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When to Plant Beets
Beets are fast growing, cool season crops that are simple to harvest. In order to sow beet seeds, wait until last frost and plant them in early spring. Although susceptible to wireworms, root maggots, and cutworms, beets are generally hardy, able to withstand a cooler climate and partial shade, and can still be harvested in the fall.
How to Plant Beets
Beets are root crops that are easy to plant and quick to grow. Below are some steps to start planting beets:
- Soak your beet seeds. Beets have a slow germination process, so soaking them overnight before planting can help soften their hard shell.
- Use slightly acidic soil. Plant beets in the ground with a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.5. If you’re having trouble raising the pH level of your soil, add compost or herbivore manure.
- Sow beet seeds. Sow seeds directly into the garden soil. You can do this by “digging” a shallow trench about a fingertip deep. Beets shouldn’t be overcrowded, so place the seeds about three to four inches apart.
- Companion plant. Planting a variety of different crops together can increase the growth and quality of your flora and veggies. While you shouldn’t grow your beets near pole beans or field mustard, a few good companions for beets are onions, beans, lettuce, cabbage family vegetables, and catnip. Radishes can also be useful, as they create loose soil when they’re grown and harvested, and beets tend to grow better when the soil is less dense.
- Mind your seasons. Beets that are sown in the fall (about two months before the first expected frost) will have a stronger hue and higher sugar content than spring beets.
How to Care for Beets
Beet growth and care requires only a little maintenance to consistently produce bountiful beet harvests.
- Beet plants should get plenty of sun. They may do well in cooler temperatures and partially shaded spots, but beets still like their sunlight. Make sure beets are planted in an area of your garden that gets enough full sun.
- Keep the ground moist. You’ll also have to tend to your soil moisture while your beet seeds germinate. Water as necessary to keep your soil hydrated and your beets thriving, and add mulch or organic matter to your plants in order to keep the soil nutrient-rich and from overheating in the summer months.
- Check for pests. Beets are susceptible wireworms, root maggots, and cutworms, as well as beet leaf miners, rodents, and deer, who feed on beet tops. Barriers and traps can help keep away most mammals, while companion planting or pesticide use can take care of most insect pests.
How to Harvest Beets
When harvesting beets, orbs should be about one to two inches in diameter for the most tender beets. The beets’ “shoulders” should be protruding slightly through the top of the soil. Avoid picking beets with soft spots or loose skin.
The longer you wait to harvest your beets, the tougher and more fibrous they become. While larger beets are still edible, they should be boiled or steamed, rather than eaten raw. When the beet greens reach about six inches, you can harvest them for salads or cooking.
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