Beets are fairly easy, straightforward cool season vegetables to grow in the home garden. They are grown for both their edible roots and greens. Beets come in not only the well-known red color, but also white, pink and yellow. Beet roots are high in Folate, fiber and vitamin C. Folate has been proven to help prevent neural-tube birth defects when regularly consumed by pregnant women prior to childbirth. Beet greens are high in vitamin A and are frequently used in salads and fresh dishes. Both beet tops, or greens, and roots, can be eaten fresh or cooked.
Growing Conditions for Beets
Beets prefer cool temperatures with well-drained, loamy soil. They require full sun (6 hours a day) and prefer a soil pH of 6.2 to 6.8. Do not let the soil dry out and crack, but maintain a consistent moisture level.
How to Plant Beets
Beets are cold hardy vegetables that can be planted nearly a month prior to the final frost in the spring. Make sure all soil clumps and lumps are well integrated into the soil prior to planting so as not to heed root growth. Seeds should be sown about one half inches deep in the soil with each row about 12-18 inches apart. The seedlings will need to be thinned when they are one to two inches tall, spacing them about 1 inch apart. As they continue to grow, they should be thinned again, until they are growing about 3-4 inches apart. Beets can be planted successively, 3 weeks apart, so you can have multiple harvests throughout the growing season.
Care of Beets
After your beets have matured a bit, put mulch around the plants to help conserve moisture and keep weeds at bay. Weeding will need to be done periodically; be careful not to disrupt the roots of the beets. It is important to maintain continual growth when growing beets. Any halting of growth will result in an inferior crop. Adequate watering is important. Make sure your beets receive about an inch of water per week, either from rainfall or supplemental watering.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Beets
Common pests include leaf miners, aphids and flea beetles. A common disease to look out for is Cercospora leaf spot which is a fungal disease. When growing conditions are overly wet or poor-draining, fungal diseases are common.
Depending on the variety, beets mature between 55-70 days. Beets can be harvested at any point you desire. Some people prefer small beets (about 1 inch in diameter) and others larger (around 3 inches). When beets become larger than 3 inches they become tough and fibrous in texture. The greens of beets taste best when they are between 4 and 6 inches in height. Some cooks harvest beets in their entirety to prepare whole in salads, grilled dishes or roasted recipes. When cooking beets, it is best to leave about an inch of stem to prevent “bleeding” during cooking. You can store beets at temperatures around 32 degrees with high humidity.
Photo courtesy of anolobb at Flickr.com.
Beet Varieties to Grow in Your Home Garden
The following varieties are well suited to your home garden:
- Detroit Dark Red – Excellent canning, pickling quality, tender & sweet, good boiling greens.
- Burpee Golden – Round type with a unique yellow-orange color.
- Pacemaker III – Uniform, smooth a tender round beet, cercospera leaf spot tolerant, high quality tops.
- Little Mini Ball – Sliver-dollar sized round roots.
- Red Ace hybrid – Exceptional weather tolerance, cercospera leaf spot tolerant, early maturity.
Want to learn more about growing beets?
Check out this site on growing beets in the home garden from Utah State University Cooperative Extension.
Here’s more information about growing beets from University of Illinois Cooperative Extension.