Did you know that there is a vegetable that’s pretty easy to grow during the winter? If not, consider the beet your new best friend. As long as you live somewhere you can keep your soil temperature above 40°F, then you can be growing beets year-round.
I love super healthy vegetables and I love being able to grow something fresh even when it’s chilly outside.
That doesn’t mean you can’t grow beets in the spring, however. We’ll show you how to get it done no matter when the best growing season is for you.
Growing Beets Plant Info
- Hardiness Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
- Soil: Sandy, loam, PH between 6 to 7, loose, well-drained, 2 to 3 inches of well-rotted compost manure before planting
- Sun Exposure: Full sun
- Planting: Sown directly in the garden when temperatures are at least 40°F, first seed 14 to 28 days before first frost date, last seed 74 to 104 days before first frost date
- Spacing: 3 to 4 inches between plants and 6 inches between rows
- Depth: ¼ to ½ inch seed depth
- Best Companions: Bush beans, head lettuce, cabbage, kale, broccoli, radish, corn, onion, cauliflower, chard, brussels sprouts
- Worst Companions: Pole beans, field mustard
- Watering: Average and even watering, 1 inch per week, apply mulch layer to conserve soil moisture
- Fertilizing: Apply complete fertilizer during planting, water after fertilizer application, side dress with a complete fertilizer every 2 weeks
- Common Problems: Bacterial blight, scab, beet curly top disease, beet western yellow virus, Cercospora leaf spot, damping off, downy mildew, root rot, powdery mildew, beet cyst nematode, root-knot nematode, leafminers, darkling beetle
- Harvest: After 50 to 70 days of planting, recommended when beets are 6 inches long
There are a variety of different kinds of beets, from sugar beets to dark red and striped ones.
Cylindra beets look more like the shape of a carrot than the familiar round beet. This Danish heirloom is sometimes called ‘Formanova’ and ‘Butter Slicer’.
This variety only takes 60 days to harvest. It’s also unique because instead of being round like most other varieties, it’s cylinder-shaped. It grows to be about 8 inches in length and is known for making uniform slices.
This variety of beet can be ready to harvest within 55 days. That’s a really fast turn around time. It is also an Italian heirloom that offers a sweet flavor.
Detroit Dark Red
I’m sure we’ve all heard by now that it is important to add a variety of color to our diet because that’s how we naturally get different vitamins that we need.
This deep-red variety could definitely add some color to your diet. It’s also versatile as it can grow in a variety of different temperatures and soil types. It only takes 59 days to be ready to harvest.
This variety of beet is different than the others because it has a golden color – hence the name. It only takes 55 days to be ready to harvest.
Though it is gold it still has the same flavor as the red beet. This variety doesn’t bleed so you don’t have to worry about staining. The greens of this variety are especially noted for having a desirable taste.
Lutz Green Leaf
This variety grows to be much larger than most beets – up to 4 times bigger.
However, it only retains its sweet flavor if harvested while still young. Because of its extraordinary size, this variety of beet requires 80 days to harvest.
Also known as mangelwurzel, this lesser-known variety looks like a chubby carrot. Check out our guide to growing these tasty root veggies for more information.
Sugar beets have white flesh and are more conical than round – sort of like a turnip. You don’t cook with and eat sugar beets like you do other varieties – they’re used to make sugar, instead.
Planting Beets in the Garden
Growing and caring for beets is pretty simple. If you follow a few basic steps, you should be harvesting your beets in no time.
Plant at the Right Time
Beets are a cold weather crop. Therefore, you’ll need to make sure that when you plant them the soil temperature is staying around 40°F. If you plant them when the weather is too hot, the seeds won’t germinate.
If you live in the south, you should be able to grow beets all winter long. In the north, you may want to wait until early fall or early spring. Just don’t plant beets in the summer.
Pick the Right Location
Beets need full sun or part sun and loamy, loose, well-draining soil. The pH should be between 6.0-7.0. Work in lots of well-rotted manure or compost before planting.
If you have clay soil, work in plenty of sand to improve the texture and drainage of your soil.
Beets, like most root vegetables, should be planted directly in the garden.
Sow your seeds about 1-2 inches apart. After you have the seeds planted, go back and cover them with a light dusting of loose soil. Lightly water the seeds. Keep moist until they sprout.
In about 14 days you should begin to see the beets sprouting. If you’d like a continuous supply of beets, then be sure to plant seeds about 3 weeks apart.
Start Seeds Indoors
If you don’t have a long enough growing season before the temperatures start to warm up, you can start beets indoors. Keep in mind that they might be stunted or fail when you transplant them, so start a few extras to be safe.
Start seeds indoors in peat pots 4 weeks before you want to get them in the ground. The leaves should be about 2-inches long before transplanting.
Harden them off for a week and then dig a small hole put the seedling in the ground.
How to Care for Beets
Caring for your beets isn’t complicated either. Follow these few steps, and hopefully you’ll have fewer problems.
When you first plant your beets (the first 14 days) be sure to water them every day. Once the plant begins to sprout you’ll need to only water it every 10-14 days. Pay close attention to this because not watering beets adequately can result in serious problems.
Thin the Beets Out
After you begin to notice your beets sprouting you’ll need to go through and thin them out just as you would with carrots. Each plant will need to be about 4 inches apart and each row about 12 inches apart.
Overcrowding is another issue that can harm your beet harvest.
Fertilize and Weed
Finally, you’ll need to fertilize and weed your beet crop. You’ll just need to fertilize the crops lightly with compost after they’ve sprouted. You don’t want too much nitrogen in the ground, so fertilize with caution.
Then, you’ll need to weed the bed that the beets are planted in. This will help keep pests out of your garden and give your beets the best chance of survival.
Common Problems With Growing Beets (And Their Solutions)
Beets have quite a few problems. They are easy enough to diagnose, fix, and fix, but you’ll still need to know about them so you can avoid them.
If your beets fail to emerge from the ground it’s likely because they were planted when the weather was warm. The seeds can’t and won’t germinate if the temperatures are too warm.
If you’ve gotten your seeds to germinate but now your seedlings are droopy and have dark, wet stems then it is most likely because you planted them in cold and wet soil. Beets need well-drained soil. If they don’t get it, it can impact their growth.
Pests are probably the biggest threat to beets. The reason is that so many bugs love them. You have to watch for aphids, flea beetles, cabbage loopers, blister beetles, webworms, armyworms, grasshoppers, snails, slugs, leaf miner larvae, and grubs.
Each pest may have to be treated a little differently, but you can squash most adult insects and its eggs when you see them. Remember to always wear gloves because some insects are toxic to human. To prevent them in the first place, keep your garden weeded and treat it with common insecticides like neem oil or Sevin, it should help avoid this problem.
You can also cover your crop with floating covers.
If your beets are ready to be harvested, but they are coming out of the ground really small the reason is probably that they were planted too close together. Be sure that there are 4 inches between beets and then 12 inches between rows.
Downy mildew is a common problem among certain crops. It is caused by a fungus. You’ll recognize it because your crops will begin to develop yellowish and brown spots on the leaves.
So you can beat this problem by increasing air circulation in the grow area, rotate your crops each year, and buy a variety of beet that is resistant to this disease.
You looked outside yesterday and your beet leaves were green. Today, you checked them and they’ve turned red. Don’t panic!
Most likely, you had a freeze overnight. It may change the leaf color but shouldn’t impact the taste of the beet itself.
If you notice that your beets have cracked roots this just means that they weren’t watered enough. I mentioned how important watering your beets was above. This is why.
I had this issue my first year growing beets. I didn’t realize how fast they would be ready to harvest. So I dragged my feet.
Then when I harvested them they had woody roots and weren’t very tasty. The reason was because they were old. If you see this, you’ve left your beets in the ground too long.
White Rings on Roots
If you notice that you have white rings on the roots of your beets, you’ll probably find a correlation in the weather and amount of rain.
You’ve either had a hot spell followed by a large amount of rain. Or you’ve been in a drought prior to picking. Either way, this can cause those rings on the roots.
Best and Worst Companion Plants for Beets
Companion plants are plants that you can put near one crop to benefit each other.
The best companion plants for beets are:
- Bush beans
- Butter beans
- Brussel sprouts
The beans help to increase the nitrogen in the soil. They do it at a rate that isn’t harmful to beets but instead gives them the little boost that they need.
Mint and garlic are great at keeping pests away because of their potent smells.
The worst companion plants for beets are:
- Pole beans
- Filed mustards
How to Harvest and Store Beets
Beets are ready to harvest about 7-8 weeks after they were planted. When they have reached the size that you prefer (remember, certain varieties can grow large but lose their sweet flavor the larger they get), then you’ll need to dig them out of the ground with a garden fork.
When you bring them in, be sure to twist off their tops instead of cutting them. The reason is that cutting them could cause them to bleed. When they bleed they lose some of their color and taste.
Now you’re ready to store them.
Get a wooden box. Put a layer of straw or sand at the bottom of the box. Then you’ll add beets. Then add another layer of straw and continue this until the box is full. You can wrap the beets in brown paper instead.
Finally, store the box in a cool, dry location. A hall closet, a basement corner, or a root cellar is a great place to store your beet harvest.
How to Use Your Beet Harvest
Here are a few recipes to help you use your beet harvest whether you are a beet fan or not:
To me, this is perhaps the most desirable way to utilize a beet harvest because it involves chocolate. It’s a sneaky and tasty way to eat your veggies.
I love veggie chips. Again, it is a way that I get to eat what I want without the guilt. Which is why I think this beet chip recipe is ingenious.
If you are a hummus fan, why not utilize your beet harvest in this unique method? Hummus is great as a dip with your beet chips.
It’s also a great way to get away from using mayo on your sandwiches. If you like the idea of using beets to make healthy alternatives to daily condiments, then give this recipe a whirl.
This is a humdinger of a recipe. This is the reason my husband gets so excited when we plant beets each year.
If you’ve never had pickled beets, change that right away. You’ll either love them or hate them, but around my household, these are a hit.
Roast Beet Salad
I’m a salad girl (and a soup girl), but for today we’ll focus on my weakness for salad. Anything that I can use in a unique fashion to spice up my salads, I’m game for.