Beets: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties

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Beets come in a glistening array of colors, from garnet red to red-and-white striped to deep gold to creamy white, but the real hidden treasure is that the entire beet, from its robust and flavorful root to its buttery green top, is sweet and delicious.

About beets
Beets' original ancestors were leafy plants, without bulbous roots, that grew in the moderate climates of the Mediterranean region. Like their cousin, Swiss chard, beet greens are packed with nutrition. However, it's the roots for which beets are best known.

Choosing a site to grow beets
Select a site with full sun and well-drained soil. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost.

Planting Instructions
For sweet, tender beets grow the plants in cool, moist weather. In the north, plant beets throughout the spring and in mid- to late summer. Start planting 30 days before your last spring frost date and continue with successive plantings at 3- to 4-week intervals into July, depending on how hot your summer is. In the south, plant beets in the fall and early spring. Beet roots are ready to harvest in 45 to 65 days; greens can be harvested as soon as they are large enough to eat.



Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep (1 to 1 1/2 inches deep in hot weather), 1 inch apart. In dry climates, plant in a well-soaked, 6- to 8-inch-wide furrow about 3 inches deep. Cover seeds with 1/2 to 3/4- inches of soil. For greens only, sow seeds 1/2 inch apart in all directions.

Ongoing Care
Thin seedlings to stand 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart 10 to 14 days after emergence. A month later thin plants to about 4 inches apart. Eat thinnings for greens. (No thinning is necessary if growing for greens only.) Contact your local county extension office for controls of common beet pests, such as leaf miners and leafhoppers.

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