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Complete Guide with Photos ~ Homestead and Chill

Come learn how to grow beets at home. This post will explore everything you need to know to successfully grow beets from seed or seedlings, such as the best time to plant beets, spacing and thinning tips, when to harvest, along with how to store, use, or preserve beets. I’ve also included a list of the best beet varieties to grow – including my personal favorites. Don’t forget that beet greens are edible and delicious too!

A large beet is growing in soil, half of the root is sticking out of the top of the top of the soil line. Many beet and carrot seedlings are planted in the same area. A large beet is growing in soil, half of the root is sticking out of the top of the top of the soil line. Many beet and carrot seedlings are planted in the same area.

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Best Beet Varieties

  • Boro – my top favorite beet variety! Deep red Boro beets are superbly sweet and tender, even when they get large! This enables us to slowly harvest them over a window of many months, starting when they’re small and then “field storing” the rest in the soil to pick as needed.
  • Early Wonder – a classic red beet variety. Early Wonder beets mature quickly, and offer tall delicious green tops.
  • Chioggia – a real show-stopper! The pink and white ring bullseye pattern inside a cut Chioggia beet makes them exceptionally beautiful and interesting. Bonus: they’re bolt-resistant (meaning they can tolerate warmer temperatures) and are delicious too.
  • Detroit Dark Red – another classic. Detroit Dark Red is a popular beet variety among home gardeners and market farmer’s alike. They boast beautiful uniform roots, good strong green tops, and excellent storage life.
  • Formanova – another one of my favorite beet varieties for flavor and reliability. Formanova beets grow tall and cylindrical, producing 6 inch long, 1 to 2 inch wide roots that stick up out of the soil as they grow.
  • Touchstone Gold – a beautiful golden beet variety. Add interest to your beet bed with these pretty, extra sweet, gold-colored Touchstone beets.
  • Bull’s Blood – red through-and-through! Bull’s Blood beets have not only super dark red roots, but pretty red leafy green tops too. This beet variety is tolerant to both hot and cold conditions, and the color deepens as they mature.
A chioggia beet has been cut in half and is being held by its greens to reveal the pink and white candy cane striped bullseye flesh. Beyond are a number of raised garden beds with various vegetables growing in them. A chioggia beet has been cut in half and is being held by its greens to reveal the pink and white candy cane striped bullseye flesh. Beyond are a number of raised garden beds with various vegetables growing in them.
A long and cylindrical red beet is being held above a wicker basket with a few harvested beets and green cabbage sitting inside. A long and cylindrical red beet is being held above a wicker basket with a few harvested beets and green cabbage sitting inside.

When to Plant Beets

Beets enjoy cool to moderately warm temperatures, ideal to plant in spring or fall. They can tolerate frost or even a light freeze once established but don’t grow well in hot and dry conditions, when they tend to get tough and woody.

Beet seeds can be planted outside starting in late winter to early spring – around a month before your area’s last spring frost date, or once the soil is about 50 degrees. Here’s a simple soil thermometer if you need one! You can continue to plant beets into early summer (e.g. succession planting) as long as the daytime temperatures are below 75F.

For a fall harvest, sow beet seeds again in mid-summer to early fall. In zones 9 and higher, beets can be grown right thorough the winter. We grow beets year-round in our zone 9 garden, but I find our spring-planted beets usually grow better than our fall-winter beet crop.

Learn when to plant seeds by using this planting calendar for Zone 9, it has many different vegetables lined up on the left side of the chart and all of the months of the year listed on the top of the chart. Each vegetable has different colored lines that correspond with when to start seeds inside, transplant outdoors, and plant seeds outside, along with corresponding last frost date and first frost date where applicable. The lines start left to right, showing what months you should do each particular task depending on the season and where you live.Learn when to plant seeds by using this planting calendar for Zone 9, it has many different vegetables lined up on the left side of the chart and all of the months of the year listed on the top of the chart. Each vegetable has different colored lines that correspond with when to start seeds inside, transplant outdoors, and plant seeds outside, along with corresponding last frost date and first frost date where applicable. The lines start left to right, showing what months you should do each particular task depending on the season and where you live.
FAQ: How long does it take for beets to grow?

Under ideal growing conditions, most beet varieties take about 55 to 70 days to mature after planting. Baby beets can be ready to harvest as early as 40 days after planting. Planting beet seedlings will give you a head start by several weeks compared to starting from seed.

Growing Beets from Seed vs Seedlings

You may get the best results by growing beets from seed instead of buying started seedlings from the nursery. Beets don’t like their roots disturbed, and easily become stunted if they’re left to grow too large in small crowded containers. Plus, you can choose more fun varieties and get dozens (if not hundreds) of beets from one packet of seeds for the same price as a seedling 6-pack.

That said, you CAN grow beets from seedlings too! They tolerate transplanting much better than other root vegetables. Just be sure to choose the most small, tender, and least-crowded looking seedlings at the nursery – and try to ruffle their roots as little as possible when planting. Read more tips on starting and planting beets below.

Ideal Conditions: Sun, Soil, Fertilizer and Water

  • Sun: Beets grow best in full sun, particularly for good root development, so choose a planting location that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. It’s possible to grow beet greens in partial shade.
  • Soil: Plant beets in loose soil with good drainage, such as sandy loam or potting soil amended with compost. They don’t grow well in dense clay soil or rocky soils, which hinder nice round root growth. Amend dense soil with potting soil, compost, and/or horticultural sand as needed to improve texture and aeration. Beets prefer neutral to mildly acidic soil (6.5 to 7), but don’t thrive in acidic soil below 6.0.
  • Fertilizer: Beets are not heavy feeders and can tolerate low soil fertility. Like other root vegetables, too much nitrogen will encourage excessive green top growth – but at the expense of the roots. Therefore, avoid fertilizing beets with high-nitrogen fertilizers; just a little compost or worm castings will do!
  • Water: Consistent moisture is key to growing nice beets! Try to keep the soil evenly moist at all times (but not soggy). Beets will fail to thrive and will get tough and “hairy” without enough water, so try not to let the soil dry out between watering. We have automated drip in irrigation for our raised garden beds – it’s a lifesaver!
  • Once the seedlings are at least 4 to 5 inches tall, providing a nice layer of mulch around the base will help the soil retain moisture and stay more cool in warm conditions. We like to use compost as mulch in our garden. See the pros and cons of different mulch types here.
A hand is holding a red beet that has many feeder roots and hairs growing off of the main root. Below is a garden bed with a few vegetables growing in it. A hand is holding a red beet that has many feeder roots and hairs growing off of the main root. Below is a garden bed with a few vegetables growing in it.
The extra hairy roots tell me that this little baby beet didn’t get quite enough water while it was growing.

Planting Beets

It’s often recommended to direct sow beet seeds (plant them directly outside in the garden) compared to starting seeds indoors. However, we’ve done both successfully! Just like buying nursery starts, the key to starting beets indoors is to transplant the seedlings out before they get too large or root bound, and be gentle during transplanting.

  • Direct sow beet seeds outdoors (or start inside) as early as 4 weeks before your area’s last spring frost date, or any time before the heat of summer. See our seed starting calendars for every zone if you aren’t sure when your frost dates are.
  • Alternatively, you can start beet seeds indoors about 4 to 6 weeks before they’ll be transplanted outside in spring (once the risk of frost is low). Sow one or two beet seeds per container or cell, and thin to just one seedling per cell after sprouting.
  • Plant beet seeds approximately 1/2 inch deep and 3 inches apart in loose well-draining soil. Transplants should be planted 3 inches apart as well. Growing in raised garden beds, we space our rows of beets about 6 to 8 inches apart.
  • Beet seeds will usually germinate within 5 to 7 days in warm soil, but can take up to two weeks when the soil is cool. Soaking beet seeds in water for 12 to 24 hours prior to planting will help them sprout faster.
  • Each beet seed will grow several sprouts, which will need to be thinned – discussed next.
A hand is using two fingers to show the spacing between small beet seedlings. There are many rows of the beet seedlings, all spaced evenly apart from each other. A hand is using two fingers to show the spacing between small beet seedlings. There are many rows of the beet seedlings, all spaced evenly apart from each other.
Good beet spacing
Many rows of young beet seedlings growing in a raised bed, there are two rows of romaine lettuce growing in the bed as well.  Many rows of young beet seedlings growing in a raised bed, there are two rows of romaine lettuce growing in the bed as well.
Nicely spaced beet seedlings in one of our raised garden beds

Thinning Beets

Whether you’re growing from seed or transplants, it’s best to space each beet seedling at least 3 inches apart. Crowded beets will grow very slowly and not have space to form nice round roots. Fun fact: beets are multigerm seeds, which means a single seed cluster will produce several sprouts. It’s essential to thin out extra seedlings to give the single “keeper” space to thrive.

Shortly after the beets have sprouted, I use small garden snips to cut out the extra seedlings at the soil line, leaving just one per spot. You can also gently pluck out the unwanted seedlings, but be careful – that could accidentally break or uproot the seedling you wish to keep. Don’t wait too long! Waiting to thin seedlings slows down their growth.

Bonus: you can keep the thinned seedlings to eat as nutrient-rich microgreens.

Three small beet seedlings are clustered together growing in soil, small scissors are positioned to cut the smallest of the sprouts out in the process of thinning the seedlings. Three small beet seedlings are clustered together growing in soil, small scissors are positioned to cut the smallest of the sprouts out in the process of thinning the seedlings.
Trimming out the extra seedlings at the soil line

Growing Beets in Containers

It’s easy to grow beets in containers, as long as they have adequate space and the soil doesn’t dry out between watering! That said, it’s best to grow beets in a large solid pot (such as plastic or terracotta) instead of fabric grow bags, which are more prone to drying out.

Choose a container that is at least 8 inches deep. The wider the container, the more beets you can fit inside! For instance, a 6 to 7-inch diameter pot may only be enough space for 3 to 4 beets, while a 12 to 15-inch container will accommodate twice the amount. A self-watering Earth Box container is the perfect depth, will help keep the soil evenly moist, and has room to grow over a dozen beets or more!

Follow the other recommended tips in this article in regards to spacing, type of soil, full sun, and consistent moisture. And don’t forget the mulch on top!

A terracotta colored EarthBox growing container is overflowing with red veined beet greens. A terracotta colored EarthBox growing container is overflowing with red veined beet greens.
An Earth Box is a great option for growing beets in containers

Pest and Disease Control

Beets are fairly fuss-free in my experience, but may be susceptible to a number of common garden pests and diseases including:

  • Aphids. These small sticky leaf-sucking insects can be blasted off with a firm stream of water, or managed with a homemade aphid soap spray. Aphids and other pest insects may also be deterred by companion planting beets with onions, chives or garlic. Learn more about organic aphid control here.
  • Leaf miners. If you notice thin, papery, brown or tunnel tracks on beet green leaves, that’s leaf miners damage. I manage this by routinely checking the plants (at least weekly) and then tearing out the infected portion of the leaves, which removes the leaf miner larvae inside and slows the lifecycle. Or, completely remove very infected leaves.
  • Downy and powdery mildew. Fungal diseases can crop up on beet greens, but only extreme cases will impact the root growth. See our guide to control powdery mildew.
  • Flea beetles. These tiny, shiny, jumping beetles will leave little scattered chew holes all over beet greens. Covering beets with garden hoops and row covers can block out flea beetles. Learn more about flea beetles here.
  • Small tender seedlings may also be susceptible to damage by birds, rodents, or other munching critters.
  • I often cover young transplants with these crop cages for protection from birds, or with hoops and insect netting – which will also block out many pest insects, including flea beetles and leaf miners. Garden hoops can also be used to support shade cloth or frost cover when needed!
A two part image collage, a beet green with a brown and discolored, papery tunnel shows leaf miners damage. The second is the same leaf green after tearing out the leaf miners damage and larvae. A two part image collage, a beet green with a brown and discolored, papery tunnel shows leaf miners damage. The second is the same leaf green after tearing out the leaf miners damage and larvae.
Removing leaf miner damage (and the larvae inside the leaf) by tearing off the effected area.

When to Harvest Beets

You can harvest beets at any time! Start to harvest small, extra-tender baby beets once they’ve reached the size of a golf ball or larger. Or, allow the beets to reach full size, which is usually about 3 to 4 inches in diameter (but varies depending on the cultivar).

If you wait too long to harvest, beets can become increasingly tough and woody as they get large, though that also depends on the variety. Our favorite Boro beets stay nice and tender even at nearly 6 inches around, enabling us to slowly harvest a few at a time over a couple months.

A large and perfectly round beet is growing along a line of drip tape. A large and perfectly round beet is growing along a line of drip tape.
Looks ready to me!
Two red root vegetables are held by their stems in front of a number of raised garden beds that are overflowing with various vegetables, flowers, and herbs. Two red root vegetables are held by their stems in front of a number of raised garden beds that are overflowing with various vegetables, flowers, and herbs.
An early summer beet harvest in our garden (Formanova and Boro)

Harvesting Beet Greens

Beet greens are delicious and loaded with nutrients. They taste similar to Swiss Chard, with an extra beety earthy flair. Some folks grow beets just to harvest their greens!

If you want to enjoy them raw in salads or sandwiches, harvest smaller tender leaves when they’re about three or four inches tall. Otherwise, wait to harvest beet greens until the plants get at least 6 inches tall. Then, you can start cutting or gently pinch off a few of the largest outermost leaves (not the new center growth) each week.

In order to also let the root develop, it’s important to only harvest a few leaves per plant at a time, or about a quarter or a third of the available leaves. Allow fresh leaves to regrow before harvesting more. Removing all the greens from a single beet will make it stunted or cease to grow.

FAQ: What to do with beet greens?

Small tender beet leaves can be enjoyed raw in salads or on sandwiches. Large beet greens can be prepared and cooked much like Swiss Chard or kale. They’re excellent added to soups, stews, green smoothies, or our favorite – lightly sautéed with a little garlic, salt and pepper. Avoid overcooking the leaves or they will become mushy.

Red stemmed and veined leafy greens are held aloft in a bunch in front of a white wall. Red stemmed and veined leafy greens are held aloft in a bunch in front of a white wall.

Storing Beets After Harvest

Beets can stay good and firm for several months in cool dry storage. It’s best to store beets in the refrigerator in a plastic bag (in the crisper drawer if possible). Beet greens will need to be used within a week, so cut off the green tops and store them separately from the roots.

We typically rinse off excess soil before storing our beets, but don’t thoroughly scrub them. However, allow the beets to dry off some before storing them away. Take care not to puncture or damage the skin to help them last as long as possible.

Ways to Use and Preserve Beets

There are tons of tasty ways to use fresh beets! We love to grate them raw and add to salads, or roast and slice them to enjoy as a side, with cottage cheese, or on sandwiches and burgers. Here is our simple roasted beets recipe with orange and balsamic vinegar. We make a big batch, store in the fridge, and simply use them cold throughout the week! High in natural sugar, beets are popular for juicing and smoothies. We also love to puree beets to flavor homemade kombucha. Borscht (beet soup) is another awesome way to use them.

When you have extra, preserve beets by by freezing, pickling, fermenting, or dehydrating them:

  • Freezing: Beets freeze best when fully cooked first, which also makes them ready for easy use after thawing. You can freeze beets whole, halved, in slices, or smaller pieces. Beets larger than a baseball should be cut at least in half. Roast or steam beets until they’re fork-tender, allow to fully cool, and then pack them into freezer containers or bags. Use within 9 months for the best results or up to one year. You can also freeze Borscht soup in reusable quart containers.
  • Fermenting: We love to make fermented beets with garlic and dill. They’re similar to tangy pickles, but loaded with gut-healthy probiotics!
  • Pickling: If you prefer a classic vinegar pickle, you can use this easy refrigerator pickle recipe – simply swap the green beans for beets! Or, see information about safely canning beets here.
  • Drying: Use a food dehydrator to dry thin beet slices to make beet chips, or grind dry beets into shelf-stable beet powder.
The top of a jar that contains fermented root veggies and carrots. A spoon is resting over the top of the open jar and the spoon is full of chunks of fermented root vegetables. The vegetables and ferment brine have turned a blood red to purple color.The top of a jar that contains fermented root veggies and carrots. A spoon is resting over the top of the open jar and the spoon is full of chunks of fermented root vegetables. The vegetables and ferment brine have turned a blood red to purple color.
Gut-healthy fermented beets are easy to make, and delicious on top of salads, “Buddha bowls”, or sautéed veggies!

And that concludes this lesson.

All in all, I hope this guide provided you with all the tips and information needed to successfully grow our own big beautiful beets. But remember, bigger isn’t always better! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below, and enjoy your harvest!

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DeannaCat signature, keep on growing.DeannaCat signature, keep on growing.

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