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Beets Seed Starting Tips

Seedling beet

Plant beet seeds in the cool time of the year; they are best grown in spring and fall.

Grow beets for their sweet roots or earthy-flavored greens. Beets are most flavorful and colorful when grown in cool soil.

  • Beets can be directly sown in the garden 4 weeks before the last frost in spring.
  • Beets sown in late summer can be harvested in fall and winter if they are protected from severe freezing by a layer of straw or leaves or covered by a plastic tunnel.
  • Grow beets and other roots crops in light-textured soil free of pebbles and stones. This will ensure roots do not split or become malformed.

Beetroots can be red, yellow, white, or striped. Some varieties have bright red leaf veins.

Beets mature in 45 to 60 days depending on the variety.

Beet seedling grow plant
Beet seedling

Beet Sowing and Planting Tips

  • Start beets from seed or transplants.
  • Seeds are viable for 4 years.
  • Start seeds in the garden about 4 weeks before you expect the last frost. Beets can be started indoors, but they—like most root crops—are difficult to transplant to the garden with success.
  • If started indoors and transplanted, allow two additional weeks to maturity as a result of root insult at transplanting; nip off the long thread tip of the beetroot when transplanting.
  • Sow seed in shallow trenches ½ (8 mm) inch deep and be sure to heel or stamp the soil firmly in; beets often fail to germinate when there is insufficient contact with the soil.
  • Sow seed 2 inches apart and later thin to 4 inches (5-10 cm) apart for large storage beets, closer if growing for baby beets or greens.
  • Beet seeds are actually an aggregate of seeds—a seed ball of 2 or 3 individual seeds; if germination is complete, the seedlings will have to be thinned.
  • Space rows 12 inches (30 cm) apart.
  • Pre-soaking the seed in water before sowing can aide germination; soaking loosens the seed coat which contains a germination inhibiting chemical.
  • To improve germination sow seed at dusk or on a cool, cloudy day.
  • Sow seed in loose, fertile soil. Adding aged compost to planting beds in advance of sowing will feed the soil and aide moisture retention.
  • The seeds should germinate in 5 to 8 days at an optimal temperature of 77°F (25°C) or thereabouts.
  • Make additional sowing at 3-week intervals for a continuous harvest, but time sowing so that crop does not mature in hot weather.
  • Beets grow best when daytime temperatures are in the 60s°F (mid-teens Celsius).
  • Beets prefer a soil pH range of at least 6.0 but not greater than 7.5.
  • Grow beets in full sun for best yield—tolerate partial shade.
  • Avoid planting beets where spinach of Swiss chard has grown recently.
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion at half strength.
  • Common pest enemies are aphids and flea beetles. Protect the seedlings from pests and cold for two to three weeks after planting covering them with a cloche or plastic tunnel or cold frame.

Interplanting: Grow beets with bush beans cabbage family crops, corn, leek, lettuce, and radish.

Container Growing Beets: Choose a container at least 6-12 inches (15-20 cm) wide and deep.

Beet Planting Calendar

  • 8-6 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct-sow in a plastic tunnel or cold frame.
  • 4-2 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct-sow in the garden.
  • Direct-sow succession crops every 2 weeks or so after the last frost.

For Fall and Winter Harvest:

  • 10-8 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct-sow fall crop in the garden (planting beds can be covered later with straw or leaves for winter harvest).
  • 8-6 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct-sow in a plastic tunnel or cold frame for late fall and winter harvest.
Beet seedlings grow plant
Beets are a cool-weather crop. Sow beets in the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the last average frost date in spring.
  • ‘Chioggia’ is sweet and striped red and white on the inside.
  • ‘Golden’ has yellow flesh.
  • ‘Bull’s Blood’ is sweet and dark red, leaves are tasty in salads.
  • ‘Red Ace’ adapts well to diverse soil and weather conditions.
  • ‘Detroit Dark Red’ is an old-time favorite.
  • ‘Forono’ is cylindrical and 2-inches in diameter.

Botanical Name: Beta vulgaris

Beets belong to the Chenopodiaceae family, other family members include spinach, Swiss chard, quinoa, and sugar beets.

More tips: How to Grow Beets.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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  1. This is my first year planting beets so I’m thrilled that I found your site! I am getting age on now so I can’t do gardening like I did 40 plus years ago. Beets have always been a favorite so I have no idea why I didn’t plant them except for lack of knowledge. Thanks for having answered all questions.

  2. this year we started beets in cell packs, the long skinny ones with round tops about an inch across.. up at bench height they were easy to thin, and we transplanted them out with a tiny long spade from an indoor gardening kit, just a perfect plug with no root disturbance. We are growing in 5 gallon pails, 6 or 7 in each, but it would work for open beds too…felt silly but worked really well for gardeners that don’t like crawling around on old knees lol.

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