Beets are Easy to grow and do double duty in the kitchen, producing tasty roots for baking, boiling or sautéing and fresh greens to boil, steam or eat raw in salads.
Plant them early for top quality and best flavor. (Fluctuating weather can reduce quality and create white zone rings in the roots.) Some varieties have red stems and venation in the leaves, making them a natural for edible landscaping.
Beets like full sun but will tolerate light shade. Beets will tolerate low fertility but prefers well drained sandy loam to silt loam soil, high in organic matter, with pH between 6.5 and 7 and free of large rocks.
Good soil structure is important because growth is improved by good soil aeration.
Beets grow poorly in acid soils.
They require consistent moisture. Do not plant in soils with pH less than 6.0.
Beets use boron inefficiently. Boron is less available in soils with high pH and high organic matter. Corky black areas in the roots indicate boron deficiency.
Plant beet seed when soil temperature is 50F(10C) to 85F(29C) However beets will still germinate at temperatures as low as 40F(5C)and as high as 90F(32C).
Days to germinate is 5 to 8 days. It may take two to three weeks in colder soils.
Plant in early spring, as soon as you can work the soil, plant 3/4 inch deep and 3 inches apart in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. For continuous harvest, make successive plantings every 10-14 days until midsummer. For winter crops, sow seed about 10 weeks before your first hard freeze.
Hint: The wrinkled “seedball” usually contains two to four viable seeds, making it necessary to thin plants to 3 to 4 inch spacing if you plan to harvest young, small roots, or 6 inch spacings for larger roots for winter storage.
Begin thinning when seedlings are about 4 to 5 inches tall, and eat the thinnings. Cut rather than pull plants when thinning to avoid disturbing roots of other plants.
Some “monogerm” beet varieties have only one seed per fruit also some seed companies remove seeds from the seedball.
Unlike most root crops, beets can be started inside or in cold frames and transplanted into the garden.
Use floating row covers to discourage insects.
Keep well weeded. Competition and uneven watering can make beets stringy and tough.
Hint: Too much nitrogen will encourage top growth. That’s a good thing if you mainly want beet greens. However high nitrogen retards root development.
Beets are biennials. Normally, they produce an enlarged root during their first season. Then after overwintering they produce a flower stalk. If they experience two to three weeks of temperatures below 45 F after they have formed true leaves they may bolt and develop a flower stalk prematurely.
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