Growing Beets, from Sowing to Harvest

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Beets in the garden

Beets should be a staple of any vegetable garden. As well as being truly delicious, they’re really easy to grow from seed – and you don’t have to wait long ’til harvest time.

Where to Grow Beets

Beets can be grown in containers of quality potting soil, but for best results grow them in well prepared soil that has been raked to a fine tilth. Beets need a sunny, open position and moist, fertile conditions.

There are lots of types of beets available. If you're a beginner, look out for bolt-resistant varieties that are less likely to produce flowering stems (rather than the tasty roots) in hot summers. For the adventurous there are many interesting colors; varieties with concentric rings such as 'Chioggia' look particularly impressive in salads.

Beets ‘Forono’

When to Sow Beets

Sow seeds outdoors from mid-spring until the middle of summer. You can sow a couple of weeks earlier by using crop protection – for instance, grow them in greenhouse or hoop house borders, or sow into trays or pots under cover to plant out once temperatures outside have improved. In areas with scorching summers you'll need to avoid growing them in the hottest months, but you may be able to squeeze in a fall crop.

You can use our Garden Planner to work out exactly when to sow beets in your area. The software uses your location to set personalized sowing dates for your garden. Just click on the Plant List that accompanies your plan to find out exactly when you can expect to sow and harvest. If you add a season extender such as a hoop house or row cover to your beets, the dates in the Plant List will automatically adjust to take into account the additional warmth.

How to Sow Beet Seed

To sow, first mark out seed drills into prepared soil. You can use a long-handled tool to make depressions into raked soil, or for shorter rows simply use a hand trowel to create your drills. These should be about an inch (2cm) deep with subsequent rows spaced one foot (30cm) apart.

Beet seeds

The seeds are quite big and knobbly, which makes them very easy to sow. Unlike other crops, beet seeds are actually clumps of individual seeds, so you'll often get several sprouts from each one. Simply drop the seeds into the drill so that they are about 1-2 inches (2-5cm) apart. There’s no need to be too precise with this as you can always remove excess seedlings once they’ve germinated. Now cover the seeds over, patting the soil back down with the palm of your hand or the back of a rake. Don’t forget to label your rows.

You can also sow seeds into module trays of potting soil for easy transplanting. Growing in module trays allows plants to be set in place at their final spacings without the need for thinning, and is great for early crops started off under cover. Sow two or three seeds into each cell then cover with potting soil, and water. Keep the potting soil moist as the seeds germinate and grow on into young seedlings.

Beet seedlings in a pot

Caring for Beets

Module-grown seedlings should be planted so that each cluster of seedlings is about 8-10 inches (20-25cm) apart in each direction. Don’t worry about thinning the seedlings – the plants will naturally push themselves apart as they grow.

Rows of direct-sown seedlings should be thinned in stages until they are around 4 inches (10cm) apart within the row.

Keep plants watered in dry weather. As well as encouraging good, even growth, this reduces the risk of bolting (flowering), which renders the crop useless. Carefully remove weeds between plants by hand or by using a hoe.

Harvested beets

Harvesting Beets

Beets can be harvested from about the size of a golf ball up to the size of a tennis ball. To harvest, gather the base of the stems and twist the root out of the soil, or alternatively, use a fork to dig them out. Leaves can be twisted off and cooked in the same way as spinach, or just snip the leaves off into the compost heap. In areas with mild winters, roots sown later in the season can be left in the ground to dig up as required. Alternatively, store roots in boxes of sand in a cool but frost-free place.

Beets are wonderful: colorful, tasty and packed with nutrients! Enjoy your beets grated into salads, roast them in a little oil with herbs and rock salt, or if you’re feeling adventurous why not make a warming borscht soup, topped with a scattering of garden-grown dill.

If you’ve grown beets before, don’t forget to share your own tips for growing them by popping us a comment below.

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Comments

 
"How do you can beets without vinegar?"
Patricia Brantley on Saturday 21 January 2017
"Hi Patricia. I've never tried canning beets, with or without vinegar. If you want to store them for longer and don't want to use vinegar, you could try freezing them. Use younger beets for this. Wash then boil them whole until they are tender. Cool them in icy water then gently rub off the skins. Chop them up into smaller pieces then pop them into a freezer container. They should keep for around eight months in the freezer."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 23 January 2017
"mine is just a question. is it possible to grow beetroot in a wet land?"
maggie on Monday 13 March 2017
"IS IT POSSIBLE TO PLANT BEETROOT ON A WETLAND"
maggie on Monday 13 March 2017
"Hi Maggie. I'm afraid not - as beetroot needs moist but well-drained soil. If your soil is very wet, then you could try growing them in containers of potting soil."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 13 March 2017
"I tend to forget my beets and store them in the ground along with carrots...harvesting as needed all year."
Athos B. on Thursday 28 September 2017
"Hi Benedict. Thanks for all the advice and super videos.I love beets and am growing them for the first time here in the south of France. We often have week after week of scorching 35-40 degree heat. Should I perhaps grow my beets in the shade? (Also, if I may, to the person wanting to can beets without vinegar - use kilner jars. Blanche the beet as for freezing and top up with saline - 1 litre water +20 g salt. Then immerse the jar in boiling water. Boil for 1 hour and cool the jar naturally. They will keep for a year)"
Michael on Sunday 7 April 2019
"Hi Michael. Thanks for your kind words, Thinking about your situation, it may be best to grow your beets in part shade, or at least so they are perhaps shaded during the hottest part of the day. This should make it a lot easier to keep them happy. Make sure the area you choose isn't deep, deep shade, but just lightly shaded. You want it still to be bright, with plenty of light, if not direct sunshine. Great advice on canning beets - thanks or that too."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 8 April 2019
"I am experimenting growing multi-coloured beetroots in pots in my greenhouse. What problems am I likely to encounter and how should I manage them? Many thanks in advance."
Hedley Malloch on Saturday 29 June 2019
"The main issue may be the heat. If it's very hot the pots may be prone to overheating and/or drying out. This may cause plants to bolt, or sub-standard roots to form. If you can keep them as cool as possible and well watered then this shouldn't be a problem."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 1 July 2019
"Is there any tips in growing beetroot in Australia? The winters are -5 to 10 degrees Celsius and the summers are 30 to 40 degrees Celsius. I have started growing them in long, shallow pots but am planning to move them into a bigger pot soon."
Elana Bell on Sunday 15 September 2019
"Hi Elana. You can grow them as described in the article. The main thing you'll need to be wary of is the heat of summer. So it's really essential to keep them well watered so that they aren't stress and don't bolt as a result. Maincrop beetroot destined for roots to enjoy over winter will need to be lifted before the severe frosts arrive and stored in damp sand in a cool but frost-free place. Beetroot can work in pots but I've always had better crops by growing them in the ground or raised beds. "
Ben Vanheems on Monday 16 September 2019

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