Growing Beets from
Seed, in Pots, Harvesting, Varieties, Pests
Growing beets is easy, and
it is a
great little vegetable that is full of goodness and responsible for a
number of health benefits. Beetroot, as it is also known as, can be called table beets, garden beets, red beets or just
It is one of the most popular root crops, and is ideal to grow on
homesteads or in backyards for self sufficient living, especially if
you have difficult soils like clay or a soil with a high salt content.
Beets can be harvested
as soon as the bulbs reach the size of a walnut, usually about 8 weeks
sowing your seeds making it a fairly quick growing crop.
and mangelwurzels also belong to the
same species and they readily cross with each
other. Because they are so closely related, it is best that when you do
plant your beets out they don't follow any of the above in the same
If you are, make sure that you plant the beet seeds
and do any transplanting during a full moon phase.
The Best Climate for Growing Beets
Beets are remarkably hardy and like to be grown in at least
half-sun, and will tolerate light shade, but not heavy shade. In light
shade they will ripen a little slower than those beetroots that have
been planted in full sun.
Where areas experience heavy frosts plant in
spring. Start planting your seeds out from mid-April through
to July making sure that you get a good spread of beets throughout the
growing season, rather than having a glut of them all at once.
Otherwise, if you live in a temperate climate they can be planted from
winter to mid-autumn.
In warmer climates you can plant beets
throughout the year.
This is not a heat-sensitive vegetable, providing
they get enough water during the height of the summer. And again, they
are resistant to cold weather, although during this time their growth
will be slow.
you grow beets during hot, dry weather and on poor soil, they will
still look good above the ground, but below the soil their roots will be small,
poor in color and in some cultivars they will have a white zone.
Do not plant
beets next to tomatoes or runner beans.
Growing Beets - Soil Conditions
Beets like to be
soil that is loose, fairly sandy and which has been liberally sprinkled
with lime as they don't like an acidic soil.
1/2 cup of lime per square
meter is sufficient. If you are not sure, check the soil pH with a soil
testing kit which you can find at your local gardening center.
However, beets will tolerate any soil conditions and will also grow
well in clay
and particularly salty soils which they seem to like.
Planting beets in ground that has
been manured for a previous leaf crop such as cabbages or lettuce is
perfect for beetroot.
To prepare the beds make sure that the bed has
been dug over to a depth of 10 cm. Don't plant beets in a heavily
manured soil, as you will find the beets will produce more leaves than
roots, and this is not what you want.
Beets are extremely sensitive to baron deficiency in soils, and therefore are
a good indicator of this. The indications are blackened areas
cracked roots and a generally withering
beetroot occurs. Using a seaweed
solution to bring up the pH levels in your soil to 6.0 - 7.0 will sort
Growing Beets from Seed
Growing beets from seed is more
successful than transplanting seedlings as they seem to suffer from
transpant shock more than most. However, if the transplanting is done
carefully they will survive and do well. It really is a hardy
vegetable, however, transplanting the beets will result in retarding
growth of the plant for some time before it recovers.
You need to soak the beet seed first,
otherwise it will fail to germinate properly.
Pour soft, scalding water over the
seed. Leave it the water for 3-4 days.
Remove and dry the seed off before planting.
Sow the seed sparingly. Beet seed is unusual in that
it comprises of a capsule containing around 3 seeds, thereby making it
easy to over sow and ending up with more than you need or want.
In the morning, sow
1 inch deep, spaced
at 4 inches
be spaced 6 - 10 inches apart.
If you are planting beetroot seed per acre, you will need to sow 6
pounds of seed per acre and plant in drills at 20 - 24
Cover the seeds with fine soil, and
press done gently making sure that the seeds make contact with the
soil. Water in gently with a fine spray. Keep the soil moist by
watering every day.
During hot weather grass can be laid thinly over
the rows as a temporary mulch to prevent the soil from drying out and
crusting. Remove the grass immediately as soon as the seedlings begin
to emerge. Seeds should
within 10-14 days. They will
take 10-12 weeks to mature.
They will need to be thinned out
once they are about 4 inches high. Make sure that you thin out by
giving each root plenty of space to grow, but make sure that when you
pull out the excess plants you don't disturb the soil too much around
those roots that you are intending to grow.
Growing Beet from Seedlings
you are growing beetroot to transplant out at a later stage the plants
can be moved to their permanent beds when they are 8 - 10 cm high, and
should be set out apart with 7.5
between the rows. If you trim
off the foliage at this stage, this will help with the
out and cause the plant to grow better.
Cultivation of Beets
Beets appreciates a good amount of
nitrogen, so may be fed every 2 weeks from the time the plant is about
19 cm high. Because beetroot like a salty soil, you should give them a
watering with a weak salt solution every alternate week. Dilute 1
teaspoon of common household salt in 4.5 liters of water.
Always make sure that the soil never
dries out because if it does the crop will be woody and unpalatable.
Your beetroot will also become woody if you don't thin the seedlings
out as they grow. No matter how careful you try to be when sowing the
seed you will invariably end up with rows that are overcrowded. If you
don't thin them out there will be no space for your roots to develop
and then only best for using the crop for their foliage.
first thinning out should take place when growing beetroot when the
plants are 3 - 4 cm high, followed by a second thinning out, if
necessary, when the plants are 7 cm high, making sure that there is at
least 7.5 - 10 cm
plant. Drawing the soil up around the
plants will give them extra support and will be welcomed by your
Growing Beets in Pots
beetroot in pots and containers is possible as long as you have enough
depth of soil in the pots that will allow the root to develop properly.
One mistake that people make is planting too many plants in the
small confined pace. When planting beetroot you have to take
into consideration that the roots will swell as they grow so
over-plant your pots.
is a typical example of on over-planted vegetable container. The
beetroot planted left, next to the radish are both planted far too
close to one
another with no chance to grow unless you thin out.
other consideration is that because your pots will dry out sooner than
yard soil will, you will need to make sure that the soil in your pots
is always moist without being sodden.
Prepare the soil as for
beetroot growing directions above, and don't forget to feed your potted
beetroot. A seaweed solution applied regularly will give the best
Here is a recipe for homemade container soil:
You can make your own container
gardening soil by
taking 3 parts of good garden loam, 1 part of moistened peat moss, and
1 part coarse river sand. Added to this should be some well-rotted
manure or compost.
In addition to your organic material,
you can add the following to every 8 liters of soil:
coffee grounds (rinse
shells (dried and
crushed to powder)
To get air into your soil and to make
it lighter, add some granular polystyrene, or better still Perlite. A
couple of cupfuls to your
containers should be enough. Adjust according to the size of the
container, but can make up 1/3 of the volume. Don't add too much as it
is a water-repellent, and unless you add extra peat moss, you will find
that your soil will dry out quicker than you want.
Finally I always add a good handful of
blood and bone to give the vegetables a good start in their containers.
am also a fan of
poultry manure more than any other for vegetables because of its high
nitrogen content. Just make sure that it is not fresh, as it will burn
the roots of your vegetables.
When to Harvest Beets
They can be picked at anytime where
they are big enough to be useful. Beets can be picked from the time
they are about 5 cm in diameter, which is about 8 weeks after planting
by seed, or 7 weeks after transplanting. Smaller ones can be picked and
steamed. Medium ones can be grated into salads raw, pickled, cooked,
juiced with other vegetables etc. However, as already mentioned, if you
are going to leave the crop until fully mature, this will happen 10-14
weeks after sowing the seed, depending on the variety.
After pulling your
beetroot from the soil, twist the tops off 3 - 5 cm above the root
crown. Make sure that you do not damage the root crown in any way as
this will cause the root to bleed and loss of color will result.
Beets Pests and Diseases
Few ailments bother beets. Brown
spots may develop on older leaves that could indicate the presence of
a fungal disease, but this is a minor problem which won't affect the
When growing beets look out for cutworms that you will find on the
young seedlings and on the crown of mature plants.
The Best Way to Store Beets
can be stored for several months. Remove any leafy tops first and store
in a cool dark location, arranging them so that each piece is quite
separate. You can embed them in a box of either straw or sand
that they don't touch each other.
Good Beet Varieties
are many varieties of beets available. The traditional dark red
globe beets are still firm favorites with growers. The Derwent Globe,
and Detroit Dark Red
varieties, while Rapid
Wonder and Early
Market are recommended for
fast growth and
Several globular varieties display unusual
concentric circles of pink or red with white, these include the Italian
For the more adventurous
there are both
golden and white varieties. Golden
Beet, are known for their
non-bleeding qualities and the White
Albina is said to be sweeter than
the standard red varieties. Both are globular shaped and produce tops
which can be harvested and cooked like spinach.
Crosby's Egyptian (56 days to harvest;
uniform, sweet, dark red roots; semi-globe to heart shaped; glossy,
bright green tops, excellent for greens)
Detroit Dark Red (58 days;
tender, round, dark red roots)
Early Wonder (52 days; flattened
globe shape; dark red, sweet and tender)
Lutz Green Leaf (70 days; an
heirloom winter-keeper type; purplish red exterior, deep red interior;
large, glossy green tops, excellent for greens; roots stay tender even
when large; stores extremely well)
Sangria (56 days; ideal globe
shape, even in crowded rows; deep red; good greens when young)
Sweetheart (58 days; extra-sweet,
round, tasty roots; tops good for greens)
mini-beets are also available, their small size and early
making them favorites for many, especially if you are growing
vegetables in containers and are short of
space. Two varieties of mini-beets to look out for are Gourmet Baby and
for some really interesting beets that are cylindrical in shape is the
which is a dark red,
and the Sugar,
which has a
So what do you do with your beets once you have grown it?
Livestock and Beets
can not only feed beets to your domestic animals, but this is also
one of the most favorite of foods for pigs, except for parsnips.
Feeding pigs beets will result in an excellent condition.
How to Cook Beets
Beets can be cooked, steamed, roasted, pickled or even grated raw and
placed in salads. If you are an Australian, you wouldn't dream of
eating a hamburger without them!
They are a versatile vegetable that can be prepared in a
number of different ways, including in cakes, as you can see from this
Although growing beets today is usually done so for their roots, beets
leaves can be used as a spinach, and for hundreds of years this
was why they were grown in the first place. The roots were secondary.
So don't just eat the roots, because there is a lot of goodness in the
leaves, especially tender and tasty when picked young and placed in a
mixed green salad.
Here's a recipe for A Beet Cake which is really delicious! Give it a try!
Beet Cake Recipe
1 cup caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
225 ml sunflower oil
2 large beets, cooked and grated
2 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Method: Beat sugar, eggs and oil together. Add beets. Into a second bowl sift all the dry ingredients together.
Combine contents of both bowls. Pour the mixture into 2 greased 500 g
loaf tins. Bake at 175ºC for 40 minutes.
Pickled beets are tangy and a definite favorite at BBQs and picnics.
pickled beans, they must be cooked before they can be pickled; also,
unless they are very small, they should be sliced before pickling as
recipe points out.
Pickled beets Recipe 4 qt. red beets
2 qt. vinegar
2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. allspice
Cut the tops from the red beets, leaving 1 inch of the stems
roots attached. Scrub well with a vegetable brush, and put to cook in
boiling water. Cook until the beets are tender enough to be pierced
a fork. Pour off the hot water and run cold water over them.
roots and stems, and cut into slices of any desired thickness or into
dice, if preferred. Pack into jars or crocks. Then bring the vinegar to
a boil, and to it add the sugar, salt, and spices. Pour this hot
over the beets. Seal the beets while hot, cool, and store.
young beets and put them
through the juicer. This makes an extremely beautiful wine-red juice,
which unfortunately tastes very unpleasant. Therefore only small
amounts of the juice can be used, and seldom on its own. Mix
2/3 of canned pineapple juice
and 1/3 beet juice for a very pleasant drink.
A word of advice. Not all people can drink beet juice
as I found out for myself, which I was really upset about, as it is and excellent tonic and has many health properties. However,
every time I drink it, no matter what I mix it with, my
throat constricts and it makes me feel very uncomfortable. So only
drink a little bit, and test to see whether your system tolerates it.
Beets are a natural source for sodium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium and particularly rich in folate and
Folate and folic acid
have been found to prevent neural-tube birth defects and aid in the
fight against heart disease and anemia.
a blood cleanser and immunity booster beets is good for those
suffering from acne. It is a good anti-cancer food, and one that helps
build up the body, especially after an illness. It is beneficial to the
lymphatic system and is also a liver cleanser.
Beets are also high in fiber,
both soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber helps to keep your
intestinal track running smoothly and soluble fiber helps to keep your
blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels on track.
They also contain a good source of Vitamins A, C and niacin.
(1 cup cooked, sliced)
Protein 1.5 grams
Carbohydrate 8.5 grams
Dietary Fiber 1.5 grams
Potassium 259 mg
Phosphorus 32 mg
Folate 53.2 mcg
Vitamin A 58.5 IU
Questions & Answers on Growing Beets
Q. What causes the beets in my garden to develop
tops but no roots?
A. The most frequent cause for beet plants failing to develop
roots is overcrowding from improper thinning.
Q. What varieties should I grow for beet greens?
A. A special vigorously growing variety, Green Top Bunching,
is excellent for producing greens. Crosby
Egyptian and Early
Wonder also can be used for greens. Planting the seeds 1/2
inch apart without thinning produces an abundance of greens. Swiss chard is a
heavy producer of greens very similar to beet greens.
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