Beets

Beets

By Josie Borlongan, Garden Guides Contributor

About Beets

Beets are biennial plants that are grown as an annual. They are a flowering plant species in the family Chenopodiaceae. Beets grow about 12 inches (30 cm) tall and about 10 inches (24 cm) across. The sweetly flavored roots are mainly used cooked, either fresh or stored. They can also be pickled. The fresh green tops can be used as greens.

Site Preparation

Beets grow best in cool, even temperatures ideally at 61 degrees F (16 degrees C). It is in cooler temperatures that they also develop in deeper colors. They can be grown in an open site on rich, light soil with high nitrogen levels, using fertilizer with 21 percent N content approximately 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 oz. per square yard (70 to 100 g per square meter). Apply half the nitrogen before sowing; acidic soils can be added with lime.

Special Features

The swollen root forms at ground level may be round, flat or cylindrical in shapes. Beets' flesh is normally red in color but may also be yellow, white or have concentric pink and white rings. The skin color can be red, yellow or off-white.

Choosing a Variety

Recommended beet varieties:
Bull's Blood, Burpee's Golden, Chiogga Striped, Cylindra, Detroit Dark Red, Early Wonder, Formanova, Lutz Green Leaf, Red Ace and Scarlet Supreme.

Planting

Start planting beets in spring. Sow seeds in their natural environment outdoors when the soil has warmed up to at least 45 degrees F (7 degrees C). Sow seeds 1/2 to ¾ inches (1 to 2 cm) deep--spacing will be based on the type and size of beets.

For earlier crops, sow seeds in early spring under covers or in frames. They can be sown indoors in seed trays or cell packs, transplanting outside when the seedlings are 2 inches (5 cm) tall. Early beets need plenty of space in between, so ensure to space rows 9 inches (23 cm) apart.

Sow seeds at intervals of two to three weeks until hot weather arrives to ensure continuous supply of young beet and beet tops.

Care

Water beet plants at a rate of 2 gallons per square yard (11 liters per square mile), every two weeks to prevent the soil from drying out. Apply the remaining nitrogenous fertilizer during active growth.

When beet seedlings have produced around three or four leaves, it is necessary to thin clumps growing close to each other. This can be accomplished by nipping off the top green leaves at soil level without disturbing the remaining seedlings.

Cutworms, aphids, damping off, fungal leaf spots and boron deficiency are common problems affecting beets.

Harvesting and Storage

Beets can be harvested at any stage from small, immature roots to fully mature roots. Harvesting can start from seven to 13 weeks after sowing. In mild areas, beets can be left in well-drained soil in the winter, but add a protection of straw up to 6 inches (15 cm) deep.

Harvest beets by carefully gripping the leaf stems and pulling the beet from the soil. They should lift easily since they are shallow-rooted. Avoid damaging the roots as much as possible since they may bleed when cut. Store the roots in moist sand in a frost-free place. They can be stored through mid spring.

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