How to Grow Beets in your Garden

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How to Grow Beets in your Garden

How to Grow Beets in your GardenHow to Grow Beets in your Garden

Beets are sweet (you know), nutritious (you’ve heard), beautiful (you can see) and easy to grow (you’re about to find out) in just about any conditions.

Selecting Plants

Beet cultivars offer roots of different colors and shapes: red, purple, gold, or white; round, oval, or cylindrical. If your weather is severe, look for cultivars that tolerate extreme temperatures. To stock, your root cellar, look for beets with good keeping qualities.

Select small-rooted cultivars for canning or pickling whole. Cylindrical cultivars such as ‘Formanova’ provide lots of uniforms- size slices for cooking and processing with little waste. Where leaf spot has been a problem, grow disease-tolerant cultivars.

Site

Beets perform best in full sun but tolerate partial shade.

Soil

Light, sandy loam permits rapid, uninterrupted growth for tender roots. Moist, fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0-6.8 is ideal.

Test the soil and amend as necessary. Work in 15-20 pounds of compost for every 100 square feet of soil. Loosen the soil thoroughly to a depth of at least 1 foot. Prepare traditional flat rows or wide rows. In heavy or poorly drained soils, prepare 6 to 8 inch high raised beds instead.

How much to plant

Grow 5 to 10 feet of fresh beets per person. For canning, sow a 10 to 2-foot row for each beet eater.

Spacing

Space plants 2 to 4 inches apart; allow 12 to 20 inches between rows. When plants are 2 to 3 inches tall, thin them to 4 to 6 inches apart.

Days to maturity

Harvest beetroots 56 to 70 days after sowing seeds. Baby beets are ready sooner. Beet greens are ready to harvest in just 30 to 45 days.

Planting and Growing

Plant beets in early spring, as soon as you can work the soil. Optimum germination occurs when soil temperatures reach 80 degrees F, but you can plant when the soil warms to above 45 degrees F and the air temperature is 50 to 65 degrees F. Beets can withstand freezing temperatures, but plants exposed to 2 to 3 weeks of temperatures below 50 degrees F after the first leaves have developed may go to seed prematurely.

To provide the nitrogen that beets need, try planting your beets where legumes, such as beans or peas, previously grew. Unless you amend the soil generously first, avoid planting beets after heavy feeders such as potatoes or melons.

Soak seeds in compost tea for 15 to 20 minutes before planting them. Direct-sow seeds a half-inch deep. For an ongoing harvest of tender roots, plant seeds every 20 to 30 days from early spring through midsummer. You can plant beets again about 4 to 7 weeks before the first expected frost date in your area. Temperatures above 75 degrees F may make roots light-colored and internal rings more pronounced.

Most beet seeds produce a cluster of seedlings, so you’ll need to thin these when they emerge. When plants are 2 to 3 inches tall, thin again to 4 to 6 inches apart.

Keep the soil evenly moist but not wet. Apply 4 to 8 inches of mulch when plants first emerge to help maintain soil moisture and limit weeds. Lack of moisture causes tough, stringy roots and may make plants go to seed. Hand-weed to avoid damaging beets’ shallow roots.

When the first true leaves have fully expanded, drench beets with liquid fish and seaweed fertilizer. Apply 1 cup for every 2 feet of row. Repeat weekly until the plants are 2 to 3 inches tall. Using this solution nourishes the roots and prevents the hard, black spots and stunted growth caused by a boron deficiency.

Use row covers when plants emerge to prevent infestation of leafminers and flea beetles. Remove the cover when the weather gets hot.

Harvesting

Pull up roots when they are 1.5 to 3 inches wide. Lift them out of the soil carefully to avoid bruising them. Remove any dirt, then cut the tops off; leave at least 1 inch of the stem to prevent the roots from bleeding. Refrigerate for several weeks or layer in a box filled with sand or peat and store in a cool spot for 2 to 5 months. Freeze, can or pickle the surplus.

Extending the season

Sow seeds in the fall when air temperatures are 50 to 60 degrees F. Cover the row with 8 to 12 inches of straw for the winter. When daytime temperatures reach 50 to 60 degrees F in the spring, remove several inches of straw every few days until plants are exposed.

The Best of the Beets

Red Ace

  • Hybrid
  • Days to Maturity 50
  • Extra-sweet, tender red roots

Pacemaker III

  • Hybrid
  • Days to Maturity 50

Similar to Red Ace, but taller leaves

Chioggia

  • Open-pollinated
  • Days to Maturity 55

Unique pink and white stripes inside roots

Golden

  • Open-pollinated
  • Days to Maturity 55
  • Gold-colored roots

Sweetheart

  • Open-pollinated
  • Days to Maturity 58
  • Extra-sweet red roots; tall greens; good for storage

Ruby Queen

  • Open-pollinated
  • Days to Maturity 60
  • Uniformly round; bright red; widely adapted

Detroit Dark Red

  • Open-pollinated
  • Days to Maturity 60
  • Uniformly round; dark red; widely adapted

Albina Vereduna

  • Open-pollinated
  • Days to Maturity 60
  • White; very sweet; thick-skinned, good for storage

CYLINDERS

Cylindra

  • Open-pollinated
  • Days to Maturity 55-60
  • 8 inches long; tender red roots

Formonova

  • Open-pollinated
  • Days to Maturity 55-60
  • 6 inches long; tender red roots


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