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How do you grow BEETS?

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I've tried on a number of occasions to grow beets but have never been successful. I purchased some the other day in the supermarket and they were wonderful, but I couldn't help wondering if they had been sprayed with pesticides/fungicides, etc.

So, I would really like to grow my own.

Please tell me the kind of soil, fertilizer regime, watering, and the name of the ones you have found grow well.

I think they are planted in late summer - is that correct?

I have read that each seed is actually a cluster of seeds - do they need to be separated?

I also like the leaves, so if one type of beet is good for both roots and leaves, please tell me that, too.

Okay - anything you guys/gals can tell me about growing beets will be a great help.

Thanks.

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

We plant Red Ace. They back suburb tops & beets.
Ours are planted as soon as the ground is workable in the spring. We use an Earthway seeder. It spaces them out somewhat. Use seeds as they come in the package.

As we are a market garden, we start pulling them when the beets are marble size. That thins them & also makes for good, tender greens.
We plant all the beets at one time & as we harvest all summer long, they continue to get bigger so by fall there are beets about 2 to 3 inches that are just right for canning or freezing.

As far as fertilizer goes, just a 10-10-10 garden fertilizer is adequate. We do have a drip tape on the rows & water if the rain don't come.

Bernie

Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

Beets are easy. In North Carolina, perhaps March would be appropriate. It is one one those sow as early as the ground can be worked vegetables. While they do prefer a neutral soil ph above 6, they are not overly picky. If other veggies will grow they usually will also. Can't stand heat so they need to be harvested before summer. They need soft soil, so a low list (ridge of soil) is preferable. Place the seeds about 3 inches apart and about a quarter inch deep. If your soil has a tendency to crust, you can cover them with potting mix or something similar. Some folks even use sand. Using a row cover helps keep the soli moist which is essential for germination. In my youth we laid planks over the row, but you have to constantly check, because they need to be removed when the plants start to emerge. As for varieties, My favorite is an oldtime, the Blood Turnip. Not very pretty but has a great taste. Some of the newer ones are prettier and more uniform. Have have good luck with Kestrel and Merlin. The long beets Cylindra, Formanova perform well, but don't have the taste that I like. Worst for me is Detroit Dark Red.
Fall Beets are possible, but require more effort. Biggest problem is germination in hot soil. They take in excess of two months, which means planting in late summer in my area.
There are monogerm varieties which have a single seed, Johnny's carries one. They are no problem to thin, so for me not worth the extra cost of seed.

This message was edited Dec 11, 2010 12:05 PM

Thumbnail by Farmerdill
Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

That's a beautiful bunch of beets, Farmerdill.

Ditto what F-dill said about growing and sowing in NC. They don't do well here in the heat of summer so I do an early crop and some years a fall crop. The fall crop sometimes won't make big roots but I love the tops anyway.

Honeybee, I think you mentioned you'll have raised/boxed beds next year..I bet you could shade them and keep the soil fairly most and have decent end-of-summer germination to get an earlier start on your fall beets. I've done like F-dill said, using boards or the like to shade the row your seeds are in to get decent germination. I've laid down gutters, boards, light layer of straw, remay, etc, anything to keep the direct sun of the soil and to hold in moisture.

By the way, Bernie, how hot do your summers get? I know you have a shorter summer season than us but don't know how hot you can get there. (I sure remember those snow pics of yours though! Yikes!)

Honeybee said, "I have read that each seed is actually a cluster of seeds - do they need to be separated?"

They don't need to be but I have several friends who insist on beating their seeds nearly to death! They put the seeds in a cloth or pillow case, then hammer them as if they had a grudge against them. Apparently it breaks up the clusters and helps for faster germination and less thinning. I've tried it but didn't notice a big difference.

Johnny's sells "decorticated" seeds now, which apparently are treated similarly, with the seeds not so much naturally clustered. Again, I don't think I ever saw a difference in those and non-decorticated seeds.

Varieties: I've grown Red Ace (nice beet), Detroit Dark Red (so-so with both decent tops and bottoms), Chioggia (love the flavor, those beautiful stripes but wish they'd keep them when cooked). I'm sure I've tried other varieties but will have to go look up the others in my planting records.

Shoe

Danville, IN

I sure am glad I read this thread. I always have great luck with beets planted as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. But, when I tried to plant a fall crop, sowing in August, no luck... they didn't even sprout! Now I know that they need cool soil to sprout, so that means no way in Indiana unless I chance it and sow in late September and we have a long, mild fall.

I'll just have to plant a larger crop next spring. Also, from our experience, it's better to freeze beets than can. All the methods of canning just cook the bejezees out of them and they end up pale and flavorless. Freezing them is the next best thing to fresh!

And, the beet greens are wonderful. (I think most any variety of beet's greens will do.) Saute them like spinach, with a little onion and maybe bacon, drizzle a little vinegar (balsamic vinegar is wonderful) and serve with or without butter. Yum!

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

We get into the 90's kind of often. Maybe 6 or 7 days a summer over 100.
Beautiful blizzard raging today! Can't see over a couple hundred feet.

We are planning our trip after KY RU in Sept. If you don't make it there, we are coming to your place. I will bring you a nice bunch of fresh beets.
Can't beat those buttered stems & baby beets, or pickled beets!
Bernie

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

"Beautiful blizzard raging today"!? Hah! You sound like me, Bernie, even though it's been unseasonableycold as cubes here for quite a while I've been telling folks how much I'm enjoying it. After our super-duper hot summer I'm grateful to witness the other spectrum of the temperature.

HoosierGreen, I like those beet greens, too, often throwing in some crumbled feta cheese at the last minute of cooking.

As for the washed out beets from cooking/canning, I don't seem to have that problem, maybe because I make pickled beets and those can be done in a water bath as opposed to a pressure canner which might make them overly-soft. I also tend to bake beets rather than boil them and they keep their color. (Only the Chioggia beets, when cooked, lose their multi-colored look, as I mentioned above.) By the way, how long do you blanch your beets before freezing? I think I'd like to try that next year.

Bernie, I have wanted to make it back to the Round up for several years. All I can say is maybe this year will be different. Wish me luck!

Shoe (off to pull in firewood before the rains move in)

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Oh yeh, two jars of pickled beets for Bernie and HoosierGreen. Yummy!

Shoe

Edited to add that on my computer the pic is a bit blurry, or is it my eyes?

This message was edited Dec 11, 2010 1:48 PM

Thumbnail by Horseshoe
Danville, IN

Oh, Horseshoe, PICKLED beets are another matter. I do love them, and put up many quarts of them every year, but never enough! Yes, the water bath is easier on beets than pressure canning, which does bleach them out. Pickled beets are so-o-o expensive in the stores, I really save putting up my own. Got to plant more beets next year, for eating fresh, pickling and freezing.

(Feta cheese with beet greens will make my wife happy, too.)

Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

If you are into beet greens ( can't stand them myself) Early Wonder (tall top). Beets are small but pretty good. I have grown Red Cloud ( so so) Chicago red ( pretty good very uniform perhaps the prettiest ) Pacemaker III (so so), Crosby's Egyptian (good) Ruby Queen ( so so)
http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/54688/ http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/73259/ http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/62766/ http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/62303/ http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/62299/ http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/73155/ http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/103822/ http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/54686/ http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/59961/

Danville, IN

Thanks. I always like to try new vegetables every year. Chicago Red sounds promising.

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

We only eat the stems, not the leaves. They are yummy!

All state highways in SW Minnesota are closed. International airport in Minneapolis is closed. That don't happen often. 12" of snow in Twin Cities area. Not that much snow here but a whiteout from blowing snow.

DW says to freeze beets, cook them until fork tender, cool a bit, slip the skins off & bag them up.

Danville, IN

Right. Meant to write that in response to Horseshoe's question. Cook like always until tender, slip the skins off, slice or dice them, bag 'em, and freeze them. They taste as fresh as can be when you warm them up. We had some this evening while the freezing rain pelted the house. (Snow coming!)

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Wow, all these great suggestions about beets. Thanks to all who have replied :)

I looked up the ones I planted in 2009 - Bulls Blood.

I'll have to check the "days to maturity" for the ones y'all have listed to see if I can squeeze some in next spring and have them ready before the hot weather sets in.

I like the leaves and stems cooked in a little vegetable oil with some chopped shallots, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.

The roots I cook in enough water to cover until tender. Strain off the water and let cool enough to handle. Run them under cold water and wash off the skins. Slice them and top with the prepared leaves/stems - yummy!

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

HoneybeeNC - what problems have you had with your beets in the past? Maybe we give you more tailored advice. Another reason I grow my own is that there is a is a big cost markup here on fresh beets. I don't mind thinning - I try to plan it out so my first thinning is spaced for baby beets and the baby beets leave things spaced for medium sized beets. My main problem is leaf miners. I succession plant small numbers of beets to let me know when it is safe to plant to plant spinach and Swiss chard.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

pollengarden - thanks for your interest, I appreciate it.

The beets come up, but never get going. Actually, that's about it!

Everythingn else I've ever grown does well. When I lived in Tennessee, the beets would not grow there either. I had a neighbor who had more beets than she needed, but her bean crop failed. I had lots of beans. So we picked each others beets/beans.

After reading these posts, I suspect it's just too hot here for them.

I'll buy some seed and try setting it as early as possible and see what happens.

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

Pollengarden, I also have a terrible problem with leaf miners. Last year I used row covers and still had them, so I just give up. If all I wanted was the beets that wouldn't be a big problem, but without the greens, it's just not the same!

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Thanks for the tips on freezing beets, folks. I suppose I can try that sometime, only after I get my yearly allotment of pickled beets out of the way though. *grin

Honeybee, it gets pretty hot here, too, so if you have workable ground in your area mid-February or so I think that would be a good time to get your beets sown. I'm one of those who tend to soak beet seed, sometimes for several days. I wonder if you need some phosphorus in your soil to help "bulb" them up better....

Jo, those leaf miners can be a pain cus the larvae overwinter in the soil and will come right up under your row cover. Hopefully you can move your beet growing area to a new area. Most pesticides won't have an effect on them and the ones that do will have a bigger effect on your good bugs. Friends of mine say BioNeem does wonders for them against leaf miners though, acting as a repellent as well as an eventual killer. Maybe you'll have good results with that.

Shoe (rained in today)

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

Shoe- I just grew beets one time in that area. Are the larvae there anyway and only get in certain crops? My garden is only 3 years old- I created it when I moved here in spring '08, so don't have much history with it.

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Howdy, Jo...

Yep, leaf miners love certain weeds, lambsquarters especially. So if your garden was a weedy area that could be why. Or perhaps they came in on something else, soil/dirt/etc.

If they are few and far between I wouldn't worry too much; if they cause huge damage though I'd try the BioNeem to get them under control.

Shoe

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

Colorado had hot summers and cold winters both. Like I mentioned, I plant beets a few at a time until the leaf miners seem to be past their peak. Then I go ahead and plant spinach and chard. Basically - between the leaf miners and the heat - beets, spinach, and swiss chard end up being a fall crop. The last sowing usually does best and partially winters over. So in addition to trying an early planting, I'd recommend a late one. I do "Harvard" (sweet and sour) beets. I use my beet recipe on other things too like summer squash.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Horseshoe -

Quoting:
I wonder if you need some phosphorus in your soil to help "bulb" them up better...


I use seabird guano in my fertilizer mix, so I don't think that's the problem.

http://homeharvest.com/guano.htm

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Well, it could be. Guano is high in P but unless you use the proper amount you won't get the high percentage of P it claims it gives. Just curious, what else goes in your fertilizer mix?

shoe

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

I goggled "leaf miner" to see what you are talking about. Says it could be larvae of many different insects. I've never seen damage like that here.

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

Anyone who has not had lefminers is REALLY lucky!They are so hard to control since they live inside the leaf tissue layers.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Horseshoe - I use this fertilizer from Territorial Seed

http://www.territorialseed.com/product/1639/22

plus: crab meal, dolomite lime, mycorrhizae, and trace elements.

My tomatoes love this mix!

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Quoting:
the beet greens are wonderful


If I harvest the leaves, will that affect the beet's growth?

Great thread. We just love beets and I have planted my first crop this fall. I need to put out another batch of seeds soon. Thanks all for the great info.

Danville, IN

You can harvest a few from each plant as they grow with no noticeable harm, from my experience. The thinnings provide lots of leaves and yummy baby beets, too. As the beets mature, you will have lots and lots of nice large leaves to use. They are delicious and very nutritious.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I've grown beets for the last two seasons. Direct sowed seeds in my raised bed for Bulls Blood and Chioggia around October/mid-November (next time, I'll sow around the end of September or when it first starts getting consistently cool). It took them awhile to germinate, but once they did, they took off.

Only problem I had was not thinning them enough (didn't know), and the roots didn't get as big as they could've. But, I made up for that when Aunt Beatrix cooked the beet greens for me -- and I've been chasing the leaves ever since.

I still love the pickled beet bottoms (Aunt Bea taught me how), but, unless you've had the tops and some of the stems (rough chopped) sauteed in a little olive oil with some garlic and onions, and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar (to cut any bitterness), you don't know what you've been missing!

I never knew!

Thumbnail by Gymgirl
Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Sounds like Aunt Bea is a keeper!

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

Why add all this stuff to the greens ? We boil just the stems, add a little salt & pepper & butter. Then you can actually taste the greens instead of onions & garlic.

Danville, IN

Oh, Country Gardens, they are good both ways. Love onion and garlic. I even sometimes add a splash of balsamic vinegar to the beet greens. (Notice that GymGirl didn't use butter either.). We fix beet greens a little differently every time. Even guests that say they don't like beets rave over the greens!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

CG,
It's a CREOLE thing (for me), and a CAJUN thing (for others).

It's called a "trinity," and southern cooks rarely eliminate it from recipes.

The Trinity = Onions, Celery and Bell Pepper. The Trinity as they are known, are the beginning of many a fine dish here in South Louisiana. ...ALWAYS onions and bell pepper. Most times add celery. Sometimes add garlic...

ALWAYS uhm, uhm, good!

^^_^^

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Bernie, if you just cook the stems are you throwing the leafy part away? Just wondered. I cook the leaves and stems, starting the stems first so they get a bit more tender, then add the leafy tops.

And yep, salt and pepper, butter...it'll do justice to lots of stuff! Yummy. Like some of the others here though I'll add some extra flavors sometimes, too. (especially feta)

Shoe (who thinks Gymgirls Aunt Bea is from Mayberry and Gymgirl might be Opie all grown up...*grin) :>)

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Shoe,

I'll take that as the supreme compliment I know it is!

Yep! Opie is good people, all grown up! ^^_^^

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Agreed! Rock on Mayberry! (But not too loud after 10:00 cus it might upset Otis's sleep down at the jail cell. And you know how Barnie gets.)

Happy Gardening!

Shoe (who just brought in his prized red oak for the wood stove tonight instead of the poplar/gum/softwood mix. Brrrr...too windy and the thermometer's red line is headin' for the lower teens tonight!)

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Shoe,
If it's dipping into the teens, then you need a sip of the Baldwin Ladies' dear "Papa's Recipe" to keep you warm tonight.

Oops! They're over on Walton's Mountain! ^^_^^

(I see we may have similar TV tastes...)

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Awww, bless them sisters! I'm sure I can muster up some sort of holiday to qualify for their sippin's.

Brrrr... guess I'll settle for Brats and mashed potatoes. Oh yeh, and some pickled beets on the side!

Shoe

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I use leaves and stems when the beet (or turnip) has enough to spare. If I have the time and ambition, I remove the stem and main leaf vein from the leave, chop them into shorter pieces and start them cooking first, then add the leaf greens. If I don't have the time, I either cut off all the stems and discard, or I cook leaf & stem whole. This means that when the stems are tender, the leaves will be slightly over-cooked. The way my mother cooked them was: what ever was ripe and ready that day usually ended up together. Maybe onions but maybe not.

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

All the discussion about beet greens caused me to remember that Swiss Chard is like beet greens, just no bulb. I'd bet that the 'Rainbow Lights' stems would be really nice in butter!

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