Beets are the garden vegetable that never stops giving. You can harvest the leaves as the plants grow and use them in salads and sandwiches. Later, when the root is mature, you can enjoy sauteed, roasted and steamed beet roots until your heart is content. A moderately cold tolerant crop, beets can be planted in mid-spring. Most varieties thrive in zones 2 – 10 and prefer partial to full sun. If you follow these growing tips, you can expect a generous harvest between July and September, depending on your hardiness zone.
(see also My Homestead Planting Guide: Beets)
. Beets are very choosy when it comes to soil pH, so it’s worth your time to conduct a pH test before planting. You can purchase soil pH testing kits at most gardening stores. The ideal pH for beets is between 5.5 and 6. If your garden pH is not within this range, follow the instructions included with your testing kit to adjust it.
. Plant beets as soon as the soil temperature exceeds 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This will ensure better germination rates.
. Before sowing your beet seeds, add some aged manure or high-phosphorous fertilizer into your soil. This increases germination rates and ensures adequate root growth later in the plant’s life.
. Sow beet seeds approximately ½ inch deep, and space them 2 inches apart in rows.
. If you practice square foot gardening, plant 25 beet seeds per square foot.
Early Growth and Care
. When the plants are about 2 inches tall, thin the seedlings by pinching some off at their bases. Do not pull the seedlings out of the soil, as this may disturb the roots of the surrounding plants.
. Aim for a final distance of 3 inches between beets. This gives the bulbous roots space to develop.
. Apply a thin layer of mulch over the surrounding soil once your beet greens reach 3 inches in height.
. Water your young beet plants often. They store water in their roots, and plenty is necessary for large, juicy beet roots.
Harvesting Beet Greens and Roots
. If you want to eat the beet greens in addition to the roots, begin harvesting them from your garden when the beet plants are 8 inches tall. Pluck only one or two leaves per plant per week to ensure continued growth of the beet roots.
. Beets roots tend to mature between 50 and 70 days following germination. However, you can harvest them whenever they reach the size you prefer.
. Smaller, younger beets are more tender than older, larger beets. Harvest beets at several stages to enjoy this natural variety.