It is time to plant your beets

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Last Updated: 
July 12, 2006

CORVALLIS - Beets are best planted as early as you can get into your garden, starting in March or April, about two to four weeks before the last killing frost in your area.

Plant beets successively at three to four-week intervals into July and you will have a continuous supply of fresh, tender beets until autumn.

Beet seeds are best planted an inch or two apart, in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. Each seed is actually a dried fruit or seed ball, containing several tiny true seeds. Heat, drought or soil crusting may interfere with beet seed germination and emergence. So keep the soil surface moist to alleviate such problems. Do not overwater.

Needing a cool soil to grow and good spacing for sunlight, beets are not harmed by spring and fall frosts. But their roots may become tough during hot weather. Start thinning beets to three to four inches apart when the leaves are about six inches tall. Use these young beets for greens. Begin harvesting beet roots when they reach the size of your little finger. This thinning will provide more room for the remaining plants. Most beets mature in about eight to nine weeks from planting. Harvest the remainder before they become woody or freeze in the fall.

A 10- to 15-foot row of beets will feed a family of four during the growing season. The root depth averages up to six inches, so water deeply.

According to the University of California at Berkeley Wellness Encyclopedia of Foods and Nutrition, beets have the highest sugar content of any vegetable, but are low in calories. Beet roots contain vitamin C and folacin, key nutrients for good heath. And beet greens, eaten like spinach, are excellent sources of vitamin A, calcium and iron. Beets can be prepared as a hot side dish, in soups such as borscht, in salads and can be pickled. They can be boiled, steamed, microwaved or wrapped in foil and baked.

The Oregon State University Extension Service recommends the following varieties of beets as performing well in Oregon:

  • Ruby Queen, Red Ace, Warrior, Scarlet Early, Kestrel, Solo;
  • (cylindrical) Cylindra, Forono
  • (golden) Golden.
  • (novelty, white) Snowhite, Albina Verduna.

For more information about growing beets, carrots, radishes, onions and other root crops, visit our on-line publications and video catalog at: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/

Author: Carol Savonen
Source: Deborah Kean