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How to Grow Beets

Beets are a cool-season crop; 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.

Growing beets in garden

Beets are a cool-weather crop. Beets thrive in moderate temperatures from 50°F to 65°F (10-18°C). Sow beets in the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the last average frost date in spring. Continue succession plantings every 3 weeks until temperatures reach 80°F (26°C).

Beets can again be planted in late summer or early autumn 6 to 8 weeks before the first average frost in autumn. Grow beets as a winter crop in mild-winter regions.

Beets require 45 to 65 days to reach harvest.

Description. Beets are biennial plants grown as annuals. They are grown for their swollen roots and also for their leaves. There are two main beet types: globe-shaped and long-rooted. Beetroots can be red, orange, gold, yellow, white, and even concentrically ringed roots. A rosette of large edible leaves sprouts from the root; green leaves can have red, yellow, or white veins.

Beets Yield. Plant 5 to 10 beets per household member.

Planting Beets

Site. Grow beets in full sun or partial shade in warm regions. Plant beets in well-worked loose soil rich in organic matter. Be sure to remove all stones and clods from planting beds so as not to impede or split growing roots. Add plenty of aged compost to growing beds in advance of planting; this will increase the yield. Alternatively, add 3 cups (700ml) of dried seaweed per 100 square feet (9 sq m). Beets grow best where the soil pH is 6.0 to 6.8; the ideal soil pH is 6.5.

Add only aged manure to the soil; fresh manures are high in nitrogen and cause beetroots to fork, twist, or be “hairy.”

If you have alkaline (chalky) or recently limed soil, the soil could be deficient in boron. Carefully sprinkle 1 to 1.5 tablespoons (6-9g) of household borax along 100 feet (30m) of row and work it into the soil. Do not overuse borax; it can be toxic.

Young beets growing in rows
Space beets so that roots have plenty of room to mature.

Beets Spring Planting Time Outdoors. Sow beets in the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the last average frost date in spring.  The soil temperature should be at least 50°F (10°C), especially if you have experienced damping-off. Beets will grow faster in spring when covered with a row cover which will provide protection from chilling temperatures and wind.

Starting Beets Indoors. Sow seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost; harden off and transplant outside 4 weeks later.

Succession Planting. Beets require 45 to 65 days to reach harvest. Continue succession plantings every 3 weeks until temperatures reach 80°F (26°C). In hot-summer regions, stop sowing 60 days before full summer heat arrives. In hot weather, beetroots will become woody. 

Beets Planting Time for Autumn Harvest. Beets can again be planted in late summer or early autumn 6 to 8 weeks before the first average frost in autumn. This will be the fall and winter storage crop, so sow only once, planting as much as you will need for winter. When direct sowing during summer, keep the soil constantly moist or germination will be poor.

Beets Planting for Winter Harvest. Beets can tolerate frost but will go to seed if temperatures are too cold. Grow beets as a winter crop in mild-winter regions. Late plantings that mature through winter will be the sweetest because the roots store sugars during cool weather.

Yield. Yield can vary by variety. You should harvest about 15 pounds (7kg) of beets per 10 feet (3m) of row.

More details: Planting Beets.

Planting and Spacing Beets. Beets are grown from seed clusters about the size of a small pea. Each cluster contains several tiny true seeds. Presoak seed clusters for 12 hours before sowing to help speed germination.

Sow seed clusters 1 inch (2.5cm) deep and 1 inch apart. Seedlings will sprout in clumps. Use small scissors to thin successful seedlings to 4 to 6 inches (10-15cm) apart when seedlings are 3 inches tall. Alternatively, you can gently separate young seedlings and replant the extra seedlings in a row nearby.

Space rows 12 to 18 inches (30-45cm) apart. Add thinned seedlings to salads. Beets generally do not transplant well.

Hilling Beets. As beetroots grow, the roots can push themselves out of the ground, so hill up soil around roots as necessary.

Intensive Spacing. Broadcast seeds lightly over a 15 to 18 inch (38-45cm)-wide bed.

Planting Transplants. Because beet seeds will not germinate in heavy clay soil, transplants are a better choice. Set each seedling at the desired final spacing.

Starting Seed Indoors. If you start seed indoors, sow one seed cluster per peat pot and thin seedlings to one plant per pot when the first true leaves emerge.

Yield. Plant a row 5-10 feet (1.5-3m) long or a 3 x 5-foot (1 x 1.5m) bed per person.

More tips: Beets Seed Starting Tips.

Companion plants. Onions, kohlrabi. Do not plant with pole beans and shading crops.

Container Growing Beets. Beets can be grown in containers. Thin seedlings to 4-inch (10cm) centers.

Caring for Beets

Water and Feeding Beets. Keep beets evenly watered. Do not let the soil dry out. Lack of water will cause roots to become stunted, stringy, and tough. Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of seeding. Side dress beets with compost at midseason.

Mulching Beets. To conserve soil moisture and keep down weeds, water the beets well and then put down a layer of mulch between the rows at least 4 inches (10cm) deep. If slugs are a problem, wait until the plants are a few inches tall before mulching.

Weeding Near Beets. If weeds grow near beets, remove them by hand rather than using tools. A hoe or trowel can nick the developing beetroots and expose them to disease. Keep planting beds weed-free to avoid competition for water and nutrients.

Thinning Beets. Thin beets as soon as they are about 3 inches (7.6cm) tall to avoid crowding which can hinder root growth.

Young Plants Go to Seed. If young plants flower and go to seed it is likely caused by temperatures below 50°F (10°C) or lack of moisture. Adjust the planting time to avoid cold exposure; keep the soil consistently moist.

Beet Root Problems. Black spots or brown hearts in roots can be caused by a lack of boron in the soil. Cutaway the discolored parts and the rest is edible. If the soil is chalky or has been recently limed, rake boron into the soil, 1.5 teaspoons per square yard or feed plants with calcified seaweed.

Beet Leaf Problems. Ragged holes in leaves may be caused by slugs, beet armyworms, or garden webworms; handpick caterpillars of spray with BTK when small; trap and kill slugs. Spinach leafminer larvae can tunnel through leaves; cover newly planted area with row covers to prevent damage. Brown spots on leaves can be caused by Cercospora leaf spot; pick and destroy affected leaves; roots are edible.

Beet Pests. Check roots for boring insects. Leafminers can tunnel inside the leaf surface leaving gray streaks.

Beet Diseases. Beets have no serious disease problems.

Beet pests and disease help: Beet Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.

Harvesting and Storing Beets

Beet Harvest. Beets will reach harvestable size–1 to 3 inches (2.5-7.6cm) in diameter–40 to 80 days after sowing. Lift beets gently. Twist the leaves off rather than cutting them off to prevent juices from bleeding.

Baby beets are ready for harvest about 40 days after planting. Full-size beets will be ready about 2 to 3 weeks later. Roots about the size of a golf ball will have optimal flavor. ‘Lutz Greenleaf’ variety will be flavorful when as large as a softball. Golden beets will be flavorful when the size of a baseball.

Young beet greens can be cut for salads about one month after planting. Don’t harvest too much foliage while the root is developing. Rinse the greens to remove grit before cooking or serving.

Storing and Preserving Beets. Beets will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 weeks. Beet greens will keep in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to 1 week. Beets will keep for 1 to 3 months in damp sawdust in a cold, moist place. Beets can be frozen and dried.

For long-term storage, you can pack beets in containers of moist sand or peat and keep them in an unheated basement or garage (40-50°F/4.5-10°C is ideal). Small beets will not store as long as larger beets.

In cold-winter regions, you can store beets in an outdoor pit lined with dry leaves and straw. Layer the beets on top of a bed of straw, then cover them with a heavy layer of straw.

More harvest tips: How to Harvest and Store Beets.

Beet Varieties to Grow

Beet Varieties. ‘Detroit Dark Red’ (52 days); ‘Early Wonder’ (53 days); ‘Burpee’s Golden’ (55 days); ‘Bulls’s Blood’ (50 days); ‘Ruby Queen’ (56 days); ‘Little Ball’ (56 days); ‘Cylindra’, also called ‘Formanova’ or ‘Tendersweet’ (60 days); ‘Long Season’ also called ‘Winter Keeper’ (80 days).

‘Burpee’s Golden’ has sweet golden flesh which is nonstaining; the greens can be used for cooking or salads; grow from seed in 55 days.

‘Chioggia’ has sweet roots with rings of red and white when sliced; use the greens in place of spinach; grow from seed in 54 days.

‘Cylindra’ has long dark red roots which are ideal for pickling; ready for harvest 60 days from seed.

‘Lutz Green Leaf’ is a good choice for winter storage; it has a dark red root and tasty greens; ready 70 to 80 days from seed sowing.

‘Red Ace’ is fast growing with sweet roots and tasty greens; it is resistant to leaf spot; ready 50 days from seed.

Common name. Beets, beet greens, beetroot

Botanical name. Beta vulgaris

Origin. Southern Europe

More tips: How to Harvest and Store Beets.

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33 Comments

  1. I”m growing some beets in pots. If I need to thin them to 3 inches apart, does this mean I can grow multiple beets in one pot as long as they are 3 inches from both each other and the edges of the pot?

    • Yes that is exactly right; you will need space for growing between beetroots and also the side of the container. If the pot tapers inward, allow a bit more room for your beet root to form so that it does not grow against the container side.

    • A compost or manure tea can enrich your soil as can aged compost added across the top of planting beds twice a year. For root crops, such as beets, growing in soil already rich in nutrients is a better course than fertilizing the soil and plants during the growing season. If you do use a liquid fertilizer during the root formation and growing time, be sure that is well diluted.

        • Yes. Most vegetables that grow best in cool weather will germinate more quickly when the soil is warm, often warmer than the air temperature that they prefer. These are optimal temperatures for germination and growth. Beets will germinate in soil as cool as 40F but germination will take longer.

          • Soaking beet seeds or other seeds help to soften the seed coat and allow for quicker germination. Beets will germinate in soil as cool as 40F, although temperatures between 50 and 80F are most desired. Check the soil temperature to see if the soil has sufficiently warmed.

  2. Hello,

    Worried about the transplanting part. Most posts I have seen/read are about planting in seed beds and trays THEN transplanted. Are you sure cause I have already “beeded” them 13 days ago. Any advice? And when do they reach transplanting age?

    • Transplanting beet seedlings can be tricky. It is important to not disturb the roots at transplant time. Transplant seedlings when they are 2 to 3 inches tall. Try to move the seedlings with plenty of soil around the roots; then gently firm them into their new home.

    • Yes, beets flower and produce seed. Beets are biennials which means they commonly flower in the second year. If you live where winters are very cold the plant may die before it flowers. Rather than harvest the beet plant, let it remain in the garden until it sends up a flower stalk; there are multiple flowers on each stalk and each flower contains 2 to 5 seeds–a seed cluster. Cut the flower stalk from the plant then let the stalk dry for 2 or 3 weeks. The seed clusters can then be stripped from the stalk and stored for next season or planted.

  3. So I am in zone 7 and started beets inside and transplanted them outside in the garden when about 3 inches. They were limp before I transplanted and when they were finally in the garden the stalk and leaves are now standing up but VERY fragile, rain drops crush them. Any advise?

    • Place a frame at the corners of the planting bed and drape a row cover over the frame; do this particularly on rainy days to shield the seedlings from beating rain. Beets do not transplant easily, so that plant are probably adjusting and may suffer some transplant shock before they gain strength.

  4. I grew my Beetroot from seeds & have had great success, so I transplanted them into a prepared garden & they have remained the same size for nearly 2 weeks with no progress whatsoever.
    None have died, nothing is eating them & the little plants look extremely healthy.
    I live in Brisbane Australia – sub tropical climate- should I check my soil is as loose as it needs to be as soil PH seems correct

    • Slow to no growth of healthy plants can be caused by environmental factors; temperatures too warm or too cold; cloud cover or lack of sun; too little or too much water. If temperature could be a fact, wait until the weather cools–or if the weather is cold, place a row cover over the seedlings until they gain strength.

    • Yes. Dampen the paper towel; place the seeds on the towel and fold it over the seeds; place the seeds and towel in a plastic baggie and keep in warm, well-lit place until the seeds germinate.

    • The young seedlings may be stymied by cool night temperatures; protect the plants with a row cover. Be sure they are getting a full-day of sunshine. Keep the soil just moist, not wet.

  5. Hi. I planted some golden burpee beets and watermelon radish seeds almost a month ago in little pots. They germinated ok. But then just stopped growing altogether. They each have the initial two little leaves but then nothing. Is this normal or will they have a growth spurt later on? They are being grown on a sunny windowsill.

    • Give the young plants a boost–try a dilute solution of fish emulsion, that is half of what is recommended on the label. If they remain healthy looking they should start growing.

    • Be sure to thin the young seedlings from 5 to 6 inches apart; this will allow roots to develop. If there is too much nitrogen in the soil, leafy tops will develop without roots. Use a 5-10-10 fertilizer to ensure there is phosphorus in the soil.

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