Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Beets
Our Growing Guide to Beets covers planting, growing, and harvesting. A staple in our garden, beets grow easily and you won’t have to wait long until harvest time. They can be harvested from about the size of a golf ball to the size of a tennis ball. And the greens are edible, too!
Beets or “beet root” are a colorful, cool-season annual vegetable that is easy to grow from seed in well-prepared soil—and grows quickly in bright sun.
They are a great choice for northern gardeners because they can survive frost and near-freezing temperatures.
If you are a beginner, look out for bolt-resistant varieties. But there are many different varieties which showcase deep red, yellow, or white bulbs of different shapes.
Beet greens have a delicious and distinctive flavor and hold even more nutrition than the roots!
When to Plant Beets
- Set an early crop in March/April and a late crop anytime from June to September.
- Successive plantings are also possible as long as the weather doesn’t exceed 75°F. Space plantings about 20 days apart.
- You need to wait until soil reaches a minimum of 50°F before sowing or planting outdoors; germination will take place in 5 to 8 days.
- Winter crops are a definite possibility in Zone 9 and warmer.
Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site
- Beets prefer well-prepared, fertile soil but will also tolerate average to low soil fertility.
- Soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0 is best and slightly alkaline (7.0+) soils can be tolerated. Beets do not tolerate soil with a low pH.
- If you fertlize, go easy on nitrogen; an excess will cause sprawling greens and tiny bulbs beneath the soil. Learn more about soil amendments and preparing soil for planting.
How to Plant Beets
- We prefer to sow beets directly in the garden so that we don’t have to disturb their roots.
- Sow seeds ½-inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart in rows that are about 1 foot apart.
- After sowing, cover the seeds with the soil and tap it down with your hand or rake. Label your rows.
- Make sure soil remains moist for germination.
- Tip: In areas with low moisture and rainfall, soak the seeds for 24 hours before planting.
Check out this video to learn how to plant beets.
How to Grow Beets
- Thinning is necessary, as you may get more than one seedling out of each seed. When the tops are a few inches tall, thin seedlings to 3 to 4 inches apart. Pinch or cut off the leaves. Pulling them out of the ground may disturb the roots of nearby seedlings.
- Mulch and then water regularly with about 1 inch per week. Beets need to maintain plenty of moisture.
- Weed as needed but be gentle; beets have shallow roots that are easily disturbed.
How to Harvest Beets
- Days to maturity tend to be between 50 and 70 for most varieties, when golf ball-size or larger; very large roots may be tough and woody.
- Loosen the soil around the beet and gently pull it from the earth.
- Harvest the beet greens at almost any time, begining when thinning seedlings. Take one or two mature leaves per plant, until leaf blades are more than 6 inches tall and become tough. (Roots will not fully form without greens.)
How to Store Beets
- Fresh beets can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. Clipping the tops off beets will keep them fresher for longer. Leave about one inch of stem on each beet, and store the greens separately.
- For root cellar type storage, make sure you brush off any soil clinging to these crops, then bury in layers (but not touching) surrounded by dry sand, peat moss, or sawdust.
- Store in a cool, dry place. An unheated closet might do, or put them in a cooler in your basement. Read more about a new way to store beets in the root cellar.
- Sprouting is a sign of poor storage and leads to decay.
- Beets can be frozen, canned, and pickled.
- ‘Detroit Dark Red’ - Sturdy, traditional variety. Round, red root.
- ‘Formanova’ - Long, cylindrical beets that grow in the same fashion as carrots. Excellent for canning.
- ‘Chioggia’: red skin; when sliced open, reveals red adn white concentric rings
- Yellow varieties include ‘Bolder’ or ‘Touchstone Gold’
- White varieties include ‘Avalanche’ or Dutch hirloom ‘Albino.’
Wit & Wisdom
- Beets have long been considered an aphrodisiac: Ancient Greeks thought that Aphrodite, their goddess of love, used them to enhance her appeal.
- Romans believed that beet juice brought on amorous feelings.
Beets are a nutrient-dense food considered especially beneficial for health. Learn more in “Beets: Health Benefits!”