Known as cold-weather crops, the tasty beet greens are among those crops that a lot of gardeners intend to grow during the spring and fall. This plant comes in several shapes, colors, and sizes and is often grown because of its produced greens and beet roots.
What’s good about growing beets is that it allows you easy access to a famous superfood that provides the human body with lots of nutrition. Among these nutrients are Vitamins A and K, folate, fiber, copper, potassium, manganese, and antioxidants.
Get to know more about the basics of growing beets and enjoying not only their roots and leaves but also their edible tops.
Quick Facts About the Plant Beets
- Botanical name: Beta Vulgaris
- Common name: Beetroot, beet
- Type of plant: Annual, vegetable
- Sun exposure: Part sun, full sun
- Size: 12 to 18 inches tall, 18 to 24 inches wide
- Type of soil and pH level: Moist, loamy, and well-drained; pH level of around 6.0 to 7.0, which is mainly acidic or neutral
- Hardiness zones: USDA zones 1 to 11
- Bloom time: Seasonal
Beets are mainly fast-growing vegetables that you can grow anywhere. Most people recognize this plant as a root crop but take note that almost every part of it is edible. Aside from the plain beet, you can access several variations of it, including the garden beet, red beet, and table beet – all of which fall under the Beta vulgaris cultivar.
In other words, it falls under a similar species where you can find sugar beet and Swiss Chard. As cool-season vegetable crops, it is possible for you to enjoy early crops from growing beets during the spring as well as those planted during the fall or summer.
Several of the beet varieties will also be ready to harvest after around two months of planting. As for the tender and delicate beet greens, it is possible to harvest them once you thin a row of the plants. Meanwhile, you will notice mature beet leaves that produce good and healthy greens once the time comes that you can pull up the entire plant.
Beets can also be seen in various shades of red. Note, though, that there are also new and modern varieties nowadays with white or yellow inside. Growing beets in this variety can give your garden and plate a rainbow of colors.
What’s even better about growing beets is that they are among the most versatile crops and ingredients you can use in your recipes. After harvesting beets, you can roast, grill, pickle, bake, and even boil them. You can also slice or grate beets, cut them to form wedges or chop them similar to how you do it with French fries.
Planting beets is also a good idea as they work great in various recipes. You can use it in your salad or as a topping for your pizza. You can also choose to serve beets on their own or toss them together with goat cheese, so you can create a tasty side dish or appetizer.
You can also use the beet tops or greens by sauteing them or by adding them to soups, like in the famous Ukrainian beet soup.
Beets Companion Plants – Tips on Growing with Beets and Other Plants
Common Beet Varieties
Beet comes in different varieties. You can find seeds sold individually based on their variety as well as those considered rainbow mixes. The latter means that the seeds are a combination of different varieties that you can easily grow in any garden and add a splash of color to the area.
To give you an idea, here are some of the most common beet varieties that you can plant and grow in your garden. Make your choice from them if you are truly interested in growing beets.
Detroit Dark Red
This particular beet variety features smooth and soft skin surrounding a deep red flesh. Many consider the Detroit dark red variety as the perfect general-purpose cultivar considering the fact that it is tender and mild. It is the perfect choice if you are planning to use the crop for roasting, canning, pickling, and eating raw.
Avalanche refers to a white beet all throughout that falls under the open-pollinated variety. It features green stems and has a root diameter that can reach up to two to three inches upon maturity. Expect this variety to mature after around 55 days.
This falls under the golden beet variety. It has roots that are around 2 inches in diameter and have brilliant yellow colors. It also features green tops. This variety is famous for its sweet flavor and its impressive ability to germinate.
Early Wonder Tall Top
This open-pollinated beet variety is famous for growing really fast. It has an average maturity period of around 45 days, though, this period is not that consistent. Grow beets in this variety and you will notice them thriving in the cool soil that results from the early spring.
It also grows deep red globes that are around three to four inches in size. You will also notice the purple veins and stems composing this variety’s green leaves.
Chioggia is also one of those varieties that continue to leave a good impression on gardeners. It can be classified as an Italian heirloom beet featuring white and red circles within. It is impressive as any gardener can grow beets in this variety with ease.
It also comes with semi-flat and round roots that are around 2 inches in diameter. In addition, Chioggia features green tops that also have some purple streaks found on the stems. Expect it to be ready for harvest within just 65 days.
This open-pollinated beet features round and deep red roots that are around three and a half inches. These roots can be seen being enclosed in pink rings. If you plan on growing beets under the Ruby queen variety, make it a point to sow seeds thickly. This increases your possibility of enjoying its delicious greens right after thinning.
You will also love the Red Ace, a hybrid beet variety known for its excellent ability to resist diseases. As you grow beets in the Red Ace variety, you will notice uniformly round roots that you can pick at around three to four inches. You can harvest beets in this variety within just 55 days.
When Should You Plant Beet Greens?
The best time for planting and growing beets is during the early spring. If you choose to plant during the spring season, make it a point to wait for the warming of the soil. It should have the required warmth of 50 degrees F or more.
You are allowed to sow successive plantings around every 2 to 3 weeks provided the temperature during the day does not go beyond 75 degrees F. Note that you can also plant the beets during fall or summer, not just in spring.
If you choose to grow beets during these seasons, make it a point to leave a minimum of one month before the first anticipated frost from the last seeding. If you are living in a place with a warm climate, it is also possible to plant and grow beets during the fall so you can enjoy harvesting them in the winter.
Finding the Best Planting Location
You can easily grow beets using its seeds either in a pot/container or in the soil/ground. Just look for a sunny location for this crop that also has impressive soil drainage. It is also advisable to set a goal of growing beets in a place that is far from spinach and Swiss chard since these plants are prone to acquiring similar diseases and pests, like the flea beetles.
Ensure that the planting spot has well-drained soil with pH levels of around 6.0 to 7.0. You may amend the soil before the actual planting time using compost. This helps in improving the fertility and tilth of the soil.
Also, take note that your growing beets need full sun, at least 6-hour of direct sunlight, every day, so factor that in when it comes to selecting a good location. One more thing that you have to remember when choosing the ideal location is the fact that beets are fond of cool nights and warm days.
Gardeners who live in places with milder climates can be expected to have better luck when it comes to growing beets. However, it is still possible to grow beets almost everywhere in Canada and the US, provided you plant them at the perfect time.
In case you do succession planting, be ready to do several tries in a similar year to get the perfect timing.
Planting, Spacing, and Growing Beet Seeds
Once you have decided to plant and grow beets, take note that you can do that using seed clusters that have sizes similar to small peas. Every cluster has a few small true seeds. What you should do is soak the beet seed clusters first twelve hours prior to sowing. Soaking beet seeds is crucial in speeding up the germination process.
Sow the clusters of beet seeds with a depth of around an inch and a spacing of one inch apart. You can also lightly broadcast seeds over a garden bed that is around fifteen to eighteen inches wide. Thin seedlings once they reach a height of around five inches. What’s good about these thinned plants is that you can eat them as greens.
Expect the beet seedlings to sprout in clumps. Once you already have successful seedlings, thin them to around four to six inches apart using small scissors. You can do this once the seedlings reach around three inches.
You also have the option to separate young beet seedlings and baby beets gently then replant additional ones in a nearby row. It is important to provide the right spacing for each row. As a rule, the rows should be around twelve to eighteen inches apart.
How to Start Beet Seeds Indoors?
Do you plan to start your beet seeds indoors? Then you will be glad to know that you can do that with ease. All it takes would be sowing one beet seed cluster for every peat pot then thinning beet seedlings to a single plant per pot once you notice the emergence of its first real leaves.
Begin the seeds in a seed-starting mix. Make sure that you are using a quality and sterile seed starting mix. Utilize a heat mat designed for seed starting as a means of warming the soil to around 60 to 85 degrees F. This helps in speeding up the germination process.
Using a grow light is also a good idea. One more thing that you have to do is to turn trays or pots every two days or so or until the time that it is already safe to transfer them into your garden.
Another fact about beet seeds that you should know is that they are incapable of germinating in heavy clay soils, which makes it a much better idea to transplant them. Do that by setting every seedling at the preferred last spacing. Practice care and caution during the transfer to prevent harming the roots as you are transplanting beet seedlings.
Caring for your Beets
The best way to care for your beets is to ensure that they receive what they specifically need in the following areas:
Beets are happier when grown in full sun. This means that successfully growing beets involves exposing them to a minimum of 6-hour direct sun most days of the week. Note, though, that this is also one of those plants capable of tolerating light shade.
Give your beet plants a minimum of one-inch water each week. You can also do mulching to ensure that the soil does not dry out too much. It also prevents the soil from becoming excessively warm, which may stop baby beets from growing well.
Beets can be expected to thrive well when planted and cultivated in rich, light, and well-draining soil. It also needs to have a pH level that is a bit acidic to neutral. Remove anything that may interrupt the development of the beet’s roots, including weeds, clay, and rocks.
Another crucial fact about beets is that they need soil with boron in it. This can help in preventing black heart, which refers to a condition that may lead to deformities in its leaves and the development of black and corky spots on its roots. Nourish the soil with boron by doing a soil amendment using seaweed extract or compost.
Humidity and Temperature
You can’t expect beets to be as cold-tolerant as several vegetables classified as cool-season, like broccoli, but you can still expect them to withstand light frost. In that case, the best temperature that you have to provide your beets should be around 50 to 85 degrees F.
Humidity is not also a big issue with beets, provided you are able to maintain the right moisture in the soil. You also need to make sure that you provide the area surrounding the plant with sufficient airflow so you can prevent fungal growth.
It helps to give supplemental feeding at around two weeks after the emergence of beets. This is the rule if the soil you are using does not have sufficient organic matter. You can use any high-quality vegetable and liquid fertilizer in the market for this purpose.
Prune beets only to thin the seedlings and trim off their leaves. Beyond those purposes, pruning is no longer necessary. Trimming off broken leaves that tend to drag on the ground is also necessary since this may cause the introduction of pests and ailments to your plant.
How to Manage Weeds?
One problem you may experience once you begin growing beets is the presence of weeds. They are among your major concerns during the early period of the beets’ growth. When your beets are around one to four inches, expect a lot of weeds to overshadow and overtake them quickly.
The presence of these weeds may also cause your beets to be unable to get the nutrients they need as they will have fierce competition for nourishment. Weeds may crowd your beets and damage their ability to grow.
When your beets reached the mentioned height that makes them prone to being overshadowed by weeds, put around them a tiny hand hoe. Set it up close to them to ensure that your garden bed will be free of weeds. For larger spaces in between each planting, like in between each row, put on a bigger hoe to remove the nasty weeds.
Do hand-weeding one last time upon noticing the beets reaching around 5 to 6 inches tall. You should then use a bigger hoe in weeding the remaining garden bed.
After planting a crop of beets in a close space that did not go through thinning yet, expect the foliage to grow big. The size is often big enough for it to shade the weeds and prevent them from competing for nutrients.
How to Harvest Beets?
As you may have already learned by now, beets grow rapidly. Beets grow really fast that you can harvest them at around 7 to 8 weeks from the time you planted them. What you have to do is to pull the mulch back so you can scrutinize the beets’ shoulders for their sizes.
In most cases, an indication that the beets are already mature is when they already reach around one to three inches in diameter. However, it is also important to examine the seed packet of your chosen variety. If you are aware of the correct size to find, there is a low chance for you to pick beets late.
This is a good thing as it ensures that you will not end up leaving the beets in the soil or ground for an extremely long period that may lead to them becoming tough and woody. You may want to pick beets early as this will result in the better flavors of leaves and the sweeter tastes of beetroots.
Harvesting beets involves pulling them out from the soil or ground using your hand. Make this process easier by watering the soil deeply one day before your scheduled harvest. Once you have successfully harvested beets, you can enjoy them when fresh.
Note, though, that damaged beets are not that ideal for storage. This means that you have to eat them fresh, specifically the day after picking them. In case you have plans of storing beets, avoid rinsing them. What you have to do, instead, so you can store beets, is to brush the dirt off before cutting the greens as well as the root’s bottom part, which is kind of thin.
Put these fresh beets in an airtight container or sealed bag. You can store beets in your fridge for around two weeks or so. If you want to store them for longer, it would be best to can fresh beets.
Pests and Problems to Avoid
Several of the problems often encountered by beet greens are also the ones experienced by other root vegetables, like potatoes. Among the usual pests and problems that tend to infest your garden as you grow beets are the following:
Several viruses usually caused by leafhopper insects result in distorted and twisted leaves. You can fight these viruses if you decide to plant and grow beets under the disease-resistant varieties. As for the presence of leafhoppers, you can stop them with the aid of pesticides.
There are also several types of soil bacteria that may cause the leaves of beets to have discolored spots. The presence of these spots may slowly infect the roots of your plants as you grow beets in the garden.
Remove the affected plants then rotate crops once the next season comes. Avoid planting beets in areas that potatoes occupied in the past to prevent such infections, too.
Beets are also at risk of dealing with aphids, the sucking vectors and insects that cause various plant diseases. The problem with these aphids is that once they start feeding on the leaves of your beet greens, it is highly likely for them to excrete honeydew, further attracting more insects and pets, including ants.
Lessen the number of aphids affecting your beets by spraying them sharply with water. This should be enough to knock them off. Just be extra careful as you spray them and ensure that the impact does not end up damaging the roots and soil. You can also use insecticidal soap if you want a gentle yet effective approach to controlling aphids.
Many species of cutworms are also among those pests and insects that feed on the stems and roots of beets. Expect the larvae of these cutworms to overwinter in the form of larvae or eggs. With that in mind, you can’t expect a row cover to be enough in resolving this issue.
If this is already an existing issue in your garden, one thing that you should do is to turn up the soil’s first few inches a couple of weeks before the time you intend to plant the beets. This is crucial in exposing larvae to some birds that will significantly lower the number of pests that have overwintered.
There is also what we call springtails that tend to attack beet plants underground and aboveground. Fortunately, their damage is not too severe that the beets will still have a high chance of surviving even with their presence.
Other Diseases Affecting Beets
Aside from the already mentioned pests and diseases, your beet greens are also at risk of experiencing other diseases, like root rot, leaf spot, scab, rust, and powdery mildew. Lower their risk of incurring such diseases by using only seedlings from reliable and trusted sources. Ensure that you apply good sanitation in your garden, too.
It is also advisable to get rid of old leaves, as well as volunteer beets, that tend to carry pathogens. Moreover, it is a good idea to rotate crops as a means of preventing pathogens from having access to a host for several years. This can also help in lessening the number of beet pathogens found in the ground or soil.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long does it take to grow beets?
As fast-growing crops, you do not have to wait long to see your beets growing. It is even highly likely for them to grow and mature in as little as 45 to 48 days. There are also several varieties that grow and mature within 55 to 70 days after you successfully planted them.
Are beets easy to grow?
Yes. You can even witness the beets grow with ease both indoors and outdoors. It is easy to grow beet seeds, provided you plant them in moisturized and nutrient-rich soil. Provide them with their growth requirements to stimulate their rapid growth and maturity, too.
What month is best to plant beets?
It would be best to plant beets during the months when the early spring falls. The reason why you should grow beets as this time is that it makes the soil very workable and healthy for this type of crop. Do successive plantings every two to three weeks up to the mid-summer.
How many beets will one plant produce?
One beet plant is capable of producing one beetroot. As for its seeds, you can expect one seed to grow several beet plants. The reason is that this plant’s seeds can actually be classified as seed clusters that have around one to six healthy and viable plants within each one.