Do you know that fantastic red coloring of beets comes from betalains, a unique mix of the purple and yellow pigments that may prevent the occurrence of free radicals which cause cancer? Plus, this common but also amazing plant is full of valuable nutrients, tasty, versatile, and capable of growing even in adverse weather conditions.
Since you can grow beets in your garden even in cold temperatures, plant them in spring, late summer, and fall as well. They need temperatures of 60 to 70 F (15.5 – 21 C) during a day and 50 to 60 F (10 – 15.5 C) during a night to thrive. Try to grow beets and discover why Babylonians, Egyptians, and Greeks bred this veggie.
Reasons Why You Should Grow Beets in Your Garden
- Nutrients– Beets are fantastic vegetables packed with essential vitamins (B6), minerals (iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, and potassium), fibers, and inorganic nitrates and pigments with numerous benefits for your health.
- Fight inflammation– Since beets contain pigments betalains, they may help you fight inflammation.
- Prevent dementia– The high level of nitrates is essential for supporting brain health and improving both mental and cognitive function, plus they may prevent dementia.
- Blood pressure– Thanks to those nitrates, these veggies will also help you keep blood pressure under control, and consequently, they may prevent heart diseases.
- Digestive tract– Beets may improve the health of your digestive tract thanks to the dietary fiber they contain. Those fibers feed beneficial bacteria in the colon and may prevent constipation, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and colon cancer.
- Healthy diet – These delicious veggies are high in water and low in calories, and they may help you lose weight.
How to Plant Beets in Your Garden
It is not so challenging to grow this cool-season crop, including their earthy-flavored greens and sweet roots. Plant them in spring, about two to three weeks before the last frost. Also, you can plant beets in late summer or early autumn, approximately two months before the first frost.
1. The soil preparation
Before start sowing seeds, you should prepare the soil. Start with removing rocks, weeds, and large clumps of grass. Then, add all-purpose organic fertilizer or mature compost to enrich the chosen place for planting.
Don’t forget to water the soil the day before when the weather is unusually warm and dry. You can expect your beets grow excellently if the soil pH is around 6.0 to 6.8.
2. Sow beets seeds
If you sow beets seeds in spring, the best temperature for that activity is 40 F (4.5 C). You need to do it on time because seeds need ten to twenty days to germinate, and their proper developing depends on the temperatures of the soil. The desirable warmth of the ground is about 55 to 75 F (13 – 24 C).
A few hours before sowing, you should briefly soak seeds in warm water, which will help to soften their coats. After approximately four to five hours in the water, seeds are prepared for sowing.
On the other hand, you can use the method named scarification. Basically, that means you should assist your seeds in opening their coats and helping them germinate more quickly. Usually, gardeners rub, scratch, or grate the surface of the seeds. Be prepared that this way takes a bit of effort.
Types of beets you should consider growing
|Red varieties||Stripped varieties||White varieties||Gold varieties|
|Detroit dark red beets||Chioggia beets||White albino beets||Touchstone gold beets|
|Early wonder beets||Avalanche beets||Golden boy beets|
|Cylindra beets||Blankoma beets||Golden beets|
|Ruby queen beets||Boldor beets|
Plant your veggies about 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) deep in the ground, and take care to respect a distance of at least 2 to 3 inches (5 – 7.5 cm) between them.
Beets seeds are actually seedpods, and you can see that every one of them contains several seeds. Therefore, avoid planting them too close. In average, it will be enough to get five to ten beets per every member of your household.
After your beets seeds germinate indoors, you need to transplant them in the garden. Even though this method requires a little extra work, you will get stronger seedlings. That means that you won’t have any space between seedlings if some of them don’t germinate.
Plus, you will have an opportunity to pick out only successful seedlings which have germinated well. There is one more thing! When you keep your small seedlings indoors for a while, they usually become highly resistant to beet-loving pests.
How to care Beets in Your Garden
Since beets are a root crop, the best option is to place them in full sun. However, these plants will also do fine in partial shade, and you can sow them between taller garden veggies.
Until the beets seeds sprout, you need to keep the soil evenly moist and water them regularly for the first ten to twenty days, depending on the variety of beets. However, avoid waterlogging the ground, which may cause seeds rotting or the poor development of future plants’ roots.
When the first seedlings begin to grow, let the soil become a little bit dry before water it the next time. In average, you should provide 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water weekly.
When you water formed plants too much, all the energy will be redirected to leaves, and you will get small beets and lush greens. For hefty bulbs, reduce the amount of water. That’s it.
If the soil in your garden is not rich in organic matter, you should add compost or good fertilizer to enrich it. The best time is approximately two weeks after your veggie emerges.
If you sow seeds directly in the garden to avoid transplanting, you will probably need to thin seedlings when they reach 2 inches (5 cm) high. Simply pinch excess young plants off. Be careful because pulling them out may damage the roots of the closest seedlings. In general, you should thin established beets to about 3 to 4 inches (7.5 – 10 cm) apart.
Native plants are a huge issue for small beets. When they are 1 to 4 inches (2.5 – 10 cm) tall, most weeds will overtake and consequently overshadow your veggies. Therefore, you need to remove them with a tiny hand hoe.
The last serious weeding is necessary when your beets are tall about 5 to 6 inches (13 – 15 cm), and everything will be OK for the next few weeks. Over time, your veggies will be tall enough to suppress most of the undesirable plants. The only thing you need to do is to weed those which grow above your beets.
How to harvest beets
In general, you can harvest mature beets after 45 to 70 days. However, you can pick up some leaves and baby beets earlier if you prefer.
You will probably want to harvest the whole plant when it is entirely mature. That way, you will get the big-sized plants’ roots. However, you can pick up your crop before the maturity date. In fact, baby beets, which roots are no more than 1 or 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) in diameter, are highly delicious.
On the other hand, you can leave your beets much longer into the ground to get bigger roots. Keep in mind that the roots will be tender and flavorful as soon as they are not bigger than 4 to 5 inches (10 – 13 cm) in diameter. Larger ones will be woodier and less edible.
You can always harvest some small beets’ greens before the first roots even show. Smaller leaves can be great salad mixed with lettuce while mature leaves are excellent when cooked. Pick up greens when they are approximately 5 inches (13 cm) tall.
However, avoid picking up too much foliage since they are necessary for growing the roots. The rule is to avoid removing smaller ones from the very center of the plant and to leave at least three fully grown leaves attached.
Since well-established beets can tolerate frost to 30 F (-1 C) without any harming the greens, you can extend the time of harvest. Just cover your plants with row covers to prevent frost damage of leaves during the night. However, you should fully harvest your veggies before the temperatures drop under 20 F (-7 C).
How to Store Beets
To store roots along with the greens, wrap them loosely and put into the refrigerator for a week. If you want to keep just green parts fresh for a while, you should cut their ends and put them into a jar of water. It will be usable for a week if you keep them in the refrigerator.
Keep beets’ roots indoors after harvesting, and they will be eatable for two to three months. Just trim off the leaves, brush off any dirt, and put them into an open plastic bag. You can also store canned, frozen, or pickled beets during winter.
Use food-grade wax cardboard boxes for storing mature beetroots. You can keep them for months if stored in a dry area.
Beets Pests and diseases
When you decide to grow beets, you should be prepared for some pests and diseases which will jeopardize your crop.
- Blister beetles
These grey and black tiny beetles are probably the worst beet pests you have ever spotted in your garden. They reproduce rapidly and eat the foliage. As a result, you will notice large holes in your beets.
Try to remove them by hand, but don’t forget to wear gardening gloves. Otherwise, you will catch blisters on your skin, since these creatures release destructive chemicals. To prevent their returning, you can use a natural pyrethrum spray made from chrysanthemum.
- Flea beetles
These creatures will make numerous tiny, pinprick-sized holes and cause yellowing of beets’ foliage. To get rid of them, sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the top of your veggies.
- Cabbage looper
This green caterpillar will chew foliage and make a lot of holes around. Protect your veggies from butterflies laying their eggs on leaves by using floating row-covers during the day.
They may rip off the whole chunks of leaves and even stems. Draw them away by setting sugar traps around your beets. The second possibility is to use an organic repellent such as NOLO Bait.
They simply adore beets, and the only way to protect your crop is to put a fence around your garden.
There are one more animal species which will enjoy eating your beets. Keep them away by making a fence and applying deer-repellent sprays around your crop.
- Cercospora leaf spot
It is the most common beets’ illness. It causes dark, brassy-purple, and patchy spots all over the foliage. You can count that these fungi will occur when the weather is warm, wetter, and rainy.
The only way to solve this problem is to remove and destroy the affected leaves. Using organic anti-fungal sprays when days are hot and humid is highly recommended.
- Curly top virus
Some insects such as grasshopper-like bugs can spread this type of virus through your beets. A result will be the appearance of dark veins of leaves, curled leaf edges, and the stunted plants. There is no cure for this condition. Therefore, you should remove all the plants and burn them.
- Damping off
The cause of this infection are soil-borne fungi under humid conditions. They attack young seedlings, which become black, watery, and rotted appearance. To prevent this menace, you should avoid overwatering seedlings, and improve the drainage if possible.