Beets can be a wonderful addition to your summer garden. Beets have many health benefits and they taste good. In this article, I will discuss the different types of beets, the best time of year to plant beets, how to prepare your garden for beets, how to plant beets, and how to harvest and process the beets. I hope this article helps you understand more about growing beets and will inspire you to plant them to your garden. Let’s get started.
Types of Beets
When the thought of beets comes to mind, you probably imagine red “bulb” looking beets. But you may be surprised to learn that there are many other types of beets besides the common big red beets. In fact, there are over fifteen types of beets. Among the many varieties of beets, however, they are only categorized into two areas by their shape: They are either round or cylindrical. Round beets will be somewhat globe-shaped, and cylindrical beets will be longer and resemble a carrot more than a round beet. Let’s learn about the different types of beets so that you will know which kind you may want to add to your own garden.
Detroit Dark Red
Earlier I mentioned that a big red beet is what comes to mind when people think of beets. A Detroit Dark Red is the type of beet that most people think of. This beet has smooth, scarlet roots that grow to mid-size and taste sweet and tender. They grow within 60 to 65 days.
Perfected Detroit Dark Red
The Perfected Detroit Dark Red beets are very similar to Detroit Dark Red beets, except that they have more shape and color. This type has a deep red color with no rings or streaks. This beet is great for pickling and canning, as well as eating fresh. It has a sweet flavor. The beets will grow in about 58 days.
The Harrier Hybrid provides a richly sweet, buttery flavor. It will grow to a softball size. This beet is great for eating fresh, pickling, and canning. This type of beet will grow in 50 days.
Ruby Queen beets have smooth and tender roots that are deep red and do not have rings. Even when processed, it will maintain its red color. They will grow in 52 days.
The roots of the Moneta beet are uniform in size and have a smooth texture. It will produce medium to tall greens. You can grow these beets in 46 days.
Merlin beets have round roots that grow uniform in size and are deep red in color. They have a high sugar content. This is a good bunching beet. It resists Downy Mildew and Cercospora. They take 75 days to mature, but you can pick them at day 60 if you want baby beets.
Once again, this is a deep red beet that is uniform in size. It has a sweet and tender flavor. The greens are about medium sized with red veins. This beet can be grown in 50 days.
As the name suggests, the Touchstone Gold has a golden color, even after cooking. It provides a sweet flavor and smooth texture. Touchstone Golds will grow in 55 days.
Blankoma beets are white colored and slightly conical. They have tall, strong, green tops. You can grow this type of beet in 55 days.
Chioggia Guardsmark is well known for its “candy cane” stripes. This beet will tolerate bolting. It will grow in 55 days.
Egyptian Flat TF 68
The Egyptian Flat TF 68 beet is a great beet to grow if you will be doing multiple plantings. It is well known for its early harvest. Its roots grow to be 3 to 5 inches and are flattened. This beet has a dark red color and is great for serving whole. It is very sweet. When planting, it prefers sandy soil. It will grow in 50 days.
Red Cloud Hybrid
The Red Cloud Hybrid is an improved Red Ace variety. It has smooth, glossy, round roots that are dark red. It is rich in flavor. This type of beet will grow in 60 days.
The Aviv has been the winner in many taste tests. It is edible from top to bottom. These beets grow uniform in size. The roots are dark red and will grow to be 2 to 4 inches with 20 to 24 inch tops. They are great for canning. Aviv beets grow in 60 days.
Boro Hybrid Organic
The Boro Hybrid Organic is a certified organic variety. It can be harvested in both the spring and fall. The roots are uniform in size and are deep red in color. This beet is a top choice for pickling. They grow in 75 days.
Bull’s Blood beets are sweet and firm, with dark red tops that are great for eating fresh. The tops will grow in 35 days and the roots will grow in 55 days.
Early Wonder Tall Top
The Early Wonder Tall Top beet will grow 3-inch roots and 18-inch tops. The tops are great in salads. The roots have red skins but are white with red stripes on the inside. This type of beet will grow in 48 to 60 days.
Forono beets are part of the cylindrical variety. These beets are sugary and sweet tasting and slices round. This beet will resist bolting and will hold up to a delayed harvest. They grow in 60 days.
Cylindra beets have roots that grow to be 5 inches long and 2 inches wide. The tops can be bunched. These beets slice even and are great for cooking and canning. They resist Scab and Cercospora well. They take 54 days to grow.
Chioggia Guardsmark are well known for their candy cane stripes.
When Is the Best Time to Plant Beets?
Now that we have learned about the many types of beets, it is time to learn how to grow beets. We’ll start with the first major question: When is the best time to plant beets? This will depend on how many crops you want to plant. If you will be planting multiple crops, make sure you start early and plant your beets in the spring. Make sure you don’t plant them too early in the spring when there is still a chance of frost. Beets grow best when planted in soil temperatures that are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The first and most important rule is that you should not plant too early.
Next, consider which type of beet you want to plant. If you plant the Cylindra beet or the Early Wonder Tall Top beet, expect it to grow quickly (around 48 to 60 days). If you won’t be planting a second crop, you can plant them later in the spring and harvest them long before the first frost.
Prepare Your Garden
Now you can prepare your garden so that you can begin growing beets. Decide where you want to plant your beets. If you already have a garden, you can plant your beets in the garden. But if you have never gardened before or do not have one where you currently live, you will need to make a garden. Make sure your garden is not too close to your house since the shadow of your home may prevent your beets from getting enough light. Also, make sure your garden is by a water source that you can access easily.
Once you have decided where you would like to grow your beets, add some soil to the garden. A soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0 is best, but slightly alkaline soils can also be tolerated by beets. To test your soil, you can purchase a soil pH tester, but most likely this will not matter. If you are using good soil and fertilizer, the pH level should be right. It is recommended to use aged manure for growing beets. If you do not have manure, then compost, bone meal, and wood ashes will work as well. Beets require especially good nutrition and a high phosphorus level to germinate. Make sure you do not have too much nitrogen in your soil because too much nitrogen will cause sprawling greens and tiny bulbs beneath the soil.
If you do not have space for a garden, you can plant beets in containers or buckets. You should plant them the same way you would in a garden by planting each beet seed 1 to 2 inches apart and 1/2 an inch deep. To get a large crop you will need to plant beets in multiple buckets. Make sure the buckets have holes in the bottom so that the water can drain properly.
Get Planting Your Beets
Once you have selected the type of beet you want to grow and where you want to grow the beets, it is time to plant. Here are the steps to planting beets:
- If the soil is dry, water the soil 24 hours before planting.
- Plant the beet seeds 1/2 an inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart. If you are not growing beets from seed, but are growing beet seedlings, you can skip this step.
- According to some gardening books, there are some specific plants you should and shouldn’t plant near beets. It is recommended to grow bush beans, onions, kohlrabi, lettuce, and members of the cabbage family near beets. However, you should not want to plant field mustard, charlock, or pole beans by beets because they can cause the beets to not grow as well.
How to Properly Care for Beets
Just like any other vegetable or fruit, you will need to care for your beet plants. If you plant beet seeds instead of seedlings, you will need to provide extra care while your beet seeds grow. The following are some beet care tips:
- Water – All plants need water, especially young beet seeds. Make sure to keep the soil moist.
- Weeds – Make sure to keep your garden weeded. Be careful when weeding your garden because beets have shallow roots and can easily be disturbed. Also, be careful when weeding your garden when the beets are young seedlings. You can easily mistake a young beet plant for a weed, so be careful.
- Thinning – If you notice that you have a lot of beets coming up in one section, you will want to thin them out. Thinning is necessary if you want healthy beet plants that thrive.
- Pests – Be on the lookout for pests that can damage your crop. Flea Beetles, Leafhoppers, and Mexican Bean Beetles can damage beets. Be careful when using pesticides or herbicides since they may also damage your beets.
How to Harvest Beets
Most beet varieties can be harvested in 50 to 75 days. Keep an eye on your garden to see when your beets can be harvested. Remember the date that you planted them so that you will know when it is time to harvest them. You should be able to tell when your plants are ready to harvest. The beets will begin to appear above the ground and they should be large in size (depending on the type you grew). You can also tell when to harvest beets by looking at the tops. If the tops are about 6 inches tall, it is definitely time to harvest your beets. To harvest beets, all you have to do is pull on the tops and they come right up. Since beets have shallow roots, you shouldn’t have any problem picking the beets.
Image Source: Mariann Foster
How to Process Beets
Processing beets is easy. I will go over three common ways to process beets below.
This is my favorite method because it’s quick. After picking your beets, wash them off to remove all dirt. Next, cut the greens off, but don’t discard the greens. I will go over how to process the greens below. Cover the beets with water and boil for 20 minutes. Remove them from the heat. If you want to speed up the process, put the beets in ice-cold water and wait until they are cool enough to handle. Otherwise, you can simply wait for them to cool on their own. Remove the skins and cut in slices or quarters (whichever you prefer). Place the beets in freezer bags. Remove as much air as possible or if you may use vacuum freezer sealer. Use a permanent marker to date your bags and put them in the freezer. I like to lay my beet bags out flat to so that they take up less freezer space.
Can The Beets Using a Water Bath Method or Pressure Cooker
If you have a pressure cooker, you may want to can your beets using this method. If not, you may can them using the hot water bath method. I will share a link to a site here that will go into more detail about how to can beets.
Store in a Refrigerator, Then Cook and Eat
If you want to eat fresh beets, you can store them in the crisper section of your refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks. First, place the beets in a Ziploc plastic bag while removing as much air as possible. When you are ready to eat them, you can cook them in a pan on the stove top with olive oil and salt or season to your liking. They will cook much the same as other root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots.
A great way to process beets is to can them.
How to Process Beet Greens
Beet greens have more nutrition than the beet roots and taste good too. However, a lot of people assume that the greens do not have any value and cannot be eaten. But this is not true! Beet greens can be used as part of a delicious salad or can be cooked as a side dish of vegetables. If you don’t have enough time to eat the greens before they spoil, don’t worry. The following are some ways to process the beet greens.
Dehydrate Beet Greens
One easy way to process beet greens is to dehydrate them. Begin by washing the greens and pat them dry with a towel. Spread them out on dehydrator trays. Set your dehydrator on 135 degrees Fahrenheit for two to three hours. Store the greens in an airtight container.
Freeze Beet Greens
Freezing beet greens is another simple and easy way to save beet greens. Begin by cutting the beet tops off the beets into thin slices. Leave the stem attached. Remove any parts of the greens that have been nibbled by insects as well as any yellow leaves. Make sure the greens are sliced into thin pieces and that the stem is cut into bite-size pieces. Place the sliced beet greens and stems in a blanching pot. Blanch the greens for three minutes in boiling water. Immediately remove the inner pot filled with the greens and run cool water over them. Pour the greens into a sink or large bowl filled with ice water to cool. After a minute or two, remove the beet greens from the ice water and set them on a towel. Allow them to air dry for a couple of hours.
Next, you seal them in a bag. If you have a vacuum sealer, use it. Otherwise, you can place a straw in a Ziploc bag and suck out all the air. Seal the bag and label it, and toss it in the freezer. Frozen beet greens will last about a year. Make sure all the moisture is out because your beet greens may get freezer burned if there is any moisture left in the bag.
I hope this article has helped you understand more about growing beets. As you can see, there are many types of beets to choose from. The most popular type of beet is the Detroit Dark Red. However, there are many other varieties including beets that are golden, white, and even striped. Once you decide which type you would like to grow, you can prepare your garden for growing beets. In this article, I shared tips and instructions to prepare your garden for beet planting. The best time of year to plant your beets, especially if you want a second crop, is spring. You can plant your second crop anytime during early summer to early fall, depending on where you live, as long as you harvest the beets before the first frost comes.
In this article, I also went over how to properly care for and harvest your beets. Once the beets are harvested, there are many ways to process them. Although some people do not realize that the beet greens are edible, beet greens are just as good as the beets and contain even more nutrition. But before you can process your beets you have to plant them. So get planting! Your work will soon be rewarded with a large harvest of beets.
I am currently trying to understand the growing and harvesting of beets. I keep seeing the phrase “If the tops are about 6 inches tall, it is definitely time to harvest your beets.”, but then the photo nearby shows stems that are far beyond 6″. I’m leery to harvest because I have not seen the crown of the beet yet emerge above ground.
I’m taking a patient step to this, but it is frustrating not really knowing what or when to do it.