I HAVE distinct memories of eating beetroot as a child. To approach with caution – there was the constant reminder that “beetroot will stain” (gasp), making it seem way more effort than it was worth.

Fast-forward 40 (ish) years, I now put beetroot as a must-have Kiwi vege. And gone are the days of only ever seeing it in a can too. Beetroot’s been relaunched as a super-food celebrated for its antioxidants and vitamins, not to mention delicious versatility in recipes.

But best of all, it’s easy to grow.

Beetroot is a hardy vege, you can actually plant it all year round in your garden. But it does prefer a cool-warm climate, making it perfect for planting right now in autumn.

You can grab your beetroot seedlings from Awapuni Nurseries online and have them delivered to your door. We love recycling – our bundles are wrapped in newspaper and are packaged into re-used boxes.

Now, where to plant. Beetroot love a sunny, well-drained spot in your garden. First dig over your vege plot, turning in some compost and organic sheep pellets. Dig holes for your seedlings, about three centimetres deep and 15cm apart. Place the seedlings in and gently press the soil down around their base.

Give a good initial watering, and then keep this up daily for five days to give them the best possible start. After this, water every few days. Don’t forget about them though, as they can become bitter if they go through a lengthy dry period.

You can also give them a feed of liquid plant food, like a seaweed tonic, every fortnight.
When you plant, consider laying down some mulch as your organic weed control. It will smother the weeds, ensuring they can’t germinate. Pea straw is ideal for this, and will also help keep in the moisture.

After a month you can start harvesting the leaves. But always leave a few on to keep the plant growing. Use these leaves the same way you would spinach or pak choy – sauteed, added to soups or raw in salads.

In around three months you’ll be able to start harvesting your beetroot. They are best when they’re between the size of a golf and tennis ball. The earlier you harvest, the smaller, but sweeter they will be.

They can taste a bit woody when you let them get too big so harvest smaller.
To harvest the root, use a hand fork underneath the vegetable and gently pull up from the stalks. Try to not break the stalks from the beetroot, as this will cause the beet to bleed out and lose its goodness.

Once in the kitchen, relaunch your own version of beetroot. I recommend roasting them – drizzle with oil, making sure all the sides get oiled. Bake for 45 mins until soft, not shrunken. Use in couscous, roast vege salads or topped with crumbled feta.

Ever tried chocolate beetroot cake? The result is a moist and rich looking cake, bound to impress. What a way to consume your five-a-day vege.

Add a burst of colour to your winter garden

EASTER is on the horizon, and this year it also marks the middle of autumn.

Although I still feel like I’m only just farewelling summer, it’s nice to be able to slacken off from my watering programme and think about my winter garden.

Luckily the end of warmer weather doesn’t also mean the end of bright colourful flowers in the garden. Now’s the perfect time to inject new bursts of colour – and the easiest way is to plant some pansies.

The brightly coloured overlapping petals of the pansy cheer up any garden spot. They’re cute, yet bold, come in a rainbow of colours and, best of all, are one of the easiest flowers to grow.

Pansies flower right from autumn through spring, often when it feels like there’s not much colour happening in your garden. They’re extremely hardy – surviving frosts, wind and rain.

Just make sure you get them in before it gets too cold, and you’ll see that they are truly a plant-and-forget flower.

They make great garden beds, borders, and are perfect for pots. Pansies also look really attractive when planted in between larger plants.

You can grab your pansy seedlings from Awapuni Nurseries online and have them delivered to your door or visit your local hardware store or supermarket for your seedlings. Delivery is guaranteed and if you’re not completely happy with your plants, we will replace them.

We currently grow 27 varieties of pansies, so you’re bound to find something to suit your garden.

Exciting news from the nursery this season is the launch of our new mixed giant pansies.

The flowers on our giant pansy span up to 10cm across and grow slightly higher than your average pansies too – up to 20cm high. You’ll find pinks, yellows, blues and violets in the mixed variety – perfect for an array of pots, hanging baskets or as a multi-coloured garden border.

When you’ve got your seedlings, look for a spot in your garden that receives morning (or all day) sun, with good drainage. After our hot summer, dig in some compost and fertiliser to enrich the soil.

To plant your seedlings, dig little holes, three centimetres deep and around 15cm apart.

Give a good initial watering, and then water every few days while they get established. In one to two months you’ll start to see some burst of colour coming through.

Once they’re flowering, pick them to encourage more blooms. The more you pick, the more will grow. Arrange your pansies in a vase with some interesting foliage, to bring bursts of colour into your house this winter.

And for the chefs out there – pansies are also edible, having a sweet grassy flavour. Use them to bring colour to winter salads, or to garnish a cake. You can even freeze them in ice cubes and add to your drinks.

Henri Ham
Awapuni Nurseries

-Contributed

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