Beets are a double-duty vegetable because the plant’s roots and leaves are edible. It’s likely the wild beet greens, originally found growing along the Mediterranean coast, were eaten for years before people discovered the roots were edible, too.
Most gardeners are familiar with the typical dark red beets, but they can also be other colors, like gold or white and some with red and white interior rings. There are globe-shaped roots, long cylindrical roots, carrot-shaped roots, and flat roots.
How to Grow Beets
Beets are a good cool-season crop for Colorado because they can be planted early in the season, they can handle a light frost and they’re easy to grow from either seeds or transplants.
Depending on the variety, beets can take between 55 to 70 days to reach maturity.
- Beets need about 6 hours of sun everyday and will grow even if there’s some shade. Depending on how many beets you’d like to harvest, you can plant them in the vegetable bed, in raised planting beds or even in large containers.
- Beets need a light, loamy soil that’s free of rocks, tree roots, soil clods or other debris. Prepare the garden bed by deeply digging in compost and well-aged manure. Be sure to keep soil light to avoid problems with compaction.
- Beet seeds need to be able to germinate quickly and sprout through soft soil. Plan for drip irrigation or a soaker hose to ensure consistent and even soil moisture.
- If you want a good selection of beets, choose to plant seeds that we have available at the Garden Center. Beet seeds are a bit different from other vegetable seeds in that each “seed” is made up of a cluster of several seeds that may sprout at different times.
- Wait for the soil to become workable in early spring when soil temperatures are 40-45 degrees. Then rinse or soak seeds in warm water to help with germination.
- Without compacting the soil, plant beet seeds 1/2-inch deep and 1 inch apart in a row. Cover lightly with soil and give the seeds a light sprinkling.
- To keep the top layer of soil aerated, cover the planting area with floating row cover cloth or burlap. Seal the cloth edges with a board or other method and use a hand sprinkler to water through the material. An alternative is to plant with another crop, like radish seeds, that will sprout faster and keep soil workable.
- It’s a good idea to leave the cover cloth in place or stretch it over short hoops and seal the edges to give plants a healthy start and provide extra protection from pests.
- If you keep planting beet seeds every two or three weeks, you’ll have a steady supply of tasty young beets into the early summer.
- An important growing step with beets is to thin the plants twice. If you neglect thinning, you may end up with no beets or woody and misshapen roots.
- When plants are 2 inches tall, use small scissors and thin to 1 ½ inches apart. Cut all but the sturdiest seedling in each seed cluster. Don’t pull or you could disturb the roots of the other plants. Be sure to rinse the thinnings before eatings.
- Then, when greens are 3 to 4 inches tall and the top of the root is about 1 to 2 inches in diameter, dig up every other one. Beets should be spaced 4 inches apart. These small beets and greens are also good for eating.
- Keep soil evenly and consistently moist. As beets continue to grow, keep beet shoulders covered with soil and don’t let them dry out.
- A sidedressing of a well-balanced fertilizer 4 to 6 weeks after planting can give plants a boost. Sprinkle dry fertilizer on both sides of the rows and away from the root. Rake the fertilizer into the soil and then water.
- Beets are ready to harvest when they reach the right size for the variety. Check beet size by brushing soil away from the roots. If they’re ready (1 ½ inches in diameter), use a garden fork to loosen the soil and ease the roots out of the ground.
- Cut the greens from the beets (leave 1 inch of stem) before storing them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Beets can last up to 3 weeks when carefully stored. Wash them right before you’re ready to cook them. The greens can be prepared like spinach.
Plant beets with these companions:
- Bush beans
- Cabbage family members
Avoid planting near green beans.
Materials for Success
- Soil thermometer
- Drip irrigation system or soaker hose
- High-quality compost and well-aged manure
- Light-weight mulch
- Floating row cover cloth or burlap
- Well-balanced fertilizer
- Small scissors
- Garden fork
To learn more about growing artichokes or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center.