If you opt for succession planting of about every week to two weeks apart, you can have a harvest all season long. You can expect fun and easy time growing beets as they are very heat-tolerant and cold-tolerant and they grow in almost any weather.
Culinary and health benefits of growing and eating beets
Beets have loads of health benefits and can be prepared in endlessly delicious ways. This popular root vegetable is high in fiber and rich in vitamins A and C. In addition, beets have more iron than other vegetables, including spinach. They're also rich in calcium, potassium, and phosphorus, as well as folic acid, which helps protect you from heart disease and guards against birth defects.
And that’s not all! The classic beet's red coloring comes from betalains - a combination of the purple pigment betacyanin and the yellow pigment betaxanthin. The betalain pigments are potent antioxidants which prevent the formation of cancer-causing free radicals.
At the same time, these pigments make beets a beautifully looking and delicious vegetable. They make beets a feast for the eyes and a nourishment for your body.
Beets' rich red, golden yellow and creamy white stripes will add a brilliant splash of color to your meals. In addition, the bright green foliage with red veins and stems will brighten up your garden beds.
Beet greens are not only colorful but also tasty whether you eat them raw, braised, or stir-fried. And if you leave a little of the foliage to continue growing, you get plump roots that you can store and then eat when you want homegrown flavor after cold weather sets in.
Our guide to growing healthy and delicious beets
Beets thrive during warm days (60 to 70 degrees F) and cool nights (50 to 60 degrees F). They may go to seed if temperatures drop below 50 degrees F for an extended period of time.
Beets are biennials. They produce an enlarged root during their first season. Then after overwintering, they produce a flower stalk. However, if they are exposed to two or three weeks of temperatures below 45 F after they have formed several true leaves during their first season, a flower stalk may grow prematurely.
If your planted beets are exposed temperatures above 100 degrees F will struggle and some will go to flower. They won’t form nice roots in very hot weather and won't get as large because they will be so stressed from the heat that they will tend to focus a lot of their growth on flowering. Fortunately, beet greenery is also delicious eaten fresh, mixed in salads and cooked.
You should sow the seeds in full sun for the best roots; if you don't have a sunny spot in your garden, you can plant beets anyway - they will still produce a lot of leafy greens in partial shade.
In general, the sunlight is very important for beets. You rely on 4/5 hours of sunlight as beets need full sun if you want to get the best yield.
If you’re growing beets for the roots, they need five to eight hours of sun. If you’re just growing them for leaves 4 or 5 hours of sun will be enough. The leaves are edible and they are delicious but we also need strong roots so we can enjoy those in our meals.
Beets are a great crop if you have less than perfect soil. Beets will grow in almost any type of soil, but having the right type of soil will help you get nicer beets and a better yield.
Beets will grow in harder clay soil and, in fact, a lot of farmers will grow beets as a kind of a cover crop or a secondary crop to help loosen the soil, aerate the soil in order to grow peppers or other vegetables later. In addition, they’ll still be able to harvest their beets and make some money for their efforts.
Now, although you can grow beets will in harder clay soil, having a good quality loose soil with all the necessary nutrients is a far better option.
If you want beets the size of apples, what you really need to do is make sure that they have lots of moisture. Otherwise, your beets will dry out and won't form a nice, juicy ball root. Because they’re just trying to survive, they only go into flowering and the roots will very tough. Loose, well-moisturized and well-aerated soil will promote the excellent growth of juicy beets.
Firstly, a good, rich and loose soil will help with root development, which is obviously really important. Well developed roots will stay deeper in the soil and they’ll be much healthier and drought tolerant.
Good soil with a compost layer will also help to keep the uniform shape of your beets. Oddly-shaped beets are usually the result of a hard soil and the struggle of roots to grow up. Instead, the soil will be pressing around the beet and forcing the beet to grow up any path with least resistance.
So, if your soil is very loose and fluffy, your beets won't have any resistance and they’ll be able to grow normally and in similar shapes and sizes.
Not having enough water in the soil is another reason why beets just don’t form a nice tender ball but get really woody instead. If your beets dry out go bone-dry, what’ll happen is even if you have a really nice-sized beet it will crack because the soil dries out. Use the best soaker hose to provide beets with enough of water!
Then, the bulb itself shrinks too fast and it can’t keep up. Once it gets re-watered again, it will split much like a tomato as the beet skin can’t expand and contract fast enough with the shrinking or expanding of the fruit itself.
So, if you want to prevent the cracking, keep even soil moisture and water you beets regularly.
Does the compost help with growing beets?
Indeed it does! Beets grow best in loamy, acid soils (pH levels ranging between 6.0 and 7.5). If your soil is heavy clay, rocky, hard, or alkaline, you should mix in an inch or so of compost. It's also good to add a bit of wood ash because its rich supply of potassium enhances root growth.
Even if beets are your first crop, it’s good to remineralize the soil in the spring. In general, anytime you’re planting beets, you should always start with a fresh slate because this is going to help loosen up the soil and give it a lot of organic matter. This also improves water holding capabilities, which is really important to beets.
Another huge benefit of adding compost is that it will provide lots of nitrogen which is important for healthy and good size roots.
What minerals do beets need?
Beets are crops that require a certain amount of nitrogen to begin root development. You need modest amounts of phosphorous and potassium but you need ample nitrogen. If you have enough nitrogen in the soil, the plant is going to grow up in its leaves first and all the excess energy obtained through photosynthesis is then taken back down to form larger beets.
If you don’t have enough nitrogen, your beets are going to just form enough leaves to survive and they are not going to focus any energy into the root. As a result, you will get your roots very woody.
Eating hard fruits is not much of a pleasure and the beets themselves will look really woody on the outside instead of being really tender and soft with a very gentle skin and a nice shape. Nitrogen will allow for perfect beets, along with enough potassium and phosphorus.
The benefits of the sunlight
The sunlight is very important for beets. If you’re growing them for the roots, the shoots, the flowers or the fruits, they need close to 8 hours of sun. If you’re just growing them for leaves 4 or 5 hours of sun will be enough. The leaves are edible and they are delicious but we also need strong roots so we can enjoy those tasty beetroots.
Beets require lots of sunlight because again it goes back in the form of energy from the leaves down to the roots to make those big bulbous roots, all with the help of photosynthesis created from the sun.
The spacing when planting beets
Beets do best if you sow the seeds 1 inch deep and 3 to 4 inches apart. If you’d like a little bit bigger bulbs and not as much competition 4 inches would be better.
One method when growing beets from seeds is to plant 2 seeds. The reason to experiment and not plant only 1 seed is that if that 1 seed doesn’t sprout, you will have extra wasted space and beets will grow in an uneven shape using that extra space.
If both seeds sprout, you can easily thin the seedlings, which is a better route than having your beet bed all uneven and whacked up. You’d also need to go back if that single planted seed doesn’t sprout and plant again which will cost you losing a lot of your productivity. So, try starting seeding 2 seeds in order to have at least one of them will sprout well.
Are there any potential problems when growing beets?
The good news is that beets are relatively disease and pest free. Even if a problem comes up, it will be easy to manage the problem organically. This fact will make a lot of you who don’t like pesticides and herbicides happy.
For example, you can prevent some of the beet diseases by rotating crops of beets, spinach, and Swiss chard with other types of vegetables. In addition, you can use cover crops during the off-season.
Beet-leaf miners (Pegomya Hyoscyami) can become a problem, for instance. However, even if they do get into your beet leaves, you can just tear off the damaged portion. Simply do a daily inspection of the leaves by feeling around the leaves for any bumps and if you find them, remove the pests with your fingers.
To keep leaf miners and other pests away, we recommend that you place row covers over your beets during the insects' busiest time, which is between May and late June.
Harvesting beets and beet greens
Good to know that you can start enjoying your beet crop at the first thinning. What you can do is simply cut greens during the thinning process to use them in salads.
In addition, just pull up baby beets when they reach 1 inch in diameter. You can cook them up with together their stems.
When you harvest larger beets, leave 1 to 2 inches of the stems attached to the root in order to prevent any staining or bleeding.
For a fall harvest, you should pull up your beet crop after a hard frost. Make sure to cut off the tops close to the roots. We recommend that you store the beets in a box of sand in a cool place like a basement or a root cellar until you wish to make a delicious meal out of them.
The beet greens can be cut, washed, and stored in the fridge until you need them for salads, stir-fries, or steaming on the side as a mess o' greens.
Which beet varieties should I plant?
The answer depends on your beet culinary preferences as well as on the area where you live and the weather conditions.
If you like sweet and white beets, go for Albina Vereduna. This is a close cousin of the sugar beet and contains twice as much sugar as red beets. Another choice is a pure white Dutch heirloom which only needs to be steamed lightly as it turns a bit gray when overcooked.
The Heirloom Favorite would be the Detroit Dark Red which is a classic beet variety dating back all the way to 1892. It’s still one of the best options if you like sweet roots and tasty greens.
If you want to store your beets for a later time, go for Red Ace. It gives tender greens which are perfect for salads and rich red roots that resist zoning (alternating red and white rings caused by excessive heat).
Yellow Heirloom variety which is really popular is the Golden Bee. It has bright yellow flesh and a sweet-potato-like flavor. You can improve its low germination rate by soaking the seed in bathtub-warm water for one hour before sowing. It can be planted as thick as 1 inch apart as it doesn't produce as well as the red varieties.
The Chioggia is an Italian heirloom originating in 1880. With its naturally occurring red-and-white-striped flesh, which is not zoning caused by stress, it has sweet flavor roots and flavorful leaves as well. The Chioggia variety grows well in spring and fall. You can steam it lightly to avoid beet bleeding.
The Kestrel variety is both heat and disease resistant. It has a sweet, dark-red globe baby beet which is delicious.
The Baby Ball offers perfectly rounded, little crimson beets with fine tips. It offers mellow, sweet taste and delicious, healthy greens. Early to harvest, you should pick it at the baby size.
The cold-tolerant Bull's Blood is an heirloom with gorgeous dark maroon-red leaves that will provide a great splash of color for your salads. It produces a tasty beet when harvested young at the size of 2 to 3 inches and is extremely cold-resistant.
The Lutz Green Leaf variety is an heirloom suitable for fall harvest and winter storage. It grows large, with delicious-tasting green leaves. Its baseball-size, heart-shaped roots stay amazingly sweet and tender if you store it well in winter.
The short-season Early Wonder Tall Top beet has maroon-tinged leaves and purplish red, flattop roots. You can cook it in various ways and it will be as tasty as it gets when it comes to beets.
Hope this guide will help all you future beet gardeners and good luck with the planting and harvesting!