Beetroots, with their rich maroon hue and earthy taste, are a favourite in many Australian homes.
They are packed with nutrients and can be eaten fresh, roasted, or pickled.
Growing beetroots in Australia can be both rewarding and delicious. Here’s how to get started.
Where to Grow Beetroot
All types of beetroot prefer a sunny spot in the garden with loose, well-drained soil.
They are not too fussy about soil pH but do best in a slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH 6.0–7.0).
Enrich your soil with well-rotted compost or manure before planting.
Check that the soil is free from stones, which could hinder root development.
When to Grow Beetroot
Beetroots can be grown year round in Australia, but the best time to plant them is late summer or autumn when the wet season has passed.
This is because beetroots thrive in cool to warm temperatures ranging from 10°C to 30°C.
In the cooler regions of Australia, sow seeds in the warmer months.
On the other hand, beetroots can be grown throughout the winter in tropical areas.
How Long Does Beetroot Take to Grow?
Generally, a beetroot takes 50–70 days to grow from sowing to harvest.
Baby beets can be harvested earlier — 30–40 days — if you prefer small and tender beetroots.
If you want to harvest mature beetroots, wait until they reach the size of a golf ball.
But don’t wait more than 70 days because your beetroots can become woody and not as flavourful if left in the ground too long.
How to Sow Beetroot Seed
Sow beetroot seeds directly into the prepared soil bed about 2cm deep, spaced 10cm apart.
Beetroot seeds are actually clusters of seeds, so you may need to thin the seedlings once they grow.
Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged; seedlings should emerge in 10–14 days.
Growing Beetroot from Seedlings
If you prefer, you can also start beetroot seedlings in trays and transplant them to your garden.
This method can give you a head start in cooler regions.
Gently transplant the seedlings when they are about 5cm tall, being careful not to disturb the roots.
How to Grow Beetroot Plants
Growing beetroot plants is a straightforward process that rewards you with a crop that’s both versatile in the kitchen and beneficial for your health.
Prepare the soil
Before you sow any seeds, it’s important to choose the right spot and prepare the soil.
Beetroot plants need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight and well-drained soil to thrive.
Start by loosening the soil to a 20–25cm depth using a garden fork or tiller.
Remove any stones or debris that could obstruct the growth of the roots.
Work in plenty of organic matter to enrich the soil.
Sow your beetroot seeds
Plant two or three seeds directly into the prepared ground.
Sow seeds 2cm deep and space them about 10cm apart in rows.
Leave about 30cm between each row of beetroot seeds to allow room for the plants to grow and for easy maintenance.
After planting, gently water the area to settle the seeds into the soil.
Thin the seedlings
As the beetroot seedlings grow, you may notice more than one seedling emerging from each seed cluster.
Once the young seedlings are about 5cm tall, thin them out and leave the strongest one.
This ensures they have enough space to develop and reduces competition for nutrients.
Water and mulch as needed
Water the soil gently after sowing to moisten it without disturbing the seeds.
For the best results, enrich your soil with organic matter.
Add a layer of well-rotted compost or aged manure to the soil and mix it well.
This will help to provide the nutrients the beetroot plants need to grow.
Fertilise and manage pests and diseases
Keep an eye out for leaf-eating pests such as aphids and caterpillars and diseases like leaf spot.
If you spot any pests, you can remove them by hand or use an appropriate organic insecticide.
Practice crop rotation to prevent diseases from taking hold in the soil.
Harvest your beetroots
When to harvest beetroots in Australia? Beetroots are usually ready for harvest when they reach the size of a golf ball or a tennis ball.
Gently unearth a beetroot to check its size.
If it looks ready to harvest, carefully pull the beetroot from the soil by loosening the soil around the plant and grasping the base of the stems to lift it gently.
Store beetroot properly
Prepare your beetroot for storage.
Trim the foliage to about 5cm above the root to prevent the beetroot from bleeding and losing moisture.
If you’re not using them immediately, store your beetroots in a cool, dry place or place them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator wrapped in a paper towel.
Companion Plants for Beetroot
Any gardening expert will recommend companion planting since it can enhance the growth of beetroot and protect it from pests.
Beans fix nitrogen in the soil, which can benefit beetroot growth.
The vertical growth of beans can also save space in the garden.
Corn provides a natural shade and windbreak for beetroot plants.
Since beetroot grows low to the ground, it won’t compete with corn for sunlight.
Lettuce and beetroot are excellent companions due to their complementary root structures.
This green leafy veggie has shallow roots and beetroot has deeper ones, so they don’t compete for nutrients.
Marigolds are known to repel beetroot pests and nematodes in the soil.
They can also attract butterflies and other pollinators, which benefit the entire garden.
Common Pests and Diseases for Beetroot Plants
As your beetroot grows, it can be susceptible to certain pests and diseases.
Here are some common issues you might encounter, along with some preventative measures and treatments.
Aphids are tiny insects that suck the sap from beetroot leaves, causing them to curl and become distorted.
Natural predators like ladybugs can help control aphids, or you can use a strong jet of water to knock them off the plants.
For severe infestations, use insecticidal soap or dispose of the plant.
These are small jumping beetles that eat holes in beetroot leaves.
Keeping the garden free of debris and using floating row covers can help prevent flea beetles from accessing the plants.
Leaf spot is a fungal disease that causes circular spots with a grey centre on leaves.
It can be managed by removing affected foliage, improving air circulation, and practising crop rotation.
These insects lay eggs inside the beetroot leaves, and the larvae create tunnels as they eat their way through the leaf tissue.
You can control leaf miner infestation by removing affected leaves and ensuring good garden hygiene.
If you spot a white powdery deposit on the upper leaf surface, it’s most likely powdery mildew.
This is another fungal disease that thrives in dry conditions with high humidity.
Water the soil, not the beetroot foliage, to prevent powdery mildew.
You can also thin plants to improve air circulation or use fungicides for more severe infestations.
Slugs and snails
Slugs and snails chew on the foliage and the root itself.
Use organic slug baits or traps, and encourage natural predators like birds and hedgehogs.
FAQs About Beetroot
Is a beet the same as beetroot?
Yes! They’re called beets in North America, while beetroot is more common in Australia and the UK.
Is a beetroot a fruit or a vegetable?
A beetroot is considered a root vegetable because the part we eat grows underground.
Fruits typically contain seeds and develop from the flowering parts of a plant.
You Can’t Beet Homegrown Veggies
There’s nothing quite like the taste of a freshly plucked beetroot from your own garden.
After 2–3 months, you’ll have a bountiful beetroot harvest that can be enjoyed in salads, soups, or as a delicious side dish.