Beets are such a wonderful and versatile vegetable, not to mention nutritious (think potent antioxidants!). If you have hesitated to plant beets in the past, fear not, the beautiful beet is worth the wait and planting them isn’t difficult. Often, new gardeners might become overwhelmed by the many beet varieties on the market today, but the reality is, they all prefer basically the same growing methods.
I know I want to plant beets, when should I start?
- If you plan to start beet seeds indoors, start them 4 to 6 weeks prior to transplanting outdoors.
- Once your soil temperature has reached about 50 degrees (F), you can direct sow beet seeds or transplants in the ground.
- If starting with seeds, germination will begin in approximately a week
- You can stagger your beet crop by doing plantings every 2 to 3 weeks from March or April through September
- If you live in zone 9 or warmer, beets will grow year round
Where do beets like to be planted in my garden?
Beets prefer well prepared, fertile soil and cooler temperatures. That said, as a general rule, beets are one of the less finicky crops you can plant. Some things to consider when choosing where to plant your beets are:
- Soil content – Beets prefer loamy soil. If your soil is rocky or heavy clay, mixing in compost will aid in a more successful crop
- While cooler weather is their friend, beets love sun. Pick a spot where they won’t be shaded by taller neighboring companion plants
- Beets do not like to be over-fertilized. If you are adding nitrogen to other areas of your garden, use sparingly near your beets.
How do I plant my beets once I know where I want them?
Beets are not a fan of crowds, so making sure they have space is essential. Once you have that space designated, direct sewing steps include:
- Sow seeds approximately ½ inch deep about 2 inches apart in rows 1 foot apart.
- Once sowed, cover your seeds and lightly pack with your hand
- Through the germination process, make sure the soil stays moist
What kinds of beets should I grow?
Well, there are many kinds of beets. For example:
- Bulls Blood
- Detroit Dark Red
- Golden Heirloom
If you would like to learn more about these types of beets and more ways to plant them, read more here.
Can you grow beets in containers?
The short answer is, yes. Beets can be a very good container crop if cared for well. If you are limited on space or container gardening is your only option, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t try beets in a container! Simple tips for container beets:
- Make sure your container is at least 12 inches deep (16-18 is ideal)
- Use the same spacing guidelines as those noted above for fields or raised beds (yes, this means if you want more than 6 beets, you will need a fairly large container)
- Unlike field and raised bed beet plants, those grown in containers can dry out more easily. Make sure the soil in your beet container remains moist, but not soggy.
I have heard I will have to thin my beet plants. How do I do that and when?
Because it isn’t uncommon to get more than one seedling out of a single beet seed, thinning them once they begin to germinate will yield larger, healthier beets. Knowing how and when to manage this critical step can make or break a beet crop. These guidelines will help:
- Once beet shoots are about 3 or 4 inches tall, thin your seedlings to approximately 4 inches apart by hand pruning the shoots.
- Do not pull the seedlings out, rather pinch them off at the root to prevent pulling the nearby seedlings you are trying to keep, out of the ground.
Once you have thinned your beets, light management of your crop until it is harvest time is really all you need to do. Beets are one of the more self sufficient vegetables we can grow. Make sure you are checking your beets for weeds and pests throughout the growing season to ensure optimal growing conditions. When you weed your beets, use care, as their tender root system can be easily disrupted, especially early on. Maintaining about 1 inch of rainfall/watering throughout the season will keep your beet crop happy and within two to three months, you will be ready to harvest your delicious beets!