How To Grow Beets

Planting Beets

Beets are hardy biennials that need light, sandy, moist, fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of around 6.5-7.0. Direct sow your seed in the garden 3-4 weeks before the last frost date. (You may sow seed indoors 4-6 weeks before planting date.) Seed Depth: ½ " Plant Spacing: 2 – 4" (once 2-3" high, thin to 4-6" apart) Row Spacing: 12-18" Beets prefer full sun, but can be planted in partial shade. Make sure the soil is light with no heavy clay or rocks in it. The best soil temperature for germination is about 55-75 ° F. Soaking seed in warm water may speed germination, but do not soak for more that 12 hours. Allow 7-14 days for germination.

Harvesting Beets

Harvest beet roots anywhere from 40-80 days after sowing, depending upon variety. Beet greens are ready to harvest in about a month or so. Lift the beet roots out gently and twist off the leaves instead of cutting them. This prevents the juices from bleeding. Beets will keep in the refrigerator for 1-3 weeks or in damp sawdust in a cool, moist place for about 1-3 months. You can also freeze and dry beets for storage..

Saving Beet Seeds

Beet varieties need to be isolated by ¼ mile or separated by buildings or woods to prevent cross-pollination. Because beets are a biennial, they will need to be kept over the winter in a cool area for planting in the spring. They will need to be planted in rows 8-12 in. apart in rows that are about 18 in. apart. They will continue to grow and flower. Seeds are ready to harvest after they have dried. Use a 1/4"-1/8" screen to help clean the seed. Beet seed should be viable for 3-6 years if kept cool and dry.

Common Problems

  • Leaf Spots
    Spots will appear on the leaves eventually turning the leaves to yellow. Severely diseased plants will have a "scorched" look to them. Prevention methods can include crop rotation, clearing of crop debris, and better air circulation.

  • Scab
    Spots appear on the beet roots caused by dry conditions, high pH, and boron deficiency. Lower pH to 5.5 or below, keep conditions moist, and rotate crops. Scattering wood ashes around the base of the plant may prove beneficial.

  • Aphids
    Pear-shaped insects, about 3/8 in. long, may be green, pink, yellowish, black, or gray in color, long antennae, and may or may not have wings. Treat with homemade garlic sprays or even spray the plant with a strong stream of water. This can actually kill the insect. Be sure to spray under the leaves as well. Marigolds planted nearby can attract helpful predators; coriander repels aphids as well as spearmint and turnips. Wood ashes may also prove helpful.

Suggested Companions

  • Bush Beans
  • Onions
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage Family

Poor Companions

  • Pole Beans