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Growing Beets - How to Grow Beets in the Home Garden

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Beets - Easy to Grow in the Home Garden

Beets - Easy to Grow in the Home Garden

Photo: designkryt / stock.schng.

Overview:

Beets are a fast growing crop that can be grown just about anywhere. Although beets are known as a root crop, all parts of the beet plant are edible. Tender beet greens can begin being harvested when thinning a row of beets. The most commonly known root beets are red, but golden and striped varieties have made growing beets more popular in recent years.

Description:

The plants we know as beets are in the same family as chard. While chard is grown for its leaves, beets were traditionally grown from their bulbous roots. However, all parts of the beet plant are edible. All types of beets and chard will cross-pollinate with one another.

Beets are not quite as cold tolerant as something like broccoli, but they can tolerate a light frost and they do like cool temperatures, so beets are generally grown in the spring or fall.

Beets are biennial. They will no flower until their roots have matured and they’ve had at least 1 month of cold temperatures.

Latin Name:

Beta vulgaris

Common Name:

Beets

Zone(s):

Mature Size:

Root: 1 ½" - 3" diameter. Leaves can spread about 12" and grow to about 8-12" high.

Exposure:

Days to Harvest / Harvesting and Storing:

Varies with variety, but about 55 days, from seed.

Harvesting Beets: You can start harvesting greens when they are a couple of inches tall. The greens are most tender before they reach 6". Beet roots are ready to harvest when they are approx. 1 ½ - 2" in diameter. Larger roots are tougher and more fibrous.

Harvest by tugging or digging. Leave at least 1" of the leaves on, to avoid bleeding during cooking.

Storing Beets: Beets are ideal root cellar vegetables and can be stored for 3-4 months at near freezing temperatures with high humidity (98 - 100 percent). Beets can also be canned, pickled or frozen.

Suggested Varieties:

  • ‘Burpee Golden’ - Beautiful yellow-orange color, but more temperamental when growing.

  • ‘Chioggia’ - Heirloom with concentric red and white circles

  • ‘Detroit Dark Red’ - Great for fresh eating or canning and pickling.

  • ‘Mini Ball’ - Individual sized beets. Great for containers.

Growing Beets in Containers:

Their compact growth habit make beets a good choice for continaers. The containers should be at least 8 - 12" deep and have good drainage. Be sure to keep the pot well waterered.

The small varieties of beets, like ‘Mini Ball’ and ‘Baby Bal’, do especially well in containers.

Planting Beets and Growing Tips:

Soil: Since beets are root crops, a light, well draining soil is best. Rocks, clay and anything that can interfere with the roots development should be removed.

When to Plant Beets:

  • Spring: Wait until the soil has warmed and dried out. A soil temperature of 50 degrees F. (10 degrees C.) is ideal. Beets can be planted in succession every 3 weeks, for a longer harvest.
  • Fall: Beet seeding can begin again once nighttime temperatures begin cooling off. Be sure you leave about 1 month before your first expected frost, from you last seeding.

Planting Beets: Beets don't transplant well and are always planted from seed. The beet seed in packets is really clumps of 4-6 seeds. You can plant the whole clump and thin and use the greens when they get a few inches tall or you try and separate the clumps into individual seeds before planting. The safest way to do this is to gently run a rolling pin over the clumps. Be careful not to crush the seeds. Personally, I find it easier to simply thin the young greens.

Beet seeds can be slow to germinate, because of their tough outer shell. Soaking the seed clusters over night will help soften the shell and speed germination. You can always use the old trick of planting fast sprouting radishes in the same row as your beets. It helps mark the row and loosen the soil. By the time the beets start to develop, the radishes are ready to be pulled.

Another germination trick is to cover the seed in the garden with vermiculite, peat moss or some other non-crusting material. This will keep the seed moist and warm, but not inhibit it from breaking through the surface. This trick is very useful in gardens with less than ideal soil.

Beets grow with a portion of the root above ground, so seeds do not need to be planted deeply. 1/2" to 1" deep is sufficient, planting deeper as the temperature warms.

Beets are planted only about 2-3" apart. That's all the space the roots need and when the leaves start growing together, they provide a cooling mulch for the roots. You can plant in rows, wide rows or blocks. It's easiest to simply broadcast the seed and thin to the recommended spacing. All thinnings can be eaten.

Related Video
How to Pickle Beets

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