Sugar beets are primarily grown as a commercial crop, but are also well-suited to the home garden. They take up very little space in beds. The sugary roots can be used in vegetable dishes as well as in home wine and molasses production. The leafy tops are often added to feed for livestock and add necessary fiber to the animal's diet. Plant beets in the spring for a late summer or early autumn harvest.
Prepare a well-drained bed for planting. Work the soil at least 10 inches deep to give the beet root plenty of room to grow. Work compost into the soil to raise the bed three inches to improve drainage if necessary.
Sow the seeds after danger of frost has passed in the spring. Sow each seed one-half inch deep and cover loosely with soil. Space seeds four inches apart in one-foot rows.
Water well after planting. Keep the soil moist, but not soaking wet, at all times.
When the seedlings are four weeks old, fertilize with a half-strength nitrogen-rich fertilizer, taking care not to get any on the plants themselves. Fertilize a second time in mid-summer.
Harvest the beets in September to early October. Most varieties take 110 days to reach maturity. Dig around the beet to loosen the soil, then pull up by the green top.
Lay the beets out on a layer of newspaper in a warm, dry area out of direct sunlight to cure for storage.
Things You Will Need
- Pickle sliced beets or use as a sweet addition in any recipe where traditional beets would be used.
- Store beets similarly to carrots---in a cool, dry location or in buckets full of dry sand.
- Cutworms and root maggots are the prime enemies of sugar beets. Use a chemical or organic pesticide immediately if a problem is detected.
- Weeds easily choke out beets. Keep the garden bed well-weeded at least until the beets' leaves are large enough to shade out most weed seedlings.
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