QUESTION: When should you thin beets? Do they need to be a certain height? -Lenny W.
ANSWER: Thin beet seedlings when they are three to five inches tall. Go ahead and cut down the entire portion of the seedling that is above ground. By doing so, you can harvest the beet greens. If you don’t enjoy eating beet greens, you should still prune your plants to keep the leafy older beet plants from pushing their way into their neighbors territory and to give younger plants room to grow.
Use garden scissors when seedlings reach three to five inches in height to cut them to ground level. Thin to three inches of space between each plant. For older stems, twist the outer leafy stems about one inch from the plant’s base and carefully pull them away while continuing the twist. Even after your beet plant has been harvested, removing the tops improperly will result in less flavorful beet roots. To keep juices from running, never chop the tops off at the very base, but carefully twist the tops away at least one inch above the roots instead.
Keep pruning beet tops throughout the growing season, focusing on outer leaves regularly and occasionally, the overly-tall central leaf. Do not remove more than one-third of each plant’s foliage at a time as beets need some of their leaves to continue growing and producing healthy roots and tops. Depending on the beet variety, remove the entire plant after 50 to 70 days of growth. Beet roots left in the soil for too long start to become woody and the greens turn bitter.
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