled light either. Beetroot will also grow well in containers, providing that the container is fairly deep and has good drainage holes.

Garden Bed preparation

Like most root vegetables, Beetroots love rich, well-drained soil, with lots of organic matter like compost worked in. They require well dug and deep loose soils to be able to get their roots down easily.

Good drainage is a must or else the Beetroot will rot if the garden bed stays too wet for extended periods. If you’re faced with heavy, clay soils and poor drainage, improving its structure with plenty of compost will help and consider building in some raised beds or hill the soil up at least 30cm to promote drainage.

Hilled rows for drainage
Hilled rows for drainage

Growing Beetroot

Beetroot that grows the fastest will be tastier and more tender than the slow growers. The more fertile the soil is, the better Beetroots grow - good fertile soil and optimum moisture levels are the key secrets here. Before planting, either add some dynamic lifter or some fertilizer that is not overly high in nitrogen which will give Beetroot the kick along that is needed for growing good Beetroot.

A fertilizer that is high in nitrogen will give you lots of leaves but provide small Beetroots as the plant puts all of its energy into producing leaves.

How to grow Beetroot: From Seed to Harvest
Young Beetroot plants

Harvesting Beetroot

As a rough guide, Beetroot takes between 50 and 80 days depending on the variety and growing conditions to be right for harvesting. If you are looking for baby beets it will be a lot sooner. The good thing about Beetroot is once the taproot starts to develop, you can see how big the Beetroot is as the crown or top of the Beetroot becomes exposed. This makes it really easy to choose when you would like to harvest your Beetroot.

The thing to remember here is don’t let your Beetroot get too big. The really large Beetroot can become tough and woody and not tasty at all. Beetroot should be harvested when the crown is between 6 and 10 cm across the top.

A little tip when harvesting Beetroot, leave about 3 to 5 cm of stems on top of your Beetroots to stop the Beetroot from “bleeding” red juice all over your hands and basket, it also gives you a handle to carry them by

Freshly harvested Beetroot
Freshly harvested Beetroot

Varieties of Beetroot available at E&J Urban Farms

Happy gardening

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