How to Grow Gourmet Garden Beetroot

, written by us flag

Gourmet garden beets

I grew up in a region where nobody ate beetroot. A few upstarts ate the canned version, but I was well into my adulthood before I tasted garden-fresh beetroots. What a revelation! Both beetroot greens and beet roots are delicious, and growing beetroot is easy if you use a few tricks.

A truly ancient food crop, gardeners have been growing and harvesting beetroot for four thousand years. Garden beetroot are enjoying a surge in popularity because of their beauty, nutrition, and complex flavours. Very dark red beet roots have a deep, rich, spicy flavour compared to yellow beetroot, which taste so mild they could almost be considered a different vegetable. Varieties can be had with lovely ring patterns, but let your choice of varieties be guided by your taste buds and your eyes. I like red beets for canning, but I plant a mix of varieties to bring a diversity of flavours and colours to the table.

Growing Beetroot

A cool-season crop that grows best in spring and fall, beetroot mature in 60 days or so, and mature beetroot will usually hold in the garden for a couple of weeks. Beetroot grow best in rich, fertile soil with a near-neutral pH between 6.2 and 7.5.

Thinning out beetroot seedlings
Thinning out beetroot seedlings

Beetroot seeds are spiky nutlets that enclose pairs of tiny lentil-like seeds. Germination is often rapid yet spotty following warm spring rains; the easiest way to fill in skips in rows is to plant more seeds. It’s never too soon to start thinning and weeding beetroots, which I do with my fingers and the tip of an old steak knife. If both of the seeds in a nutlet germinate, one of the twins must be pulled out or snipped out with a small pair of scissors. When faced with numerous seedlings that must be thinned, I’ve had good luck lifting and transplanting very young beetroot seedlings, but seedlings moved when they have more than three leaves never recover from the trauma.

Maintaining steady soil moisture and controlling weeds are the two biggest challenges in growing beetroot. Beetroots that are allowed to run dry tend to develop high levels of geosmin in their tissues, which is the chemical compound that gives beetroots their earthy flavor and aroma. A little geosmin is good, but too much and your beetroots will start tasting like dirt. Please note: geosmin is most concentrated in the skins of beetroots, which should always be removed as they are prepared for the table.

After my beetroots are properly thinned and weeded, I often use a newspaper mulch to block out weeds. Thin layers of grass clippings are even better.

Beetroots growing through newspaper mulch
A newspaper mulch helps to suppress weeds

Harvesting Beetroot

You can start harvesting beetroot greens for salads or cooking anytime, but removing leaves may reduce how much energy the plants can apportion to plump roots. Beetroots push up out of the soil as they expand, taking the guesswork out of beetroot harvesting time. Lightly wash beetroots after you pull them, and cut the leaves back to 2 inches before storing beetroot in the refrigerator. Leaving the leaves intact takes moisture from the harvested beetroots, but you can steam and freeze the young, tender beetroot greens taken from the centres of the crowns. In recipes, cooked chopped beetroot greens are interchangeable with closely related spinach or chard. Clean beetroots will keep in the fridge or root cellar for a couple of months.

Harvested beetroots

As spring turns to summer, you can allow beetroots to stay in the ground as long as they are not stressed by dry conditions or searing sun. In hot summer areas, many gardeners erect shade covers over growing beetroots to preserve their quality during heat spells, thus stretching beetroot harvesting season by a couple of weeks.

Growing Beetroot in Fall

I grow a second crop of beetroot in the fall. In my experience, beetroot grown when days are getting shorter and cooler tend to be small but quite sweet. Plants left behind often survive winter in my garden, and overwintered plants produce a fast flush of beetroot greens before developing flowering stems from multiple crowns. Beetroots are true biennials, so they must endure a period of chilling before they develop flowers and seeds. The wait for ripe seeds can last 6 weeks from bolting, but it’s time well spent if you want to grow a seed crop from an open pollinated variety.

By Barbara Pleasant

Plants Related to this Article

Pests, Beneficial Insects and Plant Diseases

< All Guides

Garden Planning Apps

If you need help designing your vegetable garden, try our Vegetable Garden Planner (for PC & Mac) or if you'd prefer an app for your mobile or tablet device, our iPad & iPhone app Garden Plan Pro is available on the App Store here.
Garden Planning Apps and Software

Vegetable Garden Pest Warnings

Want to Receive Alerts When Pests are Heading Your Way?

If you've seen any pests or beneficial insects in your garden in the past few days please report them to The Big Bug Hunt and help create a warning system to alert you when bugs are heading your way.

Show Comments



Comments

 
"Beets have been a problem for me. I love them, but for some reason, they either never attain a large size or flop over as seedlings. Should they be protected by row cover? Do they need full sun? My turnips and carrots do fine, but the beets have trouble."
April Campbell on Saturday 30 April 2011
"What SPECIFIC amendments do beets prefer? Phosphorus,Potassium, Magnesium Dol.Lime, Ground Corn etc.? Of course everything loves compost, compost Tea and fish fertilizer. What about disease and insects?"
Tee Jay on Saturday 30 April 2011
"Oh, what about companion plants (and how specifically close to the good and bad guys?) and lastly, rotation?"
Tee JAY on Saturday 30 April 2011
"April, beets do need full sun, and I hope you keep trying because the success of your carrots is a good sign. I've used row cover to hide beets from deer, and the beets never complained. TJ, beets have few insect pests and they come and go quickly, and are best rotated in a block with spinach and chard. I often interplant with kohlrabi or onions because they grow at the same time. The only specific soil amendment that may not be adequately supplied by compost is boron, but it's needed in very small amounts and few gardeners will need to add it. Beets are generalists I suppose, in that fertile soil produces the best beets. "
Barbara Pleasant on Sunday 1 May 2011
"I love beets, but like April, I have trouble growing them. I suspect it because the pH of my soil is too low. It probably gets below 6.0 at times."
Bill Brikiatis on Thursday 5 May 2011
"i have sowed from seed but not sure how big they need to be before i plant outside. please help, steve"
steve johnson on Friday 6 May 2011
"Steve, transplant those babies right away, when they don't have their first true leaf yet if you can. Good luck!"
Barbara Pleasant on Saturday 7 May 2011
"In the past two weeks my beets, which had been doing great, have gone from having thick bunches of bright green healthy leaves to a situation where the leaves seem to be riddled with some kind of leaf miner. Over the course of a week nearly half of the leaves have developed papery thin dry patches. There is no visible pests on the leaves but something is really running amock ... suggestions?"
Jim Nicol on Saturday 30 July 2011
"Both spinach leaf miners and beet leaf miners can damage beets. The miners are fly larvae that feed inside the leaf, so insecticides can't help. Removing infested leaves can stop a second generation, and some people trap the adult flies with blue sticky traps. Leaf miners are usually a sporadic rather than a chronic problem, and your beet crop should be fine as long as the damage is not too severe."
Barbara Pleasant on Saturday 30 July 2011
"beet juice drank daily will extend your life span to over 900 years"
j on Saturday 8 December 2012
"can you seed in fall over winter seeds in ground ready for spring"
bob sibley on Sunday 18 October 2015
"Unless you live in a mild winter climate, it is best to plant beet seeds in spring. Seed sown in fall may be eaten by critters or rot, and any that sprout and survive the cold would promptly bolt in spring. "
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 19 October 2015
"I planted my beets late mid summer. I have been picking and eating them every so often. They are very tiny and sweet. I became very busy and there are a few still in garden. It snow January should i pick them first thing in the morning or will theybe ok through these snowy months. April H. "
April HuckAbay on Thursday 7 January 2016
"Hard freezes do beets no good and may kill them, so I would go ahead and harvest the little beets you have, and store them in the refrigerator. "
Barbara Pleasant on Thursday 7 January 2016
"Hi, the information on the web is very confusing about whether transplanting beets is advisable or not. I've just transplanted a stack of beet seedlings but they've all already got two or more true leaves. Now I see you don't recommend transplanting at all. Should I dig them in and start again?"
Donna on Sunday 19 March 2017
"Hi Donna, It is not advisable to transplant beets, but they can't read so they don't know it. Beets grow just as well if not better from direct sowing, but if the transplants receive good care and keep their taproots intact, they can make a nice crop. Good luck!"
Barbara Pleasant on Monday 20 March 2017

Add a Comment

Add your own thoughts on the subject of this article:
(If you have difficulty using this form, please use our Contact Form to send us your comment, along with the title of this article.)

 
   
(We won't display this on the website or use it for marketing)



Captcha


(Please enter the code above to help prevent spam on this article)



By clicking 'Add Comment' you agree to our Terms and Conditions