Growing Tips: Beets

Quick Reference:

Plant seed 1/4 inch deep spaced 1 to 2 inches apart. Germination: 10 to 20 days. Space between plants in the garden, 2 to 3 inches. Shallow planting provides warmer soil for better germination but soil MUST be kept moist at all times until plants emerge.

When and where to plant:

Beets grow best in cool weather and full sun. In Alaska beet seed may be planted before the danger of frost is past as long as the soil temperature is in the 40's. In cooler areas a soil warming method like raised beds is recommended. Choose a location in full sun with a good, well-drained loam soil that has a soil pH near neutral, pH 7, beets do not grow well in acid soils. Prepare the garden, apply plant food and enrich with organic matter, add lime to correct the pH when necessary and plant as soon as the soil is ready and has warmed in the spring. Soak beet seed in warm water for 6 to 8 hours immediately before planting to speed germination. Do Not soak longer. Cover with soil, firm over seed and keep moist until seedlings emerge. In colder areas with a shorter season where it is hard to mature roots, start seed indoors in a container 3 to 4 weeks ahead, spacing seed 1 inch apart. When seedlings are 2 inches tall plant them directly in the garden, beet seedlings transplant easily. Beets also grow well in deep containers and have foliage that is attractive in flower beds.

Care:

The biggest problem with growing beets is they do not get thinned enough, each seed is a cluster of seeds and must be thinned by pulling or cutting off the excess tops, so only one plant remains. When thinned the first time the plants should be 2 inches apart. As the plants start growing together again pull every other plant leaving the roots 3 to 4 inches apart. Use the plants removed for baby beets and greens. Beet plants do not compete well with weeds. The plants require plenty of moisture and an application of plant food once a month so roots grow rapidly and do not become woody.

Harvesting:

Begin pulling young plants for their tops and start harvesting the roots when they are 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter.