Planting Guide and Seed Saving Notes for Beets
Beets (Beta vulgaris)
Oh the humble beet! As sweet as candy, literally since a lot of U.S. sugar comes from beets, this vegetable will find its way to the table in so many ways roasted, boiled, raw, pickled, sautéed, pureed in soups, juiced, and dehydrated. Roots will store for 1-4 months without the tops, bringing the dinner table bright nutritious food in the middle of winter. Of course, the greens are delicious too and can be cooked just like spinach or chard.
Nutrients: dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, B6, thiamine, riboflavin, folate, niacin, iron, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus.
How to Grow Beets from Seed
Beets grow best in soil that is well-drained and contains little to no rocks. A spot that receives full sun is optimal. Make sure that the spot you pick will allow for roots to penetrate the ground up to 10”. Beets require greater depth in order to grow a long, healthy taproot. Add compost and plenty of organic material to soil to ensure that beets will have plenty of nutrients to uptake once the seeds sprout. Phosphorus fertilizer may also be added along rows to enhance root growth.
Direct sow beet seeds outdoors at a depth of ½”. Space seeds 1-2” apart. Seeds will sprout in 5-17 days. Thin sprouts as they come up to space mature plants 3-5” a part. Give beets deep waterings 2 times a week. This will coax the beet roots to grow longer and larger when reaching for moisture deeper in the soil.
Beet greens mature in about 35 days, where as their roots mature in 50-80 days. Greens can be harvested by pruning leaves with shears. This will allow for a cut-and-come-again harvest.
How to Save Beet Seeds
Beets are a wind Pollinated Biennial, Making them a challenge to grow to seed for beginners. Being wild pollinated, they need a very long isolation distance, at least 1 mile away from other Beta vulgaris to prevent crossing, this includes swiss chard. Beets are similar to carrots and other root vegetables in that they do not flower and set seed until their second year of growth. Fall planting works best, and then mulch heavily to protect the roots through winter. The following spring the plant will set up its flower stalk and set seed. The seed saver should allow the seeds to dry on the plant as much as possible, and then gather for dry harvesting. In the beet’s second season, wait to the greens of the beets have completely gone brown. Cut off the top 4” of the plant and store in a cool, dry place for 4 weeks to allow the seeds to ripen. The seed can then be stripped off the dry foliage or pounded in a bag to release the seed. Store the seed in a paper envelope, bag or jar in a cool, dry place. Seeds may be viable for up to two years.