Learn to Plant and Grow Beets

Beets are a cool season vegetable root crop that yield edible and delicious, colorful roots as well as nutritious greens.

They grow quickly and have many different varieties from deep reds to yellow or white bulbs in varying shapes. They are hardy and can survive frost and near-freezing temperatures, which makes them suitable for northern gardeners as well as an excellent long-season crop.


One month before your last spring Frost date is the best time to begin sowing beet seeds directly into the garden . To ensure a season long harvest a second planting two to three weeks later is a good idea.

Beet seeds fair well in cool soil and will have a decent germination rate, but they will produce better when soil temperatures exceed 50 Degrees F. Dry areas with low moisture are fine, but they sometimes fail to germinate in hot weather. Soaking the seeds for a day prior to planting is advisable.

Beets planted for a fall harvest should commence 10 to 12 weeks before your first fall frost. See Frost Dates

Beets planted for a fall harvest should commence 10 to 12 weeks before your first fall frost. See Frost Dates

Cultivate your planting site and add about an inch deep layer of compost and organic fertilizer. Optimal soil pH for beets is 6.0 to 7.0 {See Soil pH}. Adding a wood ash is also a good idea to provide potassium so long as the soil is not alkaline.  Planting Depth and spacing vary from variety to variety – refer to the seed packet, if not available a basic rule of thumb is about 1/2 inch deep and 2 inches apart.

Beet seeds germinate relatively quickly under proper conditions generally within 2 weeks if kept moist. Shielding the garden bed with burlap for a few days immediately after planting will reduce surface soil crusting and compaction. Be sure to remove the covers as soon as the seedlings begin to break the surface.


Beets require a high phosphorus level to germinate. Take it easy on the nitrogen in the beginning. Mix in some well rotted compost in the soil when planting.

Once they sprout, and as they develop, the plant requires properly timed fertilization.

Fertilize the beets once they sprout, and again about 5 weeks after they’ve broken the soil surface. 21 – 0 -0 is the best fertilizer for beets, it is a popular early spring fertilizer for leafy vegetable crops – that’s assuming you want the greens as well as the roots. If you are growing them exclusively for the beet roots use a fertilizer slightly lower in Nitrogen. See – Understanding Fertilizer Labels.

Water the garden bed immediately following each fertilizer application. 
Thinning of Beets is essential as one seed will often produce more than a single plant. Alleviate early crowding by removing the weaker seedlings shortly after germination.

Ripping them out of the ground will probably disturb the surrounding root systems of nearby seedlings, so pinching off the top is best. As they grow, thin the seedlings to about 3 to 4 inches apart. Monitor the maturing roots and thin once again if need be to avoid over crowding. Over crowding results in a lower quality beet, both as far as flavor and size is concerned.

Harvest and Storage

Beets will mature between 50 and 70 days for most varieties, although they can be harvested early should you desire. For larger bulbs, wait longer, but smaller beet roots will be more tender and tasty. If you plan on using the greens try not to let grow over 6 inches before harvesting. Beet greens have a distinctive flavor, and are more nutritious than the roots.

Fresh beets can be refrigerated for up to a week. Removing the tops off beets will help them stay fresh longer. Leave about an inch of stem on each beet, and store the greens separately

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