Growing Beetroot in The Northern Territory
This versatile little root vegetable is nutritious and easy to grow. Plant them regularly and you can have an almost constant supply of fresh beets for your table during the growing season. They will thrive in cooler, drier months of the dry season.
Too much nitrogen will produce lots of (edible) greens, but small roots. Planting beets too close together will leave you with a crop of underdeveloped plants.
Beetroot grows in a variety of conditions. As the weather warms, they'll appreciate some shade in the afternoon.
Beetroots are not fussy, but they will appreciate some compost added to the soil before planting. If your soil in boron-deficient, then also add boron to your soil before planting. Boron is widely available at nurseries. Simply follow the instructions on the packet when applying it to your soil and be careful not to add too much.
Beetroots thrive in more temperate weather, so they aren’t the best crop to grow during the hot, wet season.
Soak seeds in water overnight. They’ll float when you first put them into water, when they sink to the bottom, you know they’re ready to plant.
Soak the corky seeds overnight and then sow them into well-prepared soil. Space them according to the instructions on the packet. Each seed that you plant is actually a cluster of seeds, so expect at least to plants to appear for each seed you planted. Once they’re up and big enough to handle, you’ll need to thin them out. Choose the strongest plant in each hole and remove any others. The thinned plants can be replanted (very carefully) or used in salads as micro-greens.
As with most root crops, its best to grow beetroot from seed. If you do plant seedlings, be careful not to disturb their delicate root systems and make sure that their soil doesn't dry out while they are settling in.
Once your seedlings are up, they’ll need to be thinned out. Thin to about 20 cm apart for decent sized beetroots. Weed well and regularly around your beetroots, root plants don’t like to be crowded or compete for water and nutrients.
Water beetroots regularly to keep the soil moist, so be sure them extra water during throughout the dry season.
Feed them every six weeks throughout their growing season, but be careful not to overfeed with nitrogen as this will result in beautiful greens and underdeveloped roots.
Mulching your beets will help keep the soil cool as summer approaches. Water them well and then apply an organic mulch like lucerne or sugarcane.
You can pick baby greens for salads from about 4 weeks. Once the beetroot tops become visible above the soil they should be ready to harvest. Golf ball to tennis ball sized beetroots are still tender and sweet. If they grow any bigger and they start to become woody. Pull them firmly by the leaves to lift them out of the ground. The leaves are also edible and make delicious greens.