Beets are most certainly one of my most favorite vegetables in the world. Specifically, I love roasted beet salads with goat cheese and pumpkin seeds or walnuts. Oh, it is so good! They are very good for you as well. They are dense, meaty, earthy and fantastic. In a world where everything seems to be sweet, beets are the wonderful exceptions that tantalize my taste buds. Not only are they tasty, but they are also packed full of vitamins and minerals not easily available in other vegetables.
In the beginning of January; sow seeds in succession (enough for one week’s harvest plus a little contingency) and repeat weekly. Sow Beet seeds directly in soil that is between 75-85o F at ½” depth into a hot bed in rows with 4” spacing between rows. Beets do better when they are direct seeded but also require a high temperature to germinate. I haven’t attempted it yet, but you may also try soaking and sprouting the beet seeds and then plant directly into the soil if you are experiencing fluctuating hot bed temperatures (a little too hot during the day and a little too cool at night). It will take about 5-7 days to germinate.
Thin the seedlings to 3” apart in rows, 4” between each rows. Grow the Beets in soil with a temperature of 55-65o F. The pH range should be 6.5-7.5. Beets like full sun in the spring, but also like a straw mulch. Provide even waterings with a drip hose to ensure proper growth. Do not allow the soil to dry out. Beets do well with a cool growing season. Cover with a frost cover and a hoop house when temperatures are hovering around the freezing mark and uncover the beets during warm days.
Harvest Beets about 60 days after the seedlings emerge when they are between 1 ½” and 2 ½” in diameter. Do not allow them to grow larger as they become too tough and lack flavor, unless of course they are for livestock. Pull the beets at the base of the leaves. Eat the leaves and the root.
Beets are a biannual seed producer and need to experience a winter season in order to flower out. Carefully pull at least 12 healthy Beets, cover the Beets with damp sand and store in a bucket in the cellar or basement; they should be cold but not frozen. Remove the tops, about 1” from the root shoulder. Just make sure mice or rats do not gain access. Replant the Beets mid-spring when soil temperature of 55-65o F gently. The replanted Beets will flower, the wind will pollinate and they will fruit. After the flowers have browned, place a paper bag over the flowers and fruit and cut the stalks at the soil line. Move the entire stalks, fruit and flowers to a cool dry place. Pick shriveled fruits by hand or gently flail, winnow and separate.