Thinking about how to to grow beets? Beets are quite easy to grow, growing best in cool temperatures. The entire beet plant can be eaten, and is a rich source of nutrients, minerals and vitamins. The tops can be harvested while the plant is young and the leaves will be tender to eat. Beet roots can be served shredded, canned, pickled, juiced, or boiled, and are a commonly served as a side dish or in soup or salad.
How to Grow Beets - The Basics
Growing beets requires little garden space, and as previously mentioned, beets grow well in the cooler temperatures of spring or late summer. Growing beets in hot weather will produce tough roots.
Preparing the Soil for Beets
Ensure that you clear the soil of rocks, so that the formation of the roots will not be inhibited. Growing beets is best accomplished in soil that has a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. To prepare the soil, a garden fork can be used to pry up the soil and mix with lime (wood ashes contain lime) or potash (reduces acidity). Mix well with the soil to a depth of 8-10 inches at least a week before planting beets.
When to Plant Beets
Beets will mature in 55-70 days, allowing multiple plantings within one growing season. If you live in an area with cool summers (average less then 26°C/80°F), you can keep planting beets successively every 3 weeks for a continuous harvest.
Beets are best sown in early spring or late summer. In spring, beets should be planted approximately two weeks before the final frost. For a Fall harvest, beets should be planted 10-12 weeks before the first frost of Fall. Beets can withstand cool temperatures, and a mild frost, but will grow best when the soil temperature is 10-26°C/50-80°F. If the temperature remains below ~5°C/41°F for several weeks, the beet plants will begin to bolt.
Planting Beets - The Right Steps
Below are the general guidelines for planting beets:
- Dig a narrow trench in your vegetable garden that is half an inch deep, for the length of your row.
- Space your beet rows 14 inches apart.
- Water the soil so that it is moist.
- Plant beet seeds about 2 inches apart from each other, and cover with ~1 inch of soil. (Beet seeds are actually casings that contain 2-4 seeds, so thinning will be necessary)
- Once the seedlings grow to the point where they are 2-3 inches tall, thin out the beet plants so that there is 3-6 inches in between plants.
- Beets require rich nutrients, and so a sprinking of 5-10-5 fertilizer (5 oz per 10 feet of row) can be applied on either side of the growing beet plants once they are 3-4 inches high.
- Beet roots will push out of the ground as they mature. To keep them from getting damaged by the sun, cover them with a light mulch. They will keep the top of the root from becoming tough.
When learning how to grow beets it is important to know that beets require a lot of water. Beets will do best if the ground is kept constantly moist (but no puddling). Once the seedlings sprout, a light layer of straw, grass clippings, or mulch can be added around the beets to help keep the the moisture in, the weeds out.
Weeds will slow the growth of beets causing them to be tough and woody. Weed by hand to ensure that the roots are not damaged, and weed often and early.
The joy of having learning how to grow beets is seeing harvest season approach! If you wish to harvest the tops before the roots are ready, do so selectively, taking only a few leaves from each plant so that the root can continue to grow. Beets can be harvested at any point, but are usually best once the root has reached 1-3 inches in diameter. Once the growing beets reach a size greater than this, they will become fibrous.
To harvest beets, pull the root from the ground. Cut the tops off approximately 1-2 inches above the root to prevent color bleed and loss of moisture. Wash the beets well in cool water. At this point they can be stored in a cool location for several months.
What Can Hurt Growing Beets
- Leaf miners (larvae of insects) will feed in between the layers of the leaves are therefore are hard to kill with pesticides. Detection and removal of the infected leaves in the best defence. Crop rotation and thorough clean-up of last years garden will provide the best defence. Floating row covers will also protect the beet plants.
- Leaf Spot is a fungus that usually grows in warm, humid climates. Avoid overhead irrigation and see your local nursery for a fungicide.
- Your soil is the appropriate pH, yet the leaves turn a yellowish color, the growing beets may require phosphorus.
- Black spots on the roots indicate a boron deficiency. Mix 1 tablespoon of household borax with ~1 gallon of water and sprinkle on 100 square feet of soil in which you will grow beats in the future.