Get your garden ready for autumn
As a root vegetable, beetroot comes in different shapes, sizes and colours with edible leaves that taste great in a salad. It's also easy to grow at most times of the year and you don't even need a lot of space.
Beetroot prefers cool to warm climates. It needs at least 4 hours of full sun a day and grows best at the base of larger plants like capsicum and tomatoes or anywhere you've just grown leafy greens like lettuce and spinach. A little bit of shade won't hurt either.
Whether you're planting in pots or the garden, soil preparation is a must. Use a medium rich, well-drained soil that's been loosened with a garden fork. Mix in some compost and manure with a bit of blood and bone. Also add some boron, which is generally lacking in Australian soils. Mound the soil to improve drainage if necessary.
Beetroot seeds have a hard outer coating, so soak them in a glass of water the night before planting. This will soften the seeds and encourage germination.
If you're planting seedlings, gently pull them apart and plant about 5–10cm apart to allow enough space to grow and reduce competition for nutrients.
To ensure that your beetroot is tender and juicy, it's important to water regularly. Keep the soil moist, not wet, until the seeds have germinated, then water every couple of days for the first month. If you don't, beetroots can dry and even crack, exposing them to the risk of rot.
A steady supply of nutrients will help form tastier beetroot and better quality leaves. Use a liquid feed of seaweed and fish fertiliser at least once a fortnight.
It's best to harvest your beetroot while they're young, about 2–3 months after you plant them. Often called ‘baby beets', these will be juicier and sweeter. The larger they get, the tougher they are and you get less flavour.
The best way to pull them up is to loosen the soil around the beetroot and gently yank the foliage until it dislodges.
You can also start harvesting the leaves from around 6 weeks. Start with the outer leaves but make sure you leave a few on, so the plant keeps growing.