Beets are incredibly nutritious. Both the roots and the leaves are an excellent source of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamin C. They also contain betaine, a compound that is essential for cardiovascular health. Eat them raw, cooked, pickled – you can even make beet chips! Most important, it is very easy to grow beets from seed.
We Recommend: Chioggia (BT169). It’s hard to pick a favourite beet because they all have winning qualities. But slice into a Chioggia beet, and discover a party going on inside! It’s certainly one of the most festive looking of all garden vegetables, and it tastes wonderful, too.
For Urban Growers: Try Bull’s Blood (BT174) as a micro-green, and harvest just as the first set of true leaves is emerging. Eye-catching and delicious – and very nutritious.
Season & Zone
Season: Cool Season Biennial
Exposure: Full-sun or partial-shade
Zone: Hardy to Zone 5
Direct sow 4 weeks after last frost to mid-summer. Beets will not produce roots if planted when the soil is too cold. Seeds will germinate in 5-12 days, depending on soil temperature. Optimal soil temperature: 10-26°C (50-80°F).
Sow 1cm (½”) deep, 5-10cm (2-4″) apart in rows 30-45cm (12-18″) apart.
Days to Maturity
From direct sowing.
Ideal pH: 6.0-6.8. For uniformly sized beets, thin carefully to 7-15cm (3-6″) apart when seedlings are 5cm (2″) tall. Eat any thinned plants, roots and all. root size is controlled by spacing and variety.
Harvest at any size, but for the best flavour, pull the beets as soon as they have reached full-size. Eat the greens too. Store in the ground, or in moist peat or sand just above freezing.
In optimum conditions at least 75% of seeds will germinate. Usual seed life: 3 years. Per 100′ row: 600-1M seeds, per acre: 436M seeds.
Diseases & Pests
If beets have black cankers in the roots, soil may need more boron. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of borax to 4L (8½ US pints) of water, and spread evenly over 9m² (100 sq ft) of soil. Do not over apply at a heavier rate. Circular lesions with a purple halo on the leaf is cercospera leaf spot. Prevent by strict crop rotation and sanitation. Leaf miner maggots cause blistered grey tunnels in leaves. Just squish them inside the leaf. Floating row cover carefully applied after planting will prevent the leaf miner fly from laying its eggs.
Beets add minerals to the soil. The greens are very good for the compost. Plant with bush beans, Brassicas, corn, garlic, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, and mint. Add cut mint leaves as a mulch for beets. Avoid planting beets near pole beans, as the nitrogen fixed by the beans may encourage leafy beet growth and diminished root development.
More on Companion Planting.