Beets come in a rainbow of colors and are one of the most versatile items we can plant in our gardens. Eaten raw, sautéed, mashed, baked…the list of ways to consume these super powered vegetables is endless, not to mention you can eat the greens as well. Beets are not only high in fiber, they are very nutrient rich, including vitamin A and C, as well as being higher in iron than the almighty spinach. Perhaps even more impressive, beets are very high in antioxidants, helping us fight off everything from colds to cancer.
Planting beets can be done either from seedlings started indoors, or planting seeds directly in the ground. If you plan to start your beet seeds indoors, here are some tips:
- Use a seed tray about 3 inches deep
- Fill flat almost to the top with a quality organic garden soil
- Sow beet seeds 1 inch apart throughout the flat. If you are using a flat with partitions, one or two seeds per 1 inch square partition will suffice.
- Place tray in a warm sunny locale
- Keep soil evenly moist
- After about one week, you will begin to see your seeds germinate
- Once your shoots are 2 inches tall (approx) and your outside temperatures are cooperating (beets don’t like to be too cool, so you want to make sure your nights are staying at or above 50 degrees F), you may transplant them to your garden
- Plant your seedling 3 to 4 inches apart in rich, loamy soil, tamp the soil lightly to secure the shoots
If you prefer direct sowing, the steps are simple:
- Sow beet seeds one inch deep and 3 to 4 inches apart
- Cover lightly with soil
- Spread a layer of grass clippings or mulch lightly over your beet rows to help retain moisture
- After 2 or 3 weeks, you may want to thin your beets if they are too crowded. Do this by snipping off the shoots you don’t want.
The other planting option for beets is to sew them in containers. The planting process is basically the same as if you were to direct sow the seeds into the ground. The trick with container planting is maintaining the appropriate moisture level. While spacing and thinning concepts remain largely the same, pay attention to the moisture level of your soil if you plant them in containers. Beets in containers will require more watering than those directly in the ground.
What are some problems I may face growing beets?
The gardening world can be rife with pests and disease, but with careful planning and mitigation, your garden won’t be a victim. Some of the most common pests and disease for beets are:
- Leaf Hoppers
- Flea Beetles
- Damping Off
- Beet Mosaic
- Black Root
There are some great ways to keep these pests and diseases from ruining your beets (and the rest of your garden) and they can be found in your kitchen! A homemade garlic or pepper spray works beautifully to curb disease and pests. Mix one tablespoon of red pepper flakes or mashed garlic to ½ gallon of water. Test a small area of your garden first to make sure it won’t burn tender leaves. Spray as needed.
What varieties of beets are the best to plant?
Knowing beets come in a variety of colors and types, it can be overwhelming to choose which variety/varieties you want in your garden. A great suggestion for beginners is to go with a beet variety pack. This will give you an idea in the years to come, which beet varieties do well in your garden and which you prefer on your plate! Some of the most popular varieties include:
- Bulls Blood
- Detroit Dark Red
- Golden Heirloom
Keeping your beets happy isn’t difficult. Beets like warmer days and mild nights with a steady level of moisture. Once you have grown them for the first time, you will be hooked, not only on how easy they are to grow, but how much color and nutrition they add to your plate!