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The Ultimate Guide to Growing Beets

Beets can be a wonderful addition to your summer garden.  Beets have so many health benefits, and not to mention that they taste really good.  Today I will go over 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 that this article helps you understand more about growing beets, and inspire you to add 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 those common big red beets.  In fact, there is over 15 types of beets.  But among the many varieties of beets, there are only two categories that they go in.  They are either round or cylindrical.  Round beets will be round, obviously, and cylindrical beets will be longer and resemble a carrot more than a round beet.  To get you started on planting your garden, let's learn the different types.

Detroit Dark Red

Remember when I was saying that a big red beet is what comes to mind when you think of beets?  Well, this 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.  You can grow this type of beet in 58 days.

Harrier Hybrid

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.  It will grow in 50 days.

Ruby Queen

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.  It will grow in 52 days.

Moneta

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

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.

Red Ace

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.

Touchstone Gold

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

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

Chioggia Guardsmark is well known for its "candy cane" strips.  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 are 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 beet will grow in 60 days.

Aviv

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” with 20 to 24” tops.  It is great for canning.  Aviv beets grow in 60 days.

Boro Hybrid Organic

The Boro Hybrid Organic is a certified organic variety.  It can is high producing 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

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 have 3 inch roots, and 18 inch tops.  The tops are great in salads.  The roots have red skins, but are white with red stripes in the insides.  This beet will grow in 48 to 60 days.

Forono

Forono beets are part of the cylindrical variety.  These beets are sugary and sweet tasting.  It slices round.  This beet will resist bolting and will hold up to a delayed harvest.  They grow in 60 days.

Cylindra

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 is great for cooking and canning.   They resist Scab and Cercospora well.  It takes 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 get started on learning how to grow beets.  We'll start with the first major question:  When is the best time to plant beets?  Well, 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.  So the first and most important rule is that you do not plant too early.

Next, consider which type of beet you planted.  If you planted the Cylindra beet or the Early Wonder Tall Top beet, expect it to grow quick (around 48 to 60 days).  If you won't be doing a second crop, you can plant them later in the Spring and harvest them long before the first frost.

Prepare Your Garden

Now it is time to prepare your garden so that you can begin growing beets.  Begin by deciding where you want to plant your beets.  If you already have a garden, you can plant your beets there.  But if you have never gardened before or do not have one where you are currently living, you will need to make a garden.  Make sure your garden is not too close to your house, since your house's shadow may prevent your beets from getting light.  Also make sure your garden is by a water source, and that you can easily get access to it.

Once you have decided where you would like to grow your beets, add some soil to it.  A soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0 is best, but slightly alkaline soils are can be tolerated by beets.  What does this mean?  You could buy 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, 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, as 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 would plant them the same way you would in a garden by planting each beet seed 1 to 2 inches apart and 1/2 inch deep.  To get a large crop you would need to plant beets in multiple buckets.  Make sure the buckets have holes on the bottom so that the water can drain.

Get Planting Your Beets

Once you have selected the type of beet you want to grow and where you want to grow them, it is time to get planting.   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 inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart.  If you are not growing beets from seed, but instead 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 will not want to plant field mustard, charlock, or pole beans by beets, as 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 beets.  If you are planting beet seeds instead of seedlings, you will need to provide extra care while your beet seeds are growing.  Here are some beet care tips:

  • Water - All plants need water, especially young beet seeds.  Make sure you keep the soil moist.
  • Weeds - Make sure to keep your garden weeded.  Be careful when weeding your garden, as 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, Leaf Hoppers, and Mexican Bean Beetles can damage beets.  Be careful when using pesticides or herbicides, as they may hurt your beets.

How to Harvest Beets

Most beet varieties can be harvested from 50 to 75 days.  Keep an eye on your garden to see when your beets become ready to be eaten.  Also 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 should 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.  As for how to harvest beets, all you have to do is pull on them and they come right up.  Beets have shallow roots, so you shouldn't have any problem picking the beets.

Image Source: Mariann Foster

How to Process Beets

Processing beets is easy.  I'll go over three common ways to process beets below.

Freezer

This is my favorite method because it's quick and I happen to have a lot of freezer space this year.  After you pick your beets, wash them off to remove all dirt.  Next cut the greens off.  But wait!  Don't discard the greens.  I'll go over how to process the greens below.  Boil your beets for 20 minutes and then remove from 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.  Or simply wait for them to cool down on their own.  Remove skins and cut in slices or quarters whichever you prefer.  Place in freezer bags.   Remove as much air as possible or if you have a vacuum freezer sealer, now is a great time to use it.  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.  Then when frozen flat, I reorganize the freezer and put them where I want them.

Can Them Using a Water Bath Method or Pressure Cooker

If you have a pressure cooker, you may want to can your beets that way.  If not you can can them using the hot water bath method. I'll 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 are wanting to eat fresh beets, you can store them in the crisper section of your refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.  First place in a zip lock 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 up much the same as other root vegetable 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 make a delicious salad, or can be cooked as a side dish of vegetables.  But if you don't have enough time to eat the greens before they go bad, don't worry!  Here 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 patting them dry with a towel.  Spread them out of dehydrator trays.  Set your dehydrator on 135F for two to three hours.  Store the greens in an air tight 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 on by insects, as well as yellow leaves.  Make sure the greens are sliced into thin pieces and the stem is in bite size pieces.  Once you are done slicing, place the sliced beet greens and stems in a blanching pot.  Blanch the greens for three minutes in boiling water. After three minutes is up, immediately remove the inner pot filled with the greens and run cool water over them.  Pour them into a sink or large bowl filled with ice water to cool.  After a minute or two, remove the beet greens for the ice water and set them on a towel.  Allow them to air dry for a couple hours.  Next, you will need to seal them in a bag.  If you have a vacuum sealer, you can use that.  Otherwise, you can place a straw in a Ziploc bag and suck out all the air.  After all the air is out of the bag, label the bag 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 burnt if they have moisture in the bag.

Final Thoughts

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 like a candy cane.  Once you decide which type you would like to grow, you can prepare your garden for growing beets.  In this article I went over the tips and instructions to preparing your garden.  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.  Just make sure you harvest them before the first frost come.  In this article I also went over how to properly care and harvest your beets.  Once they are harvested, there are many ways to process them.  Although some people do not the beet greens, the 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 go get planting.  Your work will soon be rewarded with a large harvest of beets.

Mariann Foster

I am one of our content writers for Everything Backyard. I am a mother and business owner of Big Horn Mountain Alpacas in Wyoming. I love farm life, cutting my own firewood in the mountains, and participating in local trail run races.

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