I love home-grown organic beetroot, and where I live in the subtropics, we're lucky to be able to plant and grow beetroot all year round. Gardeners in temperate areas have a long growing season too and can sow seed from mid-winter through to the end of summer. In cold areas, September to February is the prime sowing time, so now is a great time to get a crop a crop in the ground.
Direct sowing is the best, but sometimes I sow seed into punnets so I can keep a close eye on them, but they must be planted out into the garden when the seedlings are still quite small, otherwise, they suffer greatly from transplant shock.
Like most veg, beetroot like a sunny spot and good drainage. Loosen up the soil with a garden fork, using the back of it break up any clods. Then with a steel rake, work the soil to a fairly fine tilth, Spread some blood and bone over the surface – about a handful per square metre – work that in with the rake, and you’re ready for sowing seed.
You need to make some drills, and a short piece of dowel comes in handy for that. Press it onto the soil surface with spacings of about 30 cm’s apart. Then it’s just a matter of dropping in the seeds along the drills at intervals of around 3cm, covering them with soil and watering them in.
One thing I should mention is boron. It’s a nutrient that beetroot plants must have to grow properly, but most of our soils are deficient. You can get it in powdered form at most garden centres. They don’t need much, just about a teaspoonful dissolved in a watering can and poured over the soil at planting time. That’s all the added boron they’ll need for the season.
Keep the bed moist, and your seedlings should be up in about 10 days. You normally end up with more seedlings than expected because each beetroot ‘seed’ is actually a cluster of small seeds. You can thin them out when they are just big enough to handle. Do some more thinning a little bit down the track, when the roots get to around golf ball size – these are sweet and delicious. Aim for a final spacing of around 10cm to allow the remaining crop to mature.
Most importantly, beetroot like to grow quickly so make sure you give them a regular drink as well as some heavily diluted liquid kelp and fish emulsion once every week or so and you’ll be well on your way to a bumper harvest of beautiful beets.
First published: September 2012