Beets are incredibly versatile, able to grow almost anywhere and withstand frost and near-freezing temperatures. They’re fast-developing root vegetables that are relatively easy to plant and maintain. They also come in a variety of shapes and colors, from deep red to yellow, white and striped bulbs. Something else we love: practically the entire plant can be eaten. In fact, beet greens are particularly flavorful and contain even more nutritional value than the roots!
If you’re hoping to add this dynamic root veggie to your garden, here’s what you need to know:
- There’s not just one optimal time to plant beets. Early crop can be planted in March or April, and late crop can go in the ground anytime from June through September.
- Beets flourish in a cooler climate– 60 to 65 F and plenty of sunshine is ideal. If the temperature’s a bit higher, beets normally fare just fine. The same can be said of cooler weather; beets can survive anything short of severe freezing, and they’re great long-season crops.
- Loose, well-drained soil is preferential for beets. Make sure to remove stones and debris from soil, which can inhibit growth. If you’re working with a high clay soil, add some organic matter to improve structure and prevent crusting after rainfall. Beets also do very well in raised beds.
- If you live in an area with low moisture, soak seeds for 24 hours before planting.
- Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep and 1-2 inches apart.
- Once seedlings grow to 1-2 inches tall, thin to about one plant per inch. Once the plants are established, thin to 3-4 inches between them.
- Make sure to mulch and water regularly. Beets require lots of moisture.
- Potential complications: The most common pests that attack beets are flea beetles, leaf miners and aphids. Some beets also combat Cercospora leaf spot. Be sure to inspect your plants frequently for any signs of disease or infestation.
About 40-50 days after the seeds were planted is the perfect time to harvest your beets– at this point they’ll be nice and tender. The plant should have reached a height of 4-6 inches, with a root diameter of 1 1/2 – 2 inches. You can harvest by tugging or digging the plant out. Be sure to leave one inch of foliage on the root so there’s no bleeding when you cook it. Beets are perfectly suited as root cellar veggies. They can be stored for 3-4 months at near freezing temperatures with high humidity (98-100%). You may also can, pickle or freeze your beets.
That’s all there is to it! Debating which variety to grow? Here are a few suggestions:
Detroit Dark Red – Excellent for canning or pickling. Tender & sweet. Greens are great for boiling.
Red Ace hybrid – Tolerates all weather extremely well. Resistent to Cercospera leaf spot. Matures early.
Mini Ball – Individual sized beets. Great for containers.
Burpee Golden – Gorgeous yellow-orange color. Can take a bit more maintenance to grow.