There’s a myth that beetroot is a winter crop best grown in cold climates. In reality, beetroot grows well in all climate zones in Australia, including the tropics. The trick is to get your timing right. Up north the best time of the year to grow beets is during winter. Sow in early June and harvest in late August. In the subtropics, you can theoretically grow beetroot all year round, but the summer wet season can be difficult. Avoid it and grow during autumn, winter and spring. In arid, semi-arid and temperate areas, the best times are during the shoulder seasons – autumn and spring. While the plants are frost hardy and mature beetroot stores well in the ground during winter, the soil tends to be a bit cold in some areas for strong growth to occur. Conversely, summer in all but the coldest areas is a bit hot. In cool regions, plants do best sown in September/October and January/February.
Planting from seed
Speaking of seed, beetroot has a few quirks that are worth bearing in mind. One is that the seed is actually a compound or aggregate of two or three seeds that are joined together with a corky membrane. This means there is no need to over-sow like you might for carrots. Instead space seeds about 15cm apart. The other is that, like most root crops, beetroot grows best when sown directly into the garden rather than transplanted. It’s not as fussy as things like carrots and parsnips – transplants eventually get going in time and are rarely stunted – but fresh seed sown into the garden invariably gives better results.
To learn more about growing beetroot, including the different types of cultivars available and how to deal with pests, get a copy of the latest issue of Organic Gardener Magazine Australia.
By: Justin Russell
First published: August 2019