Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How to Grow Beets in the North

Chioggia Guardsmark
Beets are a multi-purpose vegetable that are easy to grow in the north under the right conditions and with the proper care. They’re edible from top to bottom from their young greens to mature roots. Whether planting to eat fresh or for pickling, follow the proper growing requirements and choose a suitable variety to ensure a healthy and abundant crop.

Plant Type: Annual
Genus: Goose root family
Name: Beta vulgaris

Growing Requirements for the North

When to Plant: Plant when soil temperatures have warmed to 65-75°F and all danger of frost has past.

Light Requirement: Full sun

Soil Type: A mix of sand and loam that is deep and well draining to allow beet roots to easily push through the soil and avoid root rot. The garden bed should be twice as deep as the beets at full maturity. Beet size is found on the backs of seed packets or in seed catalogs. Never use clay or compacted soils as these will inhibit beet root growth.

Spacing: Consult the sowing directions on the back of the seed packet to ensure proper spacing. Typically, beets are spaced 8-12" apart and ½ -1" deep. This may vary depending on the variety. Direct sow seeds in the ground. Beets do not transplant well and have plenty of time to grow in the north’s short growing season. To save time sowing, buy ready made seed tapes or make your own.

Watering: Keep beets evenly watered making sure not to over do it. Keep an eye on the soil to make sure it doesn’t harden between waterings. If the soil starts to crack, the soil is too dry.

Weeding: Carefully pull all weeds making sure not to disturb the beet root.

Mulching: Mulch around beets after thinning to control weeds and keep the soil moist. 

Garden Pest and Disease Control

Keep an eye out for Spinach Leaf Miners and Leaf Spots. Leaf miners leave behind squiggly lines yellow in color. They mostly damage beet greens. To get rid of these pests organically, treat the greens with neem oil or introduce Diglyphus isaea wasps into the garden. These wasps will happily feed on leaf miners.(

To identify leaf spot on beets, look for tannish-brown spots (color may vary) that will spread over time diminishing the amount of sugar in the beets and often times killing off foliage if the infestation is severe. Be proactive by planting leaf spot resistant varieties and rotating the crop. If a severe infestation occurs, fungicidal spray may help. (

How to Harvest Beets

Harvesting beets can be done in two phases depending on whether or not the greens are harvested as well as the root. To harvest young greens, snip when at the desired size leaving 1-2" of the greens in place. To harvest the roots, grasp the greens near their base and twist and pull. Some beets show their tops when ready for harvest. Consult the seed packet once again for days to harvest for a good idea of when they’ll be ready. Beets typically take between 50-65 days to mature depending on the variety.

Beet Varieties to Grow in the North

Types of Beets

Round: Roots grow wider rather than longer making them round in shape.
Cylindrical: Roots grow longer rather than wider making them cylindrical in shape.

List of Beet Varieties by Type

Round Beet Varieties

Detroit Dark Red

Perfected Detroit: Grows uniform in size and color. Deep red with no rings or streaks. Sweet flavor great for eating fresh, pickling and canning. 58 days.

Harrier Hybrid: Provides a richly sweet, buttery flavor. Grows to softball size. Great for eating fresh, pickling and canning. 50 days.

Ruby Queen: Early variety. Roots are smoothed skinned and tender. Beets are deep red without rings. Colors holds up through processing. 52 days.

Moneta: Roots are uniform in size with a smooth texture. No need to thin these deep colored beets. Produces medium-tall greens. 46 days.

Merlin: Round roots grow uniform in size and are deep red in color. High sugar content. A good bunching beet. Shows some resistance to Downy Mildew and Cercospora.

Red Ace: Uniform in size and deep red in color. Sweet and tender. Expect rapid root growth. Greens are medium-tall with red veins. Can be bunched. 50 days.

Touchtone Gold: Gold colored beets remain gold even after cooking. Provides a sweet flavor and smooth texture. 55 days.

Blankoma: Roots are white and slightly conical. Tall, strong, green tops. 55 days.

Chioggia Guardsmark: Improved skin color with candy striping. Tolerates bolting. 55 days.

Egyptian Flat TF 68:  Early harvest - great for multiple plantings in the north. Roots grow 3-5” and are flattened. Great for serving whole. Very sweet. Prefers sandy soil. 50 days.

Red Cloud Hybrid: Improved Red Ace variety. Smooth, glossy, round roots are dark red. Rich in flavor. 60 days.

Aviv: Uniform in size. Edible from top to bottom. Winner of many taste tests. Dark red roots grow 2-4” with 20-24” tops. Great for canning. 60 days.

Boro Hybrid Organic: Certified organic variety. High-producing for both spring and fall crops. Uniform, deep-red roots grow mid-size. A top choice for pickling. 75 days.

Detroit Dark Red: All-purpose variety. Smooth, scarlet roots grow mid-size and are sweet and tender. Produces short tops. 60 days.

Bull’s Blood: All-purpose variety. Bulbs are sweet and firm, tops dark red and great for eating fresh. Tops - 35 days, Roots - 55 days.

Early Wonder Tall Top: Early variety. Roots grow to 3” and tops grow 18” tall and are great in salads. Roots have red skins and white insides with red stripes. 48-60 days.

Cylindrical Beet Varieties

Forono: Cylindrical variety. Sugary and sweet tasting. Slices round. Resists bolting. Holds up to a delayed harvest. 60 days.

Cylindra: Roots grow on average to 5" long and 2" wide. Large tops can be bunched. Easy to evenly slice. Great for cooking and canning. Resists Scab and Cercospora well. Good taste. 54 days.

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