The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.”
—Tom Robbins, author
Beets are a useful and well-rounded crop. They produce edible leaves as well as roots… and both are delicious! Here are a few growing tips to get you started.
Beets are notoriously cranky about germinating. Each seed is actually a cluster of seeds in a husk. There can be as many as 6 seedlings that emerge out of each one! Because of this husk, it is best if the seed can be soaked for 24 hours prior to planting.
Amending the soil: If your soil is clay-like, you will need to amend it with a good amount of compost, Sloat Planting Mix, or Sloat Loam Builder. To all soils: Apply EB Stone All Purpose Organic (5-5-5) fertilizer and Kelp Meal (1-0-1) when the soil is prepared.
Water the bed well prior to seeding to further stimulate that husky seed to sprout. Plant the seeds deeply, about 1″ (that’s about the depth of the first knuckle on your finger). Again, thin seedlings to a gradual spacing of 3″ and eat the thinnings. Plant successive crops every 3 to 4 weeks; they can be sown directly from seed.
- Well-drained sandy soil.
- Full sun (but may do quite well in light shade in hot climates). Beets grow best with warm days and cool nights, maturing in 50 to 80 days.
- Spacing about 3 inches apart. Beet thinnings can be used in salads. In one square foot, you could plant 4 seeds/plants.
- Regular water is important, particularly when the roots are sizing up at the end. Too much water at planting may result in luxurious tops and small roots.
- If the shoulders of the beet peek out of the soil, simply cover with mulch to protect them from the elements.
- Start harvesting roots when they’re 1 ½ to 2 inches (about 60 days). They’ll be sweeter when larger (4”), but if they get much bigger they have a tendency to get woody.
- Keep in mind: beets grown in your garden will not be as large as the veggies sold in the grocery store…those vegetables are often bloated with water.