Growing Beetroot

Latest Update 3rd November 2016.

Beetroot
  • Grated raw beetroot make a healthy addition to your salad, and they are delicious roasted in their jackets while still young. 
  • When you harvest your main crop, you can roast some of them after parboiling.  I pressure cook mine for about 15 minutes before roasting them.
  • Beetroot juice is considered by many health professionals to confer substantial health benefits. (read more).
  • Most of our crop is bottled in a sweet, spicey, pickling vinegar after softening in the pressure cooker.  Its a tasty staple for salads in our household, and we can usually maintain a supply all year.
Details
  • Variety:                                                    Crimson Globe.
  • Family group:                                           Chenopodiaceae.
  • Crop rotation group:                                  Light feeders.
  • Garden bed type:                                      Garden Ecobed.
  • Recommended soil pH:                             6.5 - 7.5.
  • Minimum sun per day:                               5 hours.
  • Plant spacings (centres):                          190mm.
  • Weeks to harvest:                                     13 - 26 weeks.
  • Good companions:                                    Onions. silverbeet. lettuce. cabbage. dwarf beans.
  • Climate:                                                   Warm temperate
  • Geography:                                              Southern hemisphere. 
Nutrition.
  • This food is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. 
  • It is a good source of vitamin C, iron and magnesium, and a very good source of dietary fiber, folate, potassium and manganese.
  • More from nutrition data.self.com. 
Growing Conditions.
  • They grow best in full sun.
  • They need a little shade on very hot sunny days in summer.
  • Beetroot can be grown all year round, but they are best grown in cooler conditions. 
  • They need well structured rich organic soil.
  • The soil must be kept moist at all times. 
Soil Preparation.
  • Clear a 300mm wide by 1500mm long row in February.  Add a 60mm layer of thermal compost and cover it with 50mm of fresh straw mulch.
  • Leave the bed for 4 weeks to build up worm and microbial activity.
Growing Instructions. 
  • Soak the beetroot seeds in water for 24 hours before sowing.
  • In March, sow two beetroot seeds in each of 5 small jiffy (peat) pots in good quality organic potting mix.  Sow them about 20mm deep and soak the pots in a tray of water about 15mm deep.  After about 30 minutes bury the pots up to their rim in the compost of an EcoPropagator and water them in.
  • Because each beetroot seed capsule contains up to 4 individual seeds, they need thinning to one seedling per cluster.  Use a pair of sharp scissors to nip off the unwanted seedlings at ground level, as soon as they are big enough, so the soil is not disturbed by pulling them out.
  • When the beetroot seedlings are about 70mm tall, transfer their jiffy pots into a prepared bed.  Plant all 5 seedlings in a single row 300mm apart.  Make a space through the mulch to expose the soil and bury the jiffy pot's up to their rim.  Water them in once and cover the exposed soil with mulch.
  • Apply a foliar spray of aerated compost tea every 4 weeks with all the other edible plants.
Repeat sowings.
  • Sow new crops of beetroot in June, September and December in the propagator ready for planting about 6 weeks later.  Protect the seedlings against extremes of weather.
  • Plant the beetroot seedlings when ready in a prepared bed and water in once. 
  • Beetroot should not be grown more than once in the same ground each season.
Harvesting and Storage.
  • Beetroot can be harvested in May, September, December and February.
  • My current aim is to grow my beetroot to a full size, and that's why I now propagate just 5 plants in biodegradable pots which can be planted with the seedling in the growing bed.  There is no thinning involved, and the plants have plenty of space to quickly grow to maturity.
  • I store my beetroot cooked (30 minutes in a pressure cooker), skinned and pickled in sterilised preserving jars.
Organic Pest Control.
  • My beetroot are rarely subject to attack by pests or diseases, but in case such an event occurs, here are a few remedies.
  • Slugs and snails.
    • Beetroot should be protected against slugs and snails using self adhesive copper tape bonded around the base of the Ecobed.
    • If these molluscs get into your Ecobed as eggs laid in your compost, kill them with organically approved iron based snail pellets as soon as you discover them.  You should only need to use a small number of pellets.
  • Greenhouse whitefly.
    • Exclusion netting is very effective against whitefly, but they are very small and will occasionally breach your defences, so you will need to check your crop regularly. 
    • Control any infestations by spraying your crop thoroughly with organic horticultural oil (Eco-oil in Australia) as early in the whiteflies life cycle as possible.
    • Spray again in a few days to ensure second generation whitefly do not survive.
  • Aphids (greenfly).
    • Use the same method as described above for whitefly.
  • Powdery mildew.  
    • If an infestation occurs, spray the beetroot's foliage with an organic horticultural fungicide (Eco-fungicide in Australia).
  • Root knot nematodes.
    • Organically active soil is the best deterrent for root knot nematode.  The beneficial microbes protect a plant's root surfaces by colonising them, and predatory microbes control their numbers in the plant's root zone.
  • General.
    • Regular applications of aerated compost tea boost the natural defences of beetroot by colonising the leaf surfaces with beneficial microbes.  They defend the plant against airborne pests and diseases.
    • Similarly, proper soil preparation including regular applications of home made compost boosts the community of beneficial microbes, which defend the plants roots against plant pathogens.
    • Wire net tunnels stops birds digging up worms in your Ecobed, and protect the beetroot seedlings until they are large enough to withstand this behaviour.