What to Plant: Seeds
Dates: See Vegetable Planting Calendars
Edible: Roots, greens
Nutrition: Vitamin A, calcium (mostly from greens)
Seed Viability: 4 – 5 years
Soil temp: 50º F – 85º F (85º F)
Planting Depth: ½ to 1 inch
Germination: 7 – 14 days
Spacing: 3” x 3” to 5” x 5”
SqFt Spacing: 9 or 12 per square
Days to Harvest: 53 – 80
Length of Harvest: 8 – 9 weeks
Origin: Mediterranean, Asia Minor
Bed prep: Prepare beds by adding compost and SROF at ¼ cup per square foot. Mix well by spading. Rake smooth.
Planting: Soak seeds in water for 24 – 48 hours, or until they sink. For wide row gardening, broadcast the seed on the surface. Cover with bed mix and tamp. For square foot or row gardening, plant each seed capsule 1/2" - 1" deep, cover and tamp. Water well.
Beets can be planted as a mix with spinach and chard. Prepare the bed then broadcast the mix. As the spinach is harvested, room will be made for the beets. Regularly harvest the outer leaves of the chard and transplant some if necessary to make room for the beets. After the beets are harvested, the chard can remain.
Watering: Once a week without sufficient rainfall.
Aftercare: Keep bed free of weeds – mulch. Watch for disease or pests.
Harvest: Harvest before or at tennis ball size. “Baby” beets are delicious at the golf ball size. A few leaves can be harvested from plants while they are still growing. Young beet leaves are a pretty addition to salads.
Flea Beetle – eats holes in leaves
Beet Webworm – eats young plant leaves
Aphids – sucks plant juices
Beet Armyworm – feeds on foliage
Beets need a deep, well-drained and friable soil. Their roots can reach 36 – 48 inches. They do not do well in tight, clay soils, or in soils that crust over. Organic matter should be added and well mixed into the soil to a depth of 8 – 10 inches.
Beets do not like wet feet. Raised beds and wide-bed plantings are best. If planting in hill-and-furrow, make sure the hill is at least 8” above the furrow.
Hard crusty soils can cause the beets to become tough. Scratch the soil next to the plant with a cultivator to prevent crusting, but do not work the soil more than 1” deep where the roots could be harmed. 1/2" of compost can be used as a mulch to prevent crusting.
Beets are sensitive to boron deficiency. A soil test is recommended to determine boron content.
Beet “seeds” are actually a cluster of seeds. Each “seed” will produce 2 – 6 plants. Seed can be crushed lightly before planting to reduce thinning. Place the seed in a zipper-type sandwich bag and roll lightly with a rolling pin or similar object. This method works best for gardens where seed will be broadcast.
For a continuous supply, beets can be planted at 3-week intervals.
Recommended planting quantities vary but average 10LF per person for both fresh use and canning. Beets can be planted in partial shade, but not directly under trees.
Beets have a long history, but up until the 14th century, only the leaves were eaten. The roots were used for medicinal purposes and as a dye plant. From the 14th through the 18th centuries the roots slowly gained popularity as an edible food. Heirloom varieties grown today are likely from the "Roman" beets introduced to Northern Europe and France in the 16th century. Only one variety was listed in an American catalog in 1806, and four were listed by 1828. Most varieties grown in America are relatively recent introductions.
For more information see: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/easygardening/beets/beets.html