We’re here to teach you everything there is to know about beets! These hearty root vegetables with absolutely scrumptious tops and bottoms!
These delectable plants are also jam-packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Read along to check out our expert planting and harvesting tips. With a little effort and due diligence, you could be sitting on a sizable beet harvest.
We don’t know about you, but we think these root vegetables deserve more attention. We hope that we will encourage our readers to plant more hearty edibles in their gardens and containers. Let’s dig in and see what beets are all about! Can you skip to the beat of that drum? We most certainly can!
What are beets?
Beets are colorful root vegetables that thrive in cool climates. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, they can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones two through 11. If you want to get scientific, you can call them beta vulgaris.
These plants aren’t that picky about their growing conditions. What’s more, there is a large variety of beets, including conventional round red beetroots as well as some pretty funky alternatives.
When mature, beet greens can measure as tall as 1.5 feet. Yet, the real bulk of the harvest lies out of sight. Most growers are in the beet game for their roots. That is not to say that the underutilized tops aren’t just as scrumptious!
While rumor has it that all beets are red, this minor misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. They come in a rainbow of colors. Oh, and they’re also full of antioxidants and nitrates!
What are the different varieties available?
There are many conventional and heirloom varieties of beets. Be sure to seek out a beetroot variety that thrives in your particular hardiness zone.
Red Ace beets are one of the most easily recognized plant varieties. These beets are deep red. They have a deep, earthy flavor that lends itself nicely to goat cheeses, greens, and vinaigrette. These beets are also known for having some of the tastiest greens. While the tops of these plants are often overlooked, there’s never been a better time to appreciate them.
These are arguably one of the most popular varieties. They’re easy to find in most grocery stores. They have a deep red color and deep, earthy flavor notes. These beetroots tend to be on the larger side.
Chioggia beets are some of the most beautiful varieties of root vegetables available. When sliced open, these beets reveal lovely red and white concentric circles. You wouldn’t know how beautiful these beets are from their solid-red exteriors. These beets are sometimes called Bassano.
Touchtone gold beets are deep orange with bright yellow flesh hidden below the surface. These beets do not germinate as easily as the red varieties do in cold soil. However, they are a great option for warm hardiness zones.
For those that don’t appreciate conventionally bitter beets, there are always Avalanches. These petite white beets are known for their sweet flavor notes.
What is the best time to plant?
If you live in an area in the United States that is subject to annual frost periods, you should wait until spring before planting your beetroots. You may plant some varieties as early as three weeks before the last predicted frost.
Check with your local agricultural extension to find out when the window for frosts is expected to close. If possible, stagger your plantings to ensure a long and fruitful harvest season. Beets usually take over 70 days to reach maturity. These hearty plants can handle cool temperatures but prefer warm, sunny weather.
Beets that are harvested in the fall tend to be sweeter. So, be sure to plan your planting around your taste buds. You can always play it safe by waiting for the soil to reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Just make sure you have at least 50 days left in your growing season.
Where can you plant beets?
According to the USDA, beet plants thrive in hardiness zones two through 11. You can have the option to plant them in rows and raised beds. Seek out an area that receives at least 8 hours of sunlight each day. If you’re short on space, you may even try growing beets in a container. Just make sure there is plenty of room between your plants and the container sides and bottom.
If you live in a USDA Hardiness Zone between eight and 10, then you can begin planting your beets as early as March. Beets are extremely hardy. Some varieties can even survive cold temperatures and frost. You stagger your planting schedule to ensure that your beets are readily available throughout the harvest season. Staggered planting is a common practice of farmers.
Beets grow best in direct sunlight. Make sure you apply a layer of mulch around your plants to ensure the soil does not dry prematurely.
According to experts, beets prefer soils with pH levels between 6 and 7. Soils in this range are alkaline, neutral, and somewhat acidic. Beets also flourish in loamy and sandy soils. You may add to your soil to reduce its acidity.
You may also add amendments, such as organic compost, wood ash, or cow/horse manure, to improve the water-retention, nutrient composition, or drainage of your soil. When in doubt, reach out to your local agricultural extension to have your soil analyzed. These tests are usually very inexpensive.
You can always add lime to your soil to bring down its acidity. Keep in mind that this should be applied to the soil before planting. San Fransico Gate offers more information on reducing soil acidity.
Beets also require boron. High Mowing suggests amending soil that does not contain enough boron. Boron-deficient beet plants may develop black leaves. Seaweed fertilizer will help stabilize boron levels in most soils. You may also use the common laundry supply, Borax.
Beets thrive in cool, moist soil. Provide your beets with at least 1 inch of water per week, supplementing natural rainwater with irrigation. Apply a dense cover of all-natural mulch to ensure the soil retains plenty of moisture. We recommend using a sprinkler or drip-style irrigation system to feed your plant water daily.
How to plant beets in the garden?
Beets are truly one of those no-brainer crops. You can put the seeds directly in the ground. You do not need a greenhouse or expensive growing equipment to start your beets. Furthermore, these plants can be grown alongside several different kinds of edible plants, including beans, leeks, onions, garlic, and some herbs.
They’re truly a wonderful addition to any backyard garden big or small. Generally speaking, they thrive quite easily. As such, you shouldn’t be afraid to try them if you are an inexperienced or first-time grower.
Soak or run your beet seeds through water before planting them. When you first open your beet seeds, you may notice that they are quite large. That’s because some seeds are actually corms.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, corms are reproductive structures that grow below soil. Try to figure out whether your beet seeds consist of one or more seeds. When it comes time to place your seeds in the ground, you’ll want to space them evenly. One corm will produce several plants.
Seeds should first be sowed 1 to inches apart. Eventually, you will need to thin them to encourage deeper, more productive root growth. Your rows should be between 6 and 12 inches apart. The seeds should be approximately 1 inch apart. Remember, that each seed is actually corm that contains three to six seeds. It typically takes 1 to 2 weeks for seedlings to germinate. Remain patient as they begin to grow.
Since some of the edible parts of beets grow underground, we recommend tilling soil before planting. Rocks, sticks, and dense patches will cause stunted growth and malformations.
We recommend that you thin your seedlings when they are between 3 and 4 inches tall. Take care to remove the stunted plants without disturbing the more productive ones. Like carrots and other root vegetables, beets do not fare well when they are disturbed.
Use clean scissors to gently remove the tops of the less productive plants in each seedling cluster. Beet seedlings are delicious and nutritious. Keep your discarded greens, clean them, and eat them. They make great salad and sandwich garnishes.
When beet seeds first emerge above the soil line, they have a small stem and two elongated green leaves. The leaves are typically green. The stems may be green or red.
How to take care of the beet plant?
Test your soil to proactively identify any present deficiencies. Use a standard three-part fertilizer, such as 10-10-10. An even mix of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus will ensure that your plants develop properly.
Experts recommend that you side-dress your rows. Side-dressing refers to the process of putting a small circle of fertilizer around each plant.
Use your finger or a stick to create a shallow furrow around your growing beet plants. Sprinkle the fertilizer inside the furrow. Do this two to three times during the growing season.
How to harvest and store beets?
After a long season, you’ll want to take the time to carefully harvest the fruits of your labor. We’ve got helpful tips and tricks on harvesting and storing these yummy plants.
Most beet varieties take between 50 and 70 days to reach full maturity. Depending on the type you are planting, the roots may be between 1 and 3 inches in diameter. Keep in mind that beet colors vary dramatically between varieties. They may be deep red, yellow, or even yellow.
First-time growers sometimes struggle to identify when their beets are ready to harvest. Simply wrap your hand around the cluster of greens and gently move it around to release it from the soil. You may also consider digging your beetroots up to remove them from a garden patch.
Check for blemishes and bruises. Beets with blemishes should be discarded, as they will speed the aging of beets stored nearby.
Raw beets can be stored for 1 to 3 months when placed in a clean container inside the refrigerator. You will need to remove the greens before storing the beetroots. Keep in mind that beets will be covered in soil when they are picked.
You should not wash them in water. Instead, toss them gently to remove loose sediment. Or else, wash them gently. Allow them to dry before placing them in storage.
Beet greens can also be stored for extended periods under proper conditions and with refrigeration. We recommend that you wash and dry your beet greens and store them in a Ziploc bag away from the beetroots.
They should last a week or two. You can also blanch your cleaned and separated beet greens to extend their shelf life. Blanched beet greens can be frozen or canned.
The DIY Network offers helpful tips for canning and preserving beetroots. You will need a large pan, jars, and lids to properly preserve these vegetables. Boil your beets before removing their skins.
Cut them into pieces that are small enough to put into a canning jar. Once you’ve packed your can with beet pieces cover the vegetable chunks with water or vinegar. Canned beets can last for 3 to 5 years when kept in a temperature-regulated storage area.
You’ll need to act faster to consume all of your beet greens before they expire. Consider washing and preserving these hearty emerald tops. Use them in the same way that you would use kale or Swiss chard.
Dehydrated beets make excellent chips! Simply clean, peel, and julienne your beetroots before placing them in a dehydrator or oven.
Dehydration is a great option for growers with limited refrigerator space. You can also bake these delicious vegetables in the oven. Keep in mind that boiled or roasted beets can be stored in the freezer for extended periods.
What are pests and diseases that affect beets?
Fortunately, beets must battle against their fair share of diseases and pests. We’ve taken the time to identify some of the more prevalent issues. As always, you can preserve your crop by monitoring it daily. Keep in mind that pests vary between growing zones.
Flea beetles are known to prey on beetroots and other underground vegetables. These shiny black bugs feed on beet greens. They leave behind a trail of holes, which leave plants vulnerable to fungi and over-watering.
The Farmer’s Almanac recommends using a mixture of rubbing alcohol, dish soap, and water to kill off flea beetles. In small gardens, you may also be able to pluck off and discard these insects as they are feeding.
While incredibly destructive, leaf miners leave behind a distinct and mesmerizing pattern. They zig-zag across beet greens, leaving a destructive white trail behind them. Most growers use a conventional insecticide to battle these invasive bugs.
The mosaic virus leaves beet greens looking molted and discolored. The damage is unsightly, but this virus doesn’t usually destroy whole beet plants.
Leaf spot is a common ailment that affects the green tops of beet plants. This unsightly disease leaves plants with large discolored blemishes. Full-blown infections may prevent beetroots from properly forming.
Since leaf spot spreads from one beet plant to another, it is best to discard your drop to avoid the rapid spread of this disease. Proactive steps include rotating crops and limiting irrigation. Some chemical fungicides will also help mitigate leaf spot.
Wireworms are 1-inch insects that are yellowish-orange in color. These pests will attack your beet plants at nearly every stage of development. Oftentimes, they damage the plants beyond the point of salvage.
If wireworm infestations are prevalent in your area, consider taking proper precautions before planting beetroots. Turn your soil or invest in some backyard chickens. Introduce nematodes, which are one of the wireworm’s natural predators.
We hope that you enjoyed our guide to growing beets. These hearty root vegetables are an excellent addition to any home garden. These veggies also yield several essential vitamins and minerals.
There’s nothing better than seeing their ruby heads pop up above the surface of the soil. Beets also come in quite a variety of colors, many of which lend a tasty and attractive element to residential and restaurant cooking.