Beets are packed with nutrition and are easy to grow. Growing Beets can take as little as 45 days for a tender young harvest.
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Planting, Harvesting, and Growing Beets
We love beets around our place (at least the adults do). Not only are beets delicious, but they are also very good for you. Packed with nutrition beets have become one of those veggies that we have almost every day. Canned, Frozen, or Pickled beets are a great addition to any salad or a perfect side veggie for dinner.
The other great thing about beets is the entire plant is eatable. Young beet greens are a perfect tender addition to any salad. As the tops get older they are perfect as cooked greens either steamed or sauteed. And of course, the roots are fantastic any time they are larger than about golf ball sized. Fairly quick to grow you can have beets ready to eat in as little as 45 days and with proper succession planting, you can have growing beets in your garden from mid-spring to late fall. Growing beets are a “cool-season crop“, but continue to do okay in the heat of the summer. So a late spring planting that matures in the summer heat is really just fine.
The Botanical Name for beets is Beta Vulgaris.
Beets are sometimes also referred to as Beetroot, especially outside of the U.S. Beets come in an array of colors, including yellow, orange, red, white, and of course the traditional deep red/purple.
Nutritional Value of Beets
Beets have a good amount of many vitamins and minerals. Beets are particularly rich in Vitamin B9 and are also high in Magnesium. One of beets’ best health benefits comes from dietary nitrates. These nitrates have been shown in studies to reduce blood pressure.
Planting Beets in your Garden
Growing Beets prefer rich well-drained soil with a PH of 6.5 to 7. Amending your soil with compost every year is a must to keep it healthy.
Beets can be planted any time after soil temperatures rise over 45 degrees (7 C), but will germinate best if soil temperatures are between 55 and 75 degrees (12-24 C). Soil temperature can be measured with a soil thermometer. Germination will happen sooner in the spring if you warm the soil first using some plastic over the beds for a few weeks prior to planting.
Beets are hardy almost anywhere; Gardening Zones 2 to 10.
Beets do best when planted in areas of your garden that have full sun. But beets can tolerate a little shade either in the morning or afternoon as long as they get at least 6 to 8 hours of sun a day.
Plant beets in rows that are 12 inches apart. Seeds should be planted 1/2 inch deep and about 1 inch apart. As the seeds start to germinate you should select the best plants and thin to about 3-4 inches apart. Don’t forget to save the thinnings to add to your salads!
Each beet seed that you plant is actually a cluster of seeds containing 3 or so seeds each. So when the seeds germinate you may have 2 or 3 plants coming up from the same spot. Carefully thin each seed location down to only one seedling by cutting off the unwanted seedlings. At this stage of their development beets are very sensitive to cultivation so do not pull the extra seedlings out or you will disturb the roots of the plant you want to keep.
Beets are slow to germinate usually taking 7 to 14 days for the seedlings to emerge. Keep the soil evenly moist during this time, but not soaking wet. Beets don’t like crusty soil, so germination is helped by covering seeds with 1/2 inch of sand or compost when planting. Drip Irrigation will also help keep the soil surface soft.
Just like carrots, beets like soil that is loose and free of rocks and clumps. This type of soil will give you the best-finished roots. But don’t be afraid of growing beets in less-than-ideal soil. They will still taste great, they just might not be the perfect grocery store shape.
Most beets take 45 to 60 days to mature to their earliest harvest stage. For a continuous harvest, all season long begin planting about 2 to 4 weeks before your last frost. Then replant every 3 weeks until late summer (about 6 weeks before the first fall frost).
For crop rotation purposes beets are in the same family as spinach, Swiss Chard, and Orach. Try to avoid planting any of these crops in the same soil for 3 to 4 years.
Care for Growing Beets
Watering Your Beets
Beets prefer evenly moist soil. They do best with about 1 inch of water per week, but your rows should be kept moist all the time (but not soaking wet). This may mean that you may need to water a couple of times a week in the hottest weather.
Drought conditions will cause your growing beets to become woody and hard, so be sure to be consistent with your watering. Don’t stress the plants out. Inconsistent watering can also cause your beetroots to split.
Drip irrigation is the best method for watering beets. Water stress in the first 6 weeks of growth can also cause your beet plants to flower and go to seed early.
If you have rich well cared for soil, fertilizer should not be needed. But if you feel like you need to fertilize use a well-balanced product (preferably organic). Only fertilize early in the growth cycle. Once the roots start to develop you should stop fertilizing. Fertilizer, while the roots are growing, will cause excessive top growth. So if you are growing beets for the roots you want to avoid the fertilizer while they are developing or the tops will grow and the roots will suffer.
Mulching your Growing Beets accomplishes 2 things, first, it helps retain water in the soil and keeps that even moisture beets like. Second, as your beets grow the “shoulders” of the roots may push their way out of the soil. Mulching keeps those shoulders (the top of the roots) from being exposed to the sun and weather. This keeps them from becoming “woody”.
If you decide not to mulch be sure to check on your plants often and if you see the shoulders of the roots starting to come to the surface then be sure to cover the growing beets with soil to prevent woody shoulders.
Thinning Growing Beets
Once your beet tops are 2 to 4 inches tall you should thin your plants to 3-4 inches apart (be sure to eat the thinnings).
If you are looking to grow larger beets then the spacing should be more like 6 inches. But beetroots are most tender when they are smaller so I don’t suggest this method.
Beets Pests and Diseases
Beets are susceptible to:
- Flea Beetles
- Leaf Hoppers
- Leaf Miners
Most of these pest problems can be prevented by growing beets under a thin layer of protective fabric row cover. Learn more about this technique from this article.
Seedlings can sometimes fail because of dampening off.
There aren’t many disease problems with beets. They can suffer if there is a boron deficiency in your soil, but this is a rare thing, be sure you have your soil tested before you assume it is a boron deficiency. Black Sunken spots on the beetroots are an indication of boron issues.
Most growing beets are ready for harvest in 60 to 80 days.
Beet tops are super nutritious and can be harvested any time after they are 3 or 4 inches tall. Smaller leaves are more tender and are best for salads and sandwiches. Larger (older) tops can be used as cooked greens either steamed or sauteed.
Roots can be harvested any time after they reach the baby stage (about 1 inch). Young small roots are tender and sweet. It is best to harvest the roots by the time they are about 3/4 grown. Fully mature roots can be woody and tough. A good guide is to harvest any time from when the roots reach about the size of a golf ball until they reach the size of a baseball. Anything larger than a baseball will begin to be tough.
When harvesting, be sure to leave about 1 inch of the tops and of the roots. This will help limit “bleeding” when you are cooking them.
If your soil is soft and loose you can harvest beets by just carefully pulling them from the tops. If your soil is denser then use a digging fork to gently lift the roots from the soil. Be sure to dig up a few plants at various spots in your patch and check for the desired root size, before you start digging up the whole patch. As the roots get close to maturity be sure to check them often, growing beets can go from too small to overly large in only a few days.
Storing and Preserving
Beets are by far the best root vegetable for storage. If stored at right around 32 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit (zero Celsius) they will last a long time, making them available well into the winter months. Beets will last up to 3 weeks when stored in a fridge. For longer-term storage keep beets in moist sand or peat in an unheated basement or garage. Stored this way beets can last up to 3 months, larger beets will last longer than smaller ones.
Beets can also be frozen and they will last for up to a year in the freezer.
If you are canning (not pickled) then they will need to be canned in a pressure canner. If you would like to learn how to can beets I suggest you take a look at this article by Sharon over at Simply Canning! She is the best around when it comes to teaching you how to can!!
Beets are also fantastic pickled. Pickled beets are one of my favorite treats. They are perfect with salads. Our favorite pickled beet recipe can be found right here.
- Detroit Dark Red (this is one of our favorites, very dependable and easy to grow)
- Early Wonder (another great producer, ready in 45 days)
- Cylindra (long cylindrical roots)
- Chioggia (Red and white striped)
- Avalanche (This one is white!)
I hope you get some beets planted this year.
I have recently been introduced to roasted beet pesto. Oh my heavens is it delicious! Good as a dip, or as the sauce on a goat cheese pizza, or on pasta. If you dislike the earthy taste of beets it is lost in this pesto. Many recipes online but I like one with toasted walnuts in lieu of pine nuts.