Looking for a tasty addition to your vegetable garden? Well, beets fit the bill. This gorgeous, earthy veggie is the perfect project if you’re a novice in vegetable gardening. Beets, also called beetroots, are fairly easy to grow from seeds.
Beets are perfect for making natural dyes as well as taste delicious when slow-roasted and in soups alike. You can eat the roots as well as the greens of this vegetable.
They are packed with nutrients and goodness for your health. In fact, they are one of the best foods you can eat to increase the hemoglobin count in your blood.
Basic Growing Requirements
Beetroots are a cool-season crop that should be sown in the spring through autumn in cool and temperate regions, autumn through spring in the subtropics and throughout the winters in tropical zones.
They prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil type with a pH level between 6.5 and 7.0. They can also be grown in containers when provided with well-drained soil and good quality compost, but each plant only makes one beet, so you would need a lot of pots to get a good harvest.
While it’s mostly a fuss-free plant, some common problems that you need to be aware of while growing beets are listed here.
Pests and Diseases that Affect Beetroots
- While beetroot plants don’t attract a lot of pests, you may need to protect the seedlings from birds who like to feed on the plant’s tender leaves.
- Watch for leaf miners on your beetroot plants. An adult fly can lay up to five small white eggs on the underside of a leaf. The larvae burrow into the leaf and feed on it, which is indicated by blister-like trails on the leaves. Remove the damaged leaves by hand at the first sign of infestation and destroy them.
- Excessive humidity and lack of air circulation may lead to diseases like Cercospora leaf spot and scab. Keep the foliage dry and improve air circulation by removing weeds and thinning out crowded plants.
Steps to Grow Beets from Seeds
Things you’ll need:
- Garden hose & adjustable spray nozzle
- Beetroot seeds
- Gardening gloves (optional)
- Garden shovel or trowel
- Garden marker tag
- Long-handled garden shovel
- Long-handled garden hoe
Step 1. Prepare the plant bed
You need to prepare the planting bed ahead of sowing beetroot seeds. Choose a planting area that gets ample sunlight, at least 6-8 hours per day.
- Begin with a garden shovel to break up the soil, and then use a long-handled garden hoe to work out the clumps and remove any stones.
- Beetroot plants don’t tolerate a stony soil and are likely to produce deformed roots when hard lumps and stones are left unattended in the planting bed.
Step 2. Sow the beetroot seeds in prepared planting beds
It is a good idea to add organic compost to the planting bed before planting your seeds. Compost will enhance drainage and make the soil light. If you already have fertile soil, adding compost will improve the texture of the soil by adding organic matter and allowing for better drainage. Don’t add any other fertilizer to your soil because beets don’t grow well in super-rich soil. You need to work the compost into the soil using your long-handled shovel and hoe mixing together to create loose soil for planting. Once you are done with this, you're ready for the planing process.
- At the time of sowing, put the wrinkled beetroot seeds into the planting bed about 2 inches apart and ½" deep. Make sure the seeds are covered by soil once you plant them.
- If you are planting more than one row of seed, your rows should be about 8" apart. Each individual seed or “seedball” is actually a cluster of 2 to 4 seeds contained in the wrinkled seed covering.
- Water the planted seeds with a spray of water using your hose nozzle on light mist setting. Spraying too hard will wash the seeds away. Make sure the soil is thoroughly wet, so the water soaks in and keeps them moist until you water again.
- Label your seeds using a garden marker.
Step 3. Care for the seedlings
The ideal temperature range for germination is 50° F to 75° F. The seedlings may take 5 to 8 days to emerge. The germination period may extend up to 3 weeks if the soil is colder. Regular watering early in the day is advised to maintain moisture in the soil.
The clustered seed ball gives rise to 3 or 4 seedlings in each spot. To prevent crowding, thin out the seedlings when they reach 4 to 5 inches in height.
Instead of pulling out the extra plants, snip them at their base with garden scissors. Don't throw the thinnings away, you can use them in delicious salads.
Alternatively, you can transplant the extra seedlings. While this may take some extra effort, you’ll end up with a better yield. You will be required to carefully dig the tiny plants out, being extra cautions not to disturb the plants you are leaving in bed and also not to damage the roots of the ones you are moving. Once you have successfully done this, the extra little plant can be moved to a new spot.
If you delay thinning out the plants, this may cause the plants to bolt (flower), so make sure to thin your plants often.
Step 4. Oversee the plants’ growth
As the plants grow larger, thin them out if you notice overcrowding. You can keep harvesting greens throughout the plants’ growth, provided that you leave enough leaves on each plant to support growth. Greens taste best when picked before they reach a height of 6 inches.
Instead of sowing a large number of beetroots at one time, sow a small number of seeds every 2 weeks to have a steady supply of greens as well as tender roots the entire season.
Keep the plants from bolting by ensuring consistent moisture in the soil. Check the plants regularly for any signs of pests and diseases to ensure healthy growth and root development.
Step 5. Harvest the beetroots
Young beetroots, the size of a golf ball, are ready to be picked as soon as 7 weeks after germination. Beets of this size are quite exquisite in taste.
You can also leave the beets in the ground for up to 12 weeks to harvest fist-sized roots, which have earthy flavors best suited for slow-roasting and also for winter storage.
- Harvesting beetroots is fairly easy. Once the roots have grown to your preferred size, simply pull up the plants. The shallow root system normally allows you to easily pull them up.
- You can carefully loosen the beet with a hand shovel if it doesn’t come up easily or the stems break off.
- If harvesting only half of the beets, pull up every other plant. This will provide the remaining roots with ample space to grow.
- Wash and dry the roots well before storing them. Remove the greens from the roots, leaving about 2 inches of the stem. Store the leaves separately from the roots. Wash the leaves well, and store them wrapped in paper towels inside in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Mature beet greens taste best cooked like spinach.
- While beetroots can be stored for about 2 weeks when refrigerated, they last for 12 to 18 months when frozen.
- For regular use throughout the winter, store beets in a root cellar with temperatures between 32° F and 40° F and 95 percent humidity. Store them in covered containers, buried in damp sand, sawdust or peat moss.
- Using a high-nitrogen fertilizer will lead to lush foliage growth at the expense of root development. Do this only if you like beet greens better than beetroots.
- If your soil is infertile, you can add chicken manure pellets for nitrogen content and bone meal for calcium and phosphorus content. Make sure you apply fertilizers 2-3 weeks before sowing your seeds.
- Optionally, you can soak the seeds in warm water for 1 hour before sowing to aid germination. This will also remove growth inhibitors on commercial seeds and give your plants a quick start.
- You can use horticultural fleece or cloches to protect the young plants from frost when sowing early in the season.
- Beets come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Golden, white, red, striped and various shapes. Don’t limit yourself to one kind.
Nicely presented for this “first time” vegetable gardener. I’m looking forward to my first harvest.
Do you have a recommended seed source?