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Beets are a perfect crop for the backyard or small-scale grower. They are easy to grow (with our tips and tricks), can thrive in small spaces, and are best tasting when fresh from the garden. Growing beets is so rewarding too! There is nothing more enjoyable than harvesting your own beets. Sow beets directly in the garden or begin them in starter pots to be transplanted out. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to growing beets. On our farm, we typically start them in the greenhouse and plant them out. We do this since we can control the humidity and temperature in the greenhouse to get quick and even germination. If you are direct sowing (planting directly in the garden), you will want to make sure you have a way to keep the soil moist the whole time the seeds are germinating. That may mean watering by hand or irrigation several times a week or even more than once a day. Beets, like all vegetable crops, enjoy a full sun location during their appropriate growing seasons. When growing beets off-season (during hot times of the year), you can give your beet plants some shade to protect them from the high temperatures.
When to Grow Beets
Beets are a cool-season crop, meaning they like to grow in cooler weather with ample moisture. In Zones 9 and 10, beets can be grown year-round if the plants are given protection with shade cloth during the hottest times of the year. In other areas of the United States, you can grow beets during the cool months of the fall, spring, and even into early summer if you give them a bit of shade. That’s one advantage of growing beets in a pot; you can move the container into a cooler location if needed.
Growing Beets from Seed
Growing beets from seed is simple as long as you remember a few key things. Beets, like all seeds, require moisture to germinate. You need to keep the soil moist the whole time the seeds are germinating. You can start beets in starter pots indoors or sow them directly outside. If you do not get frost and temperatures are between 60-80°F, you can start the seed outdoors. If starting your seeds in starter pots, we recommend using a good quality seed starting mix soil. Seed starting mix is formulated to help seeds sprout easily through the soil and stay moist during the germination process. Beets seeds should sprout within 5-15+ days. The key to helping your seeds sprout quickly is to make sure you do not plant them too deeply and that you cover them with finely sifted soil of about ½”. By sifting your soil, you can guarantee that no large pieces of soil, mulch, or other particles cover your seeds, making it hard for them to sprout. If you are planting in the ground or trays or pots, the soil should remain moist continuously until the seedlings have sprouted.
If your seedlings have not sprouted, consult our troubleshooting guide to figure out what could have gone wrong.
Planting Beet Plants or Seedlings
Once your seedlings have gotten to a healthy size of about 2-3” tall, you can plant your beet plants in your garden. Make sure you water the area before planting and after. When you take the transplant out of the pot, you will likely disturb the roots, and that will cause the plant to be more susceptible to wilting. By watering before and after planting, you can ensure it does not wilt too much. Beets are best when spaced with a least 3-5” between each root.
Beets are an easy crop once you get them established. Use an organic fertilizer when the plants are small and struggling to grow bigger. The best fertilizer for your baby plants is a liquid fertilizer with an even number of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. For example, a good product choice is a liquid fish emulsion with 2-2-2. Harsh chemical fertilizers can burn your plants, so use a natural or organic fertilizer if possible.
Beet Companion Plants
Beets look beautiful and benefit from being interplanted with flowers. Cool-season flowers like nasturtium, gaillardia, borage all do well around beet plants. They also look beautiful! Nasturtium and borage blooms are edible and can be used in beet dishes too!
Pro Southern California Tip
For beginner gardeners in Zones 9 and 10, plant your beet seeds in the cool, wet months. If you are starting beets during the warmest months of August through October, use shade cloth to protect your baby seedlings until they are well adjusted to the heat or until the days cool off. Layers of mulch and compost help to keep the soil cooler while also keeping moisture in.
Growing Beets in Containers or In-Ground
Beets are an easy plant for growing both in the ground or in containers. Beets do not require deep soil to produce their tasty roots. That makes them an excellent crop for growing in small spaces or container gardens.
Beets are so fun to harvest! Harvest beets at any size they are worth eating. Simply pull up on the plants and enjoy their tasty, colorful roots. If you over-planted your beets and need them thinned, harvest the most crowded ones and use them in a recipe while allowing the others to grow happily with more room.