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Beets

When to Plant

  • Start your first round of beets in early spring, as soon as the soil is workable. Make successive plantings every 2 to 3 weeks until mid-summer.

    • Successive plantings are possible through summer as long as daytime temperatures don't exceed 75°F (24°C).

  • In soil that's at least 50°F (10°C), germination takes place in 5 to 8 days. In soil colder than that, germination may take 2 to 3 weeks.

    • Tip: To speed up germination, or when planting in areas with low moisture and rainfall, soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before planting.

  • For a fall harvest, sow beet seeds from mid-summer through early fall, starting about 4 to 6 weeks before your first fall frost.

  • Winter crops are a definite possibility in Zone 9 and warmer. Plant beets in early to late fall for a winter harvest.

Choosing a Planting Site

  • Plant beets in full sun. They should ideally receive at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.

  • Avoid planting beets where Swiss chard or spinach has recently been grown, as they are cousins of beets and are susceptible to similar pests and diseases. 

  • Beets prefer well-prepared, fertile soil, but will also tolerate average to low soil fertility.

  • To allow the round beet roots to develop properly, soil should be free of rocks and other obstacles.

  • Soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0 is best and slightly alkaline (7.0+) soils can be tolerated. Beets do not tolerate acidic soils (pH below 6.0).

  • Poor soil can be amended with a balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer prior to planting.

How to Plant

  • We prefer to sow beets directly in the garden so that we don't have to disturb their roots, though beets—unlike many root crops—do generally tolerate being transplanted while still young. However, since they are cold tolerant, beets typically have no trouble being started outdoors.

  • Sow seeds ½-inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart in rows that are about 1 foot apart. After sowing, cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.

  • Each wrinkled beet "seed" is actually a cluster of 2 to 4 seeds, so you will need to thin the young plants to 3 to 4 inches apart once the greens get to be about 4 inches tall. This allows their roots to grow to their proper size.

    • Tip: When thinning, don't pull up the plants, as you may accidentally disturb the roots of the beets you want to keep. Instead, just snip off the greens (and eat them).

  • Make sure soil remains moist for optimal germination. Soak seeds for 24 hours prior to planting to speed up germination.

How to Grow

  • Mulch and then water regularly with about 1 inch of water per square foot per week. Beets need to maintain plenty of moisture in order to grow well.

  • Weed as needed, but be gentle around young plants; beets have shallow roots that are easily disturbed.

  • Consider covering beets with a row cover to prevent pests like leaf miners from attacking the plants' leaves.

  • Supplementing with extra fertilizer is usually not necessary. If you do fertilize, go easy on nitrogen; excess will cause an abundance of greens but tiny bulbs beneath the soil.

Pests/Diseases

  • Flea Beetles

  • Leaf Miners

  • Leaf spot

  • Cercospora

  • Leafhoppers

  • Mosaic Virus

How to Harvest

  • Days to maturity tend to be between 55 and 70 for most varieties. In other words, plan to harvest beets about 2 months after planting.

  • Harvest roots when golf ball-size or larger; very large roots may be tough and woody.

  • Loosen the soil around the beet and gently pull it from the earth.

  • Harvest the beet greens at almost any time, beginning when thinning seedlings. Take one or two mature leaves per plant, until leaf blades are more than 6 inches tall and become tough. (Roots will not fully form without greens, so leaving some is necessary for proper development.)