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Beets Growing Guide

How to Grow Beets

Beets are a cool-season crop that thrives in the cool temperatures of spring and fall. They do poorly in hot weather. Suitable for both large and small home gardens, beets require little space. They are grown for both their roots, which are often pickled, and their young tops, which can be used as greens. About 10 feet of row per person will provide enough beets to use fresh or for canning.

Soil Preparation

Before planting, ensure the soil is free of rocks, trash, and large sticks. Incorporate fine pieces of plant material such as grass, leaves, and small sticks to enrich the soil. Spade the soil 8 to 10 inches deep, covering all plant material to facilitate quick breakdown.

Beets do best in sandy soil in the spring and heavier soil in the fall because sandy soil warms faster. They do not grow well in tight clay. In poorly drained areas, create ridges 4 to 6 inches tall to allow water to drain. Adequate organic matter in the soil prevents crusting, as crusty soil causes beet roots to become tough.


Beets are grown for both the root and top. The tops of any variety can be used for greens when prepared properly. Popular varieties include:


In many South Texas areas, beets can be grown all winter. Further north, plant them as soon as the soil can be worked in spring, ensuring the soil temperature is at least 40°F for beet seeds to sprout.

Using a hoe handle, stick, or similar object, make a furrow ½ inch deep down the center of the ridge. Each beet seed produces 2 to 6 plants. Space the seeds 1 to 2 inches apart in the row, cover lightly with loose soil, and sprinkle with water. Use seeds treated with a fungicide to prevent young plants from rotting. Plants should emerge in 7 to 14 days. In hot weather, cover seeds with sand or light-colored mulch.

For a continuous supply of beets, make several plantings 3 weeks apart.


Scatter 1 cup of a complete fertilizer, such as 10-20-10, for each 10 feet of row. In clay-heavy garden soil, add compost. Mix the fertilizer 4 inches into the soil with a rake and work into beds as shown in Figure 2. Scatter 1 tablespoon of fertilizer beside the plants for each 10 feet of row when they are 4 to 6 inches tall.


Water the plants well weekly if it does not rain. Beet root systems can reach 36 inches or more if adequate soil moisture is available.

Care During the Season

Keep beet plants free of weeds, which compete for nutrients and moisture. Scratch the soil next to the plants with a rake or hand tool to prevent crusting, but do not work the soil more than 1 inch deep to avoid injuring the roots. Begin thinning the beets as soon as they become crowded. Young tops make excellent greens. After thinning, plants should be 2 to 3 inches apart.


Beets should be ready to harvest 7 to 8 weeks after planting. Young, tender tops are mild in flavor, but the greens can be used until they become large and strong-flavored. Young plants can be cooked with the root and top together, or you can use the root alone when it is the size of a golf ball or larger.

To harvest, pull the plants and cut off the root. If using the tops, wash and place them in plastic bags in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days. Roots will keep for 1 to 2 weeks in plastic bags in the refrigerator.

If not all beets are used, pull them and place them in a compost pile or spade them into the soil.


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