15 Proven Tips For a Bountiful Beet Harvest

Beets aren’t necessarily well-loved by everyone, and that’s a shame because they are delicious, nutritious, and very versatile. In Eastern European cooking, beets play a regular starring role. For those of us who appreciate their earthy flavor and vibrant color, their delicious edible greens, cultivating these root vegetables is a must.

Beets are easy to grow, hardy, adaptable, not fussy at all, and they can be grown from early spring throughout fall.

Let’s take a look at what your beets need to thrive so that you can harvest your most abundant yields yet.

Choosing the Right Beet Varieties

Beets grow in the garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Beets come in various types, each with unique characteristics suitable for different culinary needs. Red beets, such as ‘Detroit Dark Red’, are perhaps the most familiar, prized for their deep violet color and sweet, earthy flavor, which makes them perfect for both cooking and juicing.

Golden beets offer a sweeter taste and don’t bleed their color, making them a favorite for raw dishes to add both flavor and a splash of color without staining.

Then there’s the Chioggia beet, or candy cane beet, known for its distinctive red and white striped interior. Chioggia beets have a slightly more subdued sweetness, ideal for salads and decorative side dishes where visual appeal is as important as taste.

Remember that each beet “seed” actually contains multiple seeds inside when planting.

Get A Head Start Indoors

Freshly harvested beets on the ground.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

To kick off your beet growing indoors, fill seed trays or small pots with high-quality seed starting mix and plant the beet seeds about half an inch deep. They thrive in mild temperatures, ideally between 50 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so keep them in a sunny spot or under grow lights. Remember to water just enough to keep the soil moist without making it soggy, as too much water can lead to fungal issues.

Once the seedlings develop their second set of true leaves and the weather warms up, begin hardening them off by exposing them to outdoor conditions gradually over a week. This prepares them for transplanting into your garden, setting the stage for an earlier harvest.

Soil Preparation for Beet Planting

Beets growing in the garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

For successful beet growth, ensure your soil is well-drained and rich in organic matter. Start by selecting an area that does not hold standing water. If your garden tends to be clayey or compacted, consider raising your beds to improve drainage.

Adding compost is an excellent way to enrich the soil. Spread a generous, well-decomposed compost over the planting area and work it into the soil. This enhances the soil’s nutrient content and improves its structure, making developing beet roots easier. A well-prepared bed with ample organic matter will support healthy beet growth.

In a no-till garden like ours, compost is added each fall and never tilled into the ground. We don’t use fertilizers either.

Learn More: When To Add Compost To Garden Beds {Fall or Spring?}

Planting Beets in a No-Till Garden

Young beets in a garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Planting beets in a no-till garden streamlines the cultivation process and enhances the overall soil health. In no-till practices, the soil’s structure is preserved along with the beneficial microorganisms it harbors, which helps in preventing erosion. Simply add a layer of compost to your garden beds each fall to keep the soil nutrient-rich.

For those starting a no-till garden, applying a balanced organic fertilizer in the first year to plants can help. After this initial phase, only add fertilizer if the beet plants show signs of nutrient deficiencies, like yellowing leaves or reduced growth. This method reduces the need for constant soil management and supports healthy beet development efficiently.

Learn More: No-Till Gardening {Everything You Need To Know}

The Importance of Proper Spacing

Beetroots growing in the field.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

When planting beet seeds, maintaining adequate spacing is key to preventing overcrowding and ensuring each plant has sufficient room to develop. Crowded conditions can result in smaller roots and increase the likelihood of diseases due to poor air circulation.

For best results, sow beet seeds about 1 to 2 inches apart in rows. After the seedlings emerge, thin them out to about 3 to 4 inches apart. This allows each beet to grow to its full potential both underground and above ground, promoting healthier plants and better yields.

Watering Techniques for Healthy Beets

Woman harvested beets in the garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Beets require a steady supply of water to develop smooth, tender roots. However, too much moisture can lead to waterlogged soil, causing root problems such as cracking or developing a woody texture.

To strike the right balance, aim to keep the soil moist but not saturated. During dry spells, water your beets deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather conditions and soil type. Sandy soils may require more frequent watering as they drain faster, whereas clay soils retain moisture longer and may need less.

A simple way to check soil moisture is to feel the soil about an inch below the surface; if it feels dry at that depth, it’s time to water. Using mulch around your beet plants can also help retain soil moisture and regulate soil temperature, reducing the frequency of watering and helping to maintain optimal growing conditions.

Nutrient Requirements and Fertilization

Man harvested beets in the garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Beets aren’t particularly demanding regarding soil fertility, but they need some specific nutrients to thrive. One key element for healthy beet growth is boron. A deficiency in boron can lead to black heart disease, affecting the quality and health of the root. However, beets can generally grow well even in less-than-ideal soil conditions.

For organic gardening, the best approach to fertilization is often the simplest: using compost. A well-rounded compost made from mixed sources, such as kitchen scraps, yard trimmings, and manure, can provide most, if not all, of the nutrients that beets need. This includes sufficient levels of boron, as long as the compost is diverse in its material composition.

Thinning Young Beet Plants

Freshly harvested beets in a wooden box.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Thinning young beet plants is a necessary step to ensure the development of robust beet roots. When beet seeds germinate, they often sprout in clusters because each beet “seed” is actually a capsule containing multiple seeds. Without thinning, these seedlings will compete for light, space, nutrients, and water, which can lead to overcrowded plants and underdeveloped roots.

To thin effectively, wait until the seedlings are about 2 to 3 inches tall, which usually happens a few weeks after germination. At this stage, the plants are large enough to handle without damaging the ones you want to keep. Gently pull out the extra seedlings, leaving the strongest one in each cluster. Aim for a spacing of about 3 to 4 inches between each plant. This allows the remaining beets enough room to mature and develop fully.

Thinning might seem wasteful, but it’s a critical process.

You can eat the little plant leaves as you thin by the way.

Weed Management

A bunch of beets in the woman's hands.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Effective weed control is essential for a thriving beet garden. Early intervention is key, as young beet plants are particularly vulnerable to competition from weeds. Implement strategies such as hand-pulling weeds, using a hoe for shallow cultivation, or applying organic mulches to suppress weed growth.

Regular monitoring and prompt action will help maintain a weed-free environment, allowing your beet plants to flourish.

Pest and Disease Control

Beetroot on display in farm shop.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Beet crops are susceptible to various pests and diseases, including leaf miners and fungal infections. Combat these issues using a combination of organic and conventional methods. Organic solutions may include introducing beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, or applying neem oil to deter pests.

Mulching to Retain Moisture and Suppress Weeds

Fresh beets and vegetables in a basket at farm stand.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Mulching offers numerous benefits for beet beds, including moisture retention and weed suppression. By covering the soil surface with materials like straw, compost, or shredded leaves, you can conserve moisture, reduce evaporation, and inhibit weed growth.

Organic mulches enrich the soil as they decompose, promoting overall soil health and fertility.

Learn More: Benefits Of Mulch In Your Garden {Ultimate Guide To Mulching}

Harvesting Beets at the Right Time

Woman cutting beets on a board.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Knowing when to harvest your beets ensures the best flavor and texture. Look for signs like firm roots, vibrant foliage, and beets that are about 1 to 3 inches in diameter. To harvest, gently loosen the soil around the beet, grasp the foliage near the root, and pull upward with a twisting motion. Leave about an inch of stem attached and store your harvested beets in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to use them.

Storing Beets For Longevity

Raw beetroot on wooden board.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

When storing beets in the refrigerator, start by removing any leafy greens attached to the roots, as they can cause moisture loss. These greens are perfectly edible and delicious.

Opt for alternatives to plastic, such as breathable produce bags or glass containers with ventilated lids, to maintain the necessary humidity while allowing airflow. For longer-term storage, consider storing beets in a root cellar or a cool, dark place with high humidity. In these conditions, beets can last anywhere from 2 to 4 months, depending on the variety and storage conditions.

Consider using baskets lined with damp cloth or wooden crates. Regularly inspect stored beets for signs of spoilage, discarding any that show soft spots or mold. By employing these storage methods, you can extend the shelf life of your beets and enjoy them for an extended period.

Common Myths and Misconceptions

Pickled beetroots on old wooden trunk.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Contrary to popular gardening belief, not everything requires rich soil and fertilizer — growing beets doesn’t require overly rich soil. While they do prefer fertile, well-drained soil, they can still thrive in less-than-ideal conditions with proper care.

Avoid over-fertilizing, as too much nitrogen can lead to excessive foliage growth at the expense of root development. Instead, focus on consistent watering and proper spacing to encourage healthy beet growth.

Using Beets in Recipes

Beetroot soup borsch with sour cream greens.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

One popular way to use beets is in salads. Roasted beet salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette is a classic combination that highlights the sweet and earthy flavors of beets. You can also thinly slice raw beets and add them to salads for a crunchy texture and a burst of color.

Beets can also be incorporated into soups and stews to add depth and richness to the flavor. Try adding diced beets to a hearty vegetable soup or pureeing them into a creamy beet soup for a comforting and nutritious meal.

For a unique twist, consider using beets in baked goods and desserts. Beetroot brownies are a delicious and healthier alternative to traditional brownies, thanks to the natural sweetness and moisture of the beets. You can also use pureed beets to add color and flavor to cakes, muffins, and even pancakes.

Don’t forget about the greens! Beet greens are edible and highly nutritious, with a flavor similar to Swiss chard. Sauté them with garlic and olive oil for a simple side dish, or add them to omelets, quiches, and pasta dishes for added flavor and nutrients.

Recipe: Beet Kvass (a fermented beverage and traditional component of borscht soup.)

Recipe: Blitva | Croatian Chard & Potato Side Dish (use beet greens instead of chard!)

Vegetables That Grow in Partial Shade

Beet red hummus.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Beets are one! But there’s more.

Learn More: 32 Vegetables You Can Grow in Partial Shade

Fast Growers

Beetroot soup served in a plate, accompanied by fresh beetroots on the side.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Beets can be fast from seed to harvest depending on the variety, looking for more quick wins?

Learn More: 16 Fastest Growing Vegetables For Quick Harvests

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