Growing Beets: Your Complete Guide

I love beets. That probably has something to do with my dad’s love for beets.  I grew up eating beets and staining my t-shirts from the juice. Since I started my first garden as an adult over 15 years ago to grow as much of my food as possible, I have been on an ongoing mission to grow the biggest and best beets ever. Check out this grow guide, where we discuss what I have learned.

Nutrition from Beets

Did you know beets are a superfood? Beets are full of nutrients and low in calories. They contain nitrates that can help lower blood pressure and improve athletic performance.  Beets are rich in fiber, vitamins A C, and K, potassium, iron, and more. A fast and easy way to receive the nutritional benefits of beets is by juicing. Just be mindful that beets are high in sugar. Remember people and companies still make table sugar from sugar beets.  

Growing Beets: The Basics

On average, beet seeds take 5-6 days to sprout.  Like other seedlings, keep the soil moist until the seedlings emerge. Beets grow best in organically rich and fertile soil. Before planting, remove any rocks or large pieces of wood from the soil.

Sow beet seeds ¼ – ½” deep. As seedlings emerge, thin the seedlings to three-inch spacing. Keep rows of beets 12-24” apart. The distance depends on the variety planted. This should keep the plants close enough to shade the soil beneath. This will help to keep weeds from germinating and growing. Be mindful, and do not throw out the thinned seedlings. In case you are unaware, the leafy greens that grow on top of the root are also edible. Once beets germinate, they can be harvested in as little as 45- 60 days.

When To Plant

Beets are a cool season crop that is easy to grow and nutritionally worth it.  While they can be grown and transplanted to the garden, this crop produces best when directly seeded.  Plant beet seeds 3-5 weeks before the last frost date. When you sow the seeds, don’t be surprised by how many seedlings emerge.  Beet seeds are clusters that contain 4-6 tiny seeds.  Do you want to improve your germination rate? Try soaking the seeds overnight before planting. This will help to soften the hard coating surrounding the seeds and increase the germination time and rate.

To extend beet harvest, make sure to practice succession planting.  After planting, sow new sets of beets every 2-4 weeks.

Where To Plant

Grow beets in loose, well-drained soil enriched with organic matter. 2-3 weeks before sowing seeds, apply an all-purpose fertilizer or compost to the planting site. Work compost into the garden before sowing seeds if you have clay or gumbo soil. Another option is to grow beets in raised beds where you have total control of the quality of the soil. 

Beets grow best in full sun. But, like other root crops, beets can grow in partial sun. Beets will grow if the planting site receives 6 hours of sun. Beets grown in full sun will mature faster and larger than beets grown in partial sun.

Beets require 1” of water per week. Hand watering is my preferred option if grown as a fall crop when the rains are frequent, the soil is moist, and the temperatures are lower. Hand watering forces you to be present and interact with your garden to ensure success. It is also the best way to keep the soil moist during the germination and initial growth of the beets.  If you have a drip irrigation system, beets can be grown within 12” of an emitter.

Harvesting

Beets can be harvested at various stages during the growing cycle. When beets reach 1” is when you can begin harvesting. It usually takes 21-28 days to get to this point. Most beets are harvested when they reach 2-3”. Beets left in the garden to mature past 4” are usually tough, fibrous, and bitter.

The green or purple foliage that grows on top of the beet is also edible.  Try growing beet greens if you want a new leafy green to add to your salad garden.  These plants only produce leafy greens.  Beet tops are also edible.

Beets can be stored fresh, frozen, pickled, or canned. After harvesting, cut the greens on top of the beet to a maximum length of 1”.  Do not wash the beets. Use your hand or a soft-bristled brush to brush off any soil on the beets gently. Throw the harvested beets in an open plastic bag in the produce drawer in the refrigerator.  Placing beets in a closed bag can cause moisture to collect and drop on the beet, causing it to rot when appropriately stored; beets can last 3-4 months in the fridge.

Beet Varities

Make sure to try all the different varieties. My tried-and-true favorite variety is the Detroit dark red. I consistently have a great harvest of medium-sized dark red beets. Don’t forget to try golden or different shades of yellow beets. These beets contain the same nutritional value and DON’T STAIN. As I write this, I question why I don’t grow more golden beets. If you’re looking for a cool variety, try growing the Choggia beets. This variety has a striped flesh that looks like a candy cane.  

I hope this guide inspires you to try growing beets. Follow the tips in this guide and JUST GROW IT. IF you have any questions send me an email or leave me a comment.

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