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.
Common Questions and Answers About How to Grow Beets
Are beetroot leaves poisonous?
Young, tender beetroot leaves are not poisonous, in fact they are not only edible and nutritious, but they are also very tasty, both raw and cooked. As beetroot leaves mature and become large and tough in texture, they also become bitter. This is because beetroot leaves contain oxalic acid and as they mature, this compound comes to the forefront of the flavor of large beet greens. Young, tender beetroot leaves can be eaten both raw and cooked in a variety of different ways. Large mature beetroot leaves are too bitter and tough to be enjoyed raw, but are still good when cooked, sauteed, steamed, or braised.
Are beets easy to grow?
The beet plant is a colorful cool-season crop that is very easy and very quick to grow from seed in fertile, well-prepared soil in a bright, sunny location. One of the reasons why beets are considered to be easy to grow is their hardiness and adaptability to extreme weather conditions. Beet plants are frost-resistant and can even survive long periods of exposure to near-freezing conditions. Beet plants are almost never troubled by pests or disease. They don’t need staking, pruning, or lots of individual attention. All you need to do is sow your beet seeds and allow the plants to grow for around six to eight weeks. Beets are mainly cultivated for the fruit produced by their root systems, which can be harvested at any time between midsummer and late fall.
Are beets heavy feeders?
Beets are light feeders that require a minimal amount of nutrition from the soil in order to develop healthy and harvestable fruit. Vegetables that are heavy feeders require extra care in terms of amending and improving soil quality, and adding specific fertilizers throughout the growing season in order to provide the nutrients they need to produce the best fruit possible. Beets do not require much, if any additional feeding. Just provide a fertile soil, and your beets should be happy and healthy.
Can beets cause kidney damage?
Beets, beet greens and beet root powder are very high in oxalates and can promote the formation of kidney stones in susceptible people. If oxalate-containing kidney stones run in your family, or if you have had issues with oxalate kidney stones in the past, you should avoid taking beet supplements or eating a diet high in beets or beet greens, as they could easily cause you to develop kidney stones. If you have never had an issue with kidney stones in the past, however, you are most likely safe to add beets to your diet.
Can I plant a whole beet?
Planting a whole beet into the ground will most likely just waste a perfectly good beet. If you want to grow beet greens from beet cuttings, slice off the top portion of the beet, taking no more than one third of the fruit and place it into a glass, mug, or bowl filled with water with the cut side facing downwards.
Set the glass on a windowsill or on a counter or table near a sunny window so that the beet top will receive plenty of sunlight. Change out the water every few days to avoid bacterial formation. The beet will begin producing beet greens within just a few short weeks. Harvest the beet greens whenever you like.
If you would like your beet top to root for later planting instead of producing greens, apply a rooting hormone to the cut surface and plant it in a container filled with potting soil instead of water. Once the cutting starts to develop roots, it is ready to transfer into your garden.
Can you eat beetroot straight from the ground?
Raw beets can be pulled straight from the garden and eaten directly. Eating raw beets is one way to reap all the health benefits that beets have to offer. Raw beets can be eaten plain, dried, pickled, roasted, or juiced. Raw beet greens are also perfectly safe to use as salad greens. However, if you are going to be eating raw beets, you will want to remove their tough outer-skin with a vegetable peeler before consuming.
Can you eat beets raw?
Raw beets can be eaten right after harvesting, and consuming beets raw is one way to get all of the health benefits that they offer. Try beets raw and plain, dried, pickled, roasted, or even juiced. Raw beet greens can be used as salad greens too. If you’re going to be eating raw beets, however, note that they have a tough layer of outer-skin around the fruit that is pretty tough to chew, so you will want to remove the tough outer-skin with a vegetable peeler before eating.
Can you grow beets in hot weather?
Beets are a cool season crop and they are adapted to be able to grow in cool temperatures. Beets do not grow well in warm to hot weather. They enjoy warm days and cool nights and grow best in those conditions. Even though beets are a root vegetable and are somewhat sheltered from the sunlight underneath the soil, hot weather conditions, including warm soil temperatures are like kryptonite to beets.
Do beets come back every year?
Beets are biennial plants but they are grown as annuals in order to harvest their roots, which is the reason why they are cultivated. Beetroot plants are only grown as biennials if they are being cultivated for their seeds.
Do beets like sun or shade?
Beets can grow in full sunlight to partial shade but the location you choose has a lot of impact on the way they will grow. Beets grown in locations with full sunlight will focus on growing larger, sweeter roots, while those grown in the shade will instead produce many nutritious greens.
Do beets need a lot of sun to grow?
Beets prefer full sun or partial shade locations, but the amount of sunlight they get will impact the way they grow. Beets grown in full sunlight will grow large, sweeter-tasting roots, while beets grown in partial shade will grow smaller roots, but will still produce lots of nutritious greens instead.
Do beets need a lot of water?
When growing beets, provide one inch of water per week, providing water in several shallow sessions as opposed to a deep soak once per week. Check the soil by sticking a finger into it. If it is moist three inches deep into the ground, hold off on watering. If it is dry at three inches of depth, give your beetroot plants a shallow soak. If you don’t receive any rain, two light or moderate waterings within a week should be plenty. When watering your beet plants, be careful not to wash away the soil around the beets, especially if you are growing your beets in raised rows. To help retain moisture and protect against soil erosion, add a layer of mulch around your beet plants using grass clippings, straw, or chopped leaves.
Do beets need fertilizer?
Beets are not heavy feeders, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need a nutrient rich soil to grow and thrive. Because beets grow so quickly, however, it’s best to improve your soil before planting your beets, working in compost, well-rotted manure, or an all-purpose granular fertilizer that is higher in potassium in phosphorus and lower in nitrogen, like a 5-10-10. Nitrogen promotes foliage growth, whereas potassium and phosphorus encourage more root development.
Do you need to thin beets?
Yes, thinning out your beet plants is recommended, as one beetroot seed is actually a cluster of two to four seeds and will usually produce more than one seedling. When your seedlings become four to five inches tall and have at least two pairs of true leaves, thin the seedlings down to 3 or 4 inches apart by snipping them with a pair of scissors or gardening shears.
How cold can beets tolerate?
Beet plants are hardy to around 28 to 32 degrees F. The tops of the plants will die back during the winter, but the roots of the plant will withstand the cold weather in many climates.
How deep should soil be for beets?
Beets have deep root systems that can reach 36 to 48 inches in depth. However, when grown in raised beds or container gardens, beets only need to be provided with a minimum of eight to 12 inches of soil depth for their roots to expand and grow into.
How do I know when beetroot is ready to harvest?
Beets are generally ready for harvesting around 50 to 80 days after sowing seed. Deciding when to harvest your beet plants comes down to a choice of what size you want your beets to be before you pick them. Beet plants are ready for harvest any time after you see their shoulder protruding at the soil line, or when the diameter of the root reaches one to three inches.
How do I know when beets are ready to pick?
Beets are typically ready for harvesting around 50 to 80 days after planting. You will know that they are ready to harvest when the diameter of the roots reaches one to three inches and the beets become deep in color and about medium in size. Another sign that your beets are ready for picking is when you notice their shoulder protruding at the soil line.
How do you fertilize beets?
Because beets grow so quickly, it is better to prepare the soil that you are going to grow your beets in before planting your beet seeds into it. As beets are light feeders, pre-treating the soil before planting should provide them with all the nutrients that they need to thrive throughout the growing season. Before planting your beets, mix in several inches of compost or well-rotted manure, or treat the soil with a 5-10-10 all-purpose granular fertilizer, following the directions on the label carefully.
How do you get seeds from beets?
Most gardeners purchase their beet seeds from their local nursery, but it is possible to harvest your own seeds. To do this, wait until the tops of your beetroot plant have turned brown. Then, cut the tops off of your beet plants, taking the top four inches off of each plant and place the cuttings in a cool, dry area for two to three weeks until the seeds ripen. Once the seeds have had a chance to ripen, you can strip them out of the dried foliage by hand, or you can place the tops in a bag and pound them until the seeds fall out. The chaff can also be winnowed and the seeds can be plucked out as well.
How do you grow beets from beets?
If you cut off the top inch and a half of a fresh beet and put the cutting cut side down into a container filled with potting soil, it will eventually begin to form roots of its own. At this point, you can move the cutting, cut side facing down, into the ground to produce more beets. Alternatively, you can also place the cutting, cut side facing down, into a glass or bowl of water. The cutting will begin to grow harvestable beet greens that you can snip off and toss into your salads and wraps for an easy-to-grow nutrient-rich microgreen.
How do you store fresh beets long term?
For long term storage, keep beets in damp sand in a cool, humid place, such as a root cellar. First remove beet tops, leaving around a half an inch of stem and don’t cut root end to prevent bleeding. If leaves are not removed, water will travel to them from the roots and the beets will shrivel as a result. By snipping off the greens and laying them in layers of damp sand, sawdust, or peat moss in a plastic container with a tight lid, such as a garbage can, you can store beets for the majority of the winter. The lid needs to remain closed to keep the moisture in the sand. If layered and stored in a cool place such as an attic or garage, they will store well for two to three months like this.
Though frozen beets are not very pleasant to eat, freezing will preserve your beets for around 8 months. Canned beets will store well for over one year. Beets can also be pickled and stored in the fridge for six to eight months.
How long can beets stay in the ground?
If you have free-draining soil, it’s okay for you to leave many of your root crops in the ground over the winter to harvest as needed in most areas. Parsnips, carrots, turnips, kohlrabi, beetroot and swedes are all able to be left over winter, usually without losing any of your crops to rot or disease, though they may get nibbled on a bit by soil-dwelling insects.
The foliage on the tops of the plants will die back, but the fruit that lies just beneath the surface of the soil will be just fine if left in the ground to harvest after winter has come and gone as long as they don’t have to endure a hard freeze. Add a layer of mulch over them for extra protection against the elements. If you expect an extremely cold winter, with sustained temperatures of 25 degrees and below, go ahead and harvest all of your root crops so as not to risk losing them to freezing.
Beets can survive temperatures around 30 degrees F for sustained periods. If beets are left in the ground throughout the winter, they will begin producing spring greens quite early. Be sure to harvest your beets before they start to regrow these leaves, as the flesh of your beets will turn woody if you don’t harvest them before the regrowth.
How long does it take to grow beets?
Depending on the variety of beets that you selected, it takes 45 to 60 days for beets to mature after planting.
How many beets do you get from one plant?
Each beet plant that you grow will produce one beet, so plant as many beets as you think you will need at the start of the growing season, or practice succession planting for a continual harvest, replanting your beets once every three weeks.
How many beets will one seed produce?
Beet seeds are actually seed clusters, and each cluster contains two to four beet seeds. For this reason, thinning out your beet seedlings is essential, as otherwise, they will crowd each other and will not grow properly due to lack of space.
How much sun do beets need?
Beets grown in full sunlight will produce larger, sweeter roots. Beets grown in partial shade will produce lots of harvestable greens. Therefore, choose your growing location based on what you want to harvest.
How tall do beets grow?
Beet plants typically grow up to two feet high. However, if you plan to harvest the greens, they are best when they are small and tender, anywhere from two to five inches in height. Make sure you leave some of the foliage so that the roots will keep growing normally. You can basically retard the height of your beet plants by cutting back the leaves regularly.
Should you soak beet seeds before planting?
To aid germination, soak your beet seeds in water for 24 hours before planting.
Should you wash beets before storing?
Beets grow beneath the ground and are covered in dirt when they are harvested so they need to be cleaned. However, washing your beets will make them prone to rotting quickly in storage. Instead, gently rub all of the dirt off of the root by hand or with a towel.
What fertilizer is best for beets?
Because beets grow so quickly, it is better to amend the soil that you are going to grow your beets in to supply them with nutrients before planting your beet seeds. As beets are light feeders, fixing the soil prior to planting should give them all the nutrients that they will need to thrive throughout the growing season. Before planting your beets, mix in several inches of compost or well-rotted manure, or improve the soil with a 5-10-10 all-purpose granular fertilizer, following the directions on the label carefully.
What happens if you leave beets in the ground too long?
Beets that are left in the ground for too long begin to turn woody and tough, so be sure to harvest them before any hard freeze or before spring greens start to sprout up during the following growing season.
What is the best time to plant beets?
Sow beets in the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the last average frost date in your region in the spring. For a continual harvest, continue succession plantings every 3 weeks until temperatures reach 80°F. Beets can be planted again starting in late summer or early autumn 6 to 8 weeks before the first average frost in the fall. Beets need 45 to 65 days to reach harvest.
What is the sweetest beet?
White beets lack betalain, the pink and yellow pigments found in red and golden beets, and cause of that earthy beet flavor. White beets are the mildest, sweetest, and least earthy-tasting variety of beet.
What type of soil do beets grow best in?
Beetroot plants prefer a loamy, acidic soil with a pH range between 6.0 and 7.5. If your soil is heavy clay, rocky, hard, or alkaline, mix in about an inch of compost and add a bit of wood ash. Wood ash will help promote healthy root growth due to its rich supply of potassium.
Where do beets grow best?
Beets prefer a location that receives full sunlight but they will also tolerate partial shade. In especially warm climates, plant beets in a location that receives dappled shade to avoid bolting. Beets prefer a sandy soil in the springtime and a heavier soil in the fall, but always require a well-draining, uncompacted, fertile soil, preferably with an acidic pH between 6.0 and 7.5.
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.