Beets are grown for their leaves and roots, which vary in shape and color. In general, those with yellow and white roots are sweeter than their red cousins.
Don't think you like beet root? You may change your mind when you roast some in aluminum foil, rub off the skins, and slice them to serve as a side dish or as a salad topping.
Beets grow well with other root crops as well as amongst lettuces because you can harvest beet greens as part of your salad mix using the "cut and come again" method. The roots are trickier to grow than the tops. Beautiful beet roots require soil with no stones and where a considerable amount of compost or organic matter has been incorporated. Don't waste your time trying to grow them in heavy clay soils that haven't been amended.
Look for cultivars resistant to bolting and downy mildew. Newer hybrids are usually sweeter and mature 7 to 14 days earlier.
- Annual cool season crop, half-hardy to frost and light freezes.
- Plant in both early spring and mid-summer for two crops. Harvest the first crop when the root tops are 1 - 2" across. They'll become tough and woody if allowed to continue to grow during the hot summer.
- Direct-sow seed.
- Plant in garden as soon as the garden has thawed and drained and the soil is workable -- typically that's April for us. For a detailed spring planting schedule, check out this Vegetable Planting Schedule.
- Soak the seeds an hour or overnight in tepid water to hasten germination.
- Seed planting depth: 1/4”.
- Seed spacing: 1 - 6".
- Often one seed (it's actually a "seed ball") will produce a clump of plants. Thin to one plant for the largest roots.
Planting and Tending
- When the planting bed has been properly prepared with compost and organic matter, fertilizing is not necessary or recommended. Too much nitrogen produces lush tops, but small narrow roots.
- Plant with other root crops such as onions, carrots, and radishes.
- Place a container of mint nearby to repel flea beetles. (Never plant mint directly into a garden.)
- Plant near:
- Catnip (to repel flea beetles)
- Mint (to repel flea beetles)
Visit the Vegtables Forum at GreatLakesGardeners.com to get answers to your growing vegetables questions. To ask a new question, Register if you haven't already done so(it's free and helps protect the forum from spam), click on Start New Topic, enter your question and click on Post New Topic.
You may also appreciate these books on growing vegetable gardens.