Answer: You are right in guessing that beets need plenty of sunshine. They also need a rich soil well enriched with organic matter, and if your soil is heavy, also a bit of sand to keep the soil loose. The soil should stay evenly moist and yet be well drained with the pH near 7.0 or neutral. Finally, avoid oversupllying the plants with nitrogen. You might want to eat the greens and "thinnings" and plant again, although they might plump up a little bit with some sunshine. Beets can be planted every few weeks for an ongoing supply.
General instructions would be to: Amend the soil by spreading 4-5 inches of organic matter over the top and
digging it in to a depth of 8-10 inches. Use aged compost,
leaf mold, peat moss or aged manure. Based upon your
description of the unsuccessful crops, I'd guess your soil
was on the clayey side. If that's the case, add even more
organic material, and some sand, too. Do whatever you can
to loosen the soil and make it easier for the roots to
penetrate a good 8-10 inches. The organic matter will help
the soil retain moisture and stay aerated and will release nutrients to the plant
roots as it decomposes. After planting, keep the soil evenly
moist by supplying water every week if needed. Make sure you apply
enough water to thoroughly wet the entire root area. To
check, dig down after watering to see how far the moisture
has penetrated. This is especially important when temperatures are over 80 degrees.
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