QUESTION: It looks like all of my beet seeds sprouted. How do you thin beets in the garden? -Paul S
ANSWER: You can thin beet seedlings when they are three inches tall. Cut down the entire portion of the seedling that is above the ground. If you don’t like eating beet greens, still prune the beet plants in order to keep the leafy older plants from pushing their way into their neighbors territory and to thin out the younger plants.
At three inches in height, cut the seedlings down to ground level using garden scissors and leave three inches of space between each plant. For older stems, you can twist the outer leafy stems about one inch from the plant’s base and carefully tug the stems away while continuing the twist. Even after your beet plant has been harvested, improperly removing the tops will result in less flavorful roots. Never chop the tops off at the very base, but carefully twist the tops away at least one inch above the roots. This method prevents juices from running.
Keep pruning beet tops throughout the growing season. Focus on outer leaves regularly and every now and then, the overly-tall central leaf. Do not remove more than one-third of each plant’s foliage at a time. Beets need some of their leaves to continue growing and producing healthy roots and tops. Depending on the variety you chose, remove the entire plant after 50 to 70 days after planting. Keep in mind, beet roots left in the soil for too long start to become woody and the greens turn bitter.