Soil Preparation Matters
Soil preparation is important when growing from seed. That’s especially true with beets, as they like a well drained, loose and crumbly soil with the right nutrients. Well-rotted compost, aged manure or an organic 10-10-10 fertilizer help ensure the soil is rich with the proper nutrients. Don’t use fresh manure or high nitrogen fertilizer.
Any beet variety can be grown from seed. You can also choose between open-pollinated and hybrid seeds, many of which may be organically grown. Here are some good choices:
- Red Ace – an early variety, mature in about 55 days.
- Detroit Dark Red – good for roots and greens; 60 days.
- Cylindra – long and tapered rather than round; 60 days.
- Monogerm (single seed) beets include Moneta (46 days), Solo (50 days) and Alvro (60 days).
Beets germinate best when soil temperatures reach 50°F (10°C) but will still germinate if temperatures are up to 80°F (27°C). The seeds should sprout in seven to 10 days. Temperatures outside the optimum range affect germination. In really cold conditions, beet seed may take two or even three weeks to germinate.
Earlyspring conditions are usually just right for growing from seed, but make sure the soil isn’t water-logged to prevent damping off. They can also be sown in late summer for a fall/winter crop. Since summer plantings mean warmer soil temperatures, cover seeds with a board or burlap for the first three or four days to prevent soil crusting. Soaking seeds overnight is also helpful.
To Thin or Not to Thin
Most beet seeds are actually multiple seeds in one clump. Monogerm seeds are an exception and don’t need thinning, but your choice of varieties is more limited. In either case, plant seeds about 1 ½ inches deep and about 2 inches apart. Cover with loose garden or potting soil and pat down gently. Depending on the size of the beets, thin to 3 or 4 inches apart.
In the Garden or In Containers
When growing from seed, you have the option of planting beets in the garden or in containers. Soil in the containers should be rich and loose. The container should be at least 10 inches deep, and 12 inches is better for larger beet varieties. Make sure the soil is moist to keep growth even, but don’t over-water.