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Planting beetroot? Useful tips you need to know

Beets are earthy, delicious vegetables that are easy to grow in a garden or in a greenhouse. You can even grow them in pots indoors or on your porch. They pair well with other tasty vegetables like Swiss chard, and you can pickle them, slice them, or make them into soups.

As with many root vegetables, beets are easy to store, making them an ideal vegetable to stock up on for long winters. If you’re a fan of beets and would like to try your hand at growing them, then you’re in luck! We have several great tips to help you grow beets.

Pair your beet variety with the best planting time

There are many varieties of beets to choose from, and not all of them are best suited for the same planting time. Beets are a cool-weather crop that you should plant in early to midspring and late summer to early fall. They have a short enough growth cycle that you can actually plant them at any time, as long as you can keep them fairly cool.

Beets are remarkably cold tolerant, so you can plant them earlier than many other vegetables. However, they don’t transplant well, so starting the seeds indoors is not recommended. Although beet seeds germinate more slowly in cold soil, you can speed this up by soaking the seeds in water first. Warm weather causes beets to bolt or flower. Bolting can affect the flavor and texture of the beets, making them unpleasant to eat. For warmer weather plantings, it’s a good idea to pick a bolt-resistant variety.

Beets laying on a table

How much sun and what kind of soil do they prefer?

Beetroots do best in full sun. If you’re growing your beetroots in containers, then you can keep them outside in the full sun or inside in a sunny window. For a winter crop or to grow beets in an area prone to overcast skies, a sunlamp or grow light can help make up for any natural lack of light. Beets can tolerate some shade, however, less sunlight typically results in larger leaves and smaller roots.

These plants are tolerant to most soil types, although, like most root vegetables, clay-heavy soil can constrict them. Beets thrive in soil that’s loose and rich with organic matter. However, they can grow even in poor soil. The easiest way to improve your soil quality for better results is to mix compost into the soil before planting. You can use your own, homemade compost or get premade compost online or from most garden supply stores.

Beets growing, still partially underground

Watering and thinning beets

Beetroots need fairly consistent moisture in order to properly develop. They are mildly drought tolerant, with some varieties more drought tolerant than others. However, they won’t become as large or as tender if they lack water. A thorough soaking once a week is enough for beets to thrive, but they may need a second, smaller watering during hot weather. When the rainy season arrives, you may only need to water them every other week or even less often, depending on the amount of rainfall you receive.

When planting your beets, you can take the time to space the seeds 3 or 4 inches apart. However, an easier way is to plant them much closer together and then thin them once they sprout. Thinning plants simply means removing excess plants to avoid overcrowding.

Rather than pull or dig up the sprouts you’re thinning, clip the tops off with a pair of scissors. Pulling or digging the sprouts often disturbs the roots of the sprouts you’re leaving in place, which can weaken them significantly. The good news is that beet greens are edible, so any sprouts you collect you can add to your next meal!

Person slicing a dark red beet on a wooden cutting board

The ideal harvest time and technique

Growth rates and harvest times vary between varieties, but the average beetroot plant is ready to harvest after two to two and a half months. Knowing the variety you have can also be helpful when determining harvest time based on size. For example, a Cylindra beet is long and slender and best harvested when it’s 1-1/2 to 2 inches wide. On the other hand, you can harvest a larger beet variety, such as an Avalanche, when it’s at 2-1/2 to 3 inches across.

Size is an important factor, as smaller beets are more tender. As beets grow they become firmer, and eventually they reach an unpleasant, woody texture if left too long. So while it’s tempting to let your beets keep growing, it’s best to harvest them when they’re between 1-1/2 and 3 inches wide.

To harvest beets, you can simply grab the tops and pull gently, but firmly, with steady force. If the beets feel stuck, loosen the dirt slightly with a shovel or trowel and try again. You can harvest the greens separately or harvest everything at once.

Beets are delicious vegetables with a unique flavor. Homegrown beets are an easy way to add color and extra nutrients to your meals. Whether you prefer them diced in your salad, cooked into soup, or to use them to turn baked goods red, you can have all the beets you want using these useful tips.

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