1. All parts of the beet plant can be eaten - the root, stalks and the leafy greens.
  2. Beets are a cold season crop which are quick to grow. Pick beets when they are 5 - 7 cm in diameter for the most tender beets. They tend to get woody if they are left too long.
  3. Beet seeds need consistent moisture to germinate. Keep soil evenly moist and do not let the top layer of soil crust over.
  4. Beets have a wrinkly seedball - about the size of a small peppercorn - which contains 3 - 4 seeds inside, so don't sow too thickly. 
  5. Did you know that beets and Swiss chard are actually subspecies of the same plant? The difference is that beets were bred for their thick fleshy root, while Swiss chard was bred for its stalks and leaves.

Beets are high in calcium, iron, potassium, fibre and sugar. Check here for detailed information from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

The Canadian Food Guide recommends that roughly half of the food on your plate should be fruits and vegetables.

Canada Food Guide: What's On Your Plate?

Growing outdoors

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Beets prefer to grow in sandy, sandy loam or loam soil and ideally in raised beds. They do best in rich soils amended with compost or well-composted manure. In heavy clay soils, grow beets on raised beds of soil. Beets need even watering for best results in germination.

Since beets are poor competitors, keep weeds pulled throughout the season. This is especially important when they are young, but they tolerate competition from weeds better once they are 4 - 6 weeks old.  Do not plant beets in an especially weedy spot. Weedy sites and uneven watering can lead to stringy or tough beets.

See our articles on weed control to reduce weeds and weed seeds.

Beets need full to partial sun for best growth. They are not suitable for partial shade or shady areas.

Beets are best grown outdoors in the ground, either in raised beds or unraised/ground level gardens if the soil is suitable. They can be grown outdoors or indoors in containers (details below). They are not typically suitable for most hydroponic, straw bale, or other alternative growing methods.

Beets should be direct seeded into their growing area. Transplants are not recommended.

Beets are a cold-season crop and can be sown a couple of weeks before your last expected spring frost date as long as the soil temperature is at least 10°C. (Cooler soil temperatures may cause seeds to bolt or send out a flowerstalk). Early sowing works best on raised beds.

Succession seeding is recommended for beets. Plant part of your row or section in early spring, then do another planting 2 weeks later, and a third planting 2 weeks after that. 

The timing of planting should coincide with your frost-free dates. We've given suggested dates below, but you can adjust these to your local conditions.

  • Knowing the last expected spring frost date for your location will help you plan when to sow seeds. The date is based on averages and varies according to where you live – it is as early as mid-May for Saskatoon, Estevan and Swift Current, SK, while Yellowknife is May 30 and the Moosonee region in Manitoba is June 10. Find the date of the last spring frost at this link: https://climateatlas.ca/map/canada/lastspring_baseline# Click on where you live on the map.

In general, beets take from 50 - 75 days from seed to harvest, depending on the cultivar. This is usually listed as "days to maturity" on the seed packet.

  • Saskatoon has around 130 frost-free days throughout the spring and summer for plants to grow. In Yellowknife, you can expect around 111 frost-free days. Check your seed package for your days to maturity or days to harvest information and compare it with your local average frost free days.
  • The frost-free season is the total number of days (on average) when there is no frost. It starts on the date of the last frost in spring and ends on the date of the first frost in fall. To find out the length of the frost-free season where you live, click on this link and find your location on the map: https://climateatlas.ca/map/canada/ffp_baseline# 
  • Note that these are current estimates and we expect our growing season to get warmer, longer, and drier as our climate continues to change.

Timing

  • Beets should be planted directly into the garden from seed on the prairies. The minimum soil temperature is 10°C but the ideal soil temperature for seed germination is 20˚C (seeds germinate in 5 - 8 days).  
  • Beets planted into cold soils may prematurely produce a flower stalk. This problem is generally worse in a cool spring. Newer cultivars are less sensitive to this. To avoid this, pre-warm soil. 
  • In the far north, beets can be sown indoors and set out as transplants. Seed them about 3 weeks before you plan to plant them out. Pre-warm the soil if possible and ensure that seedlings are hardened off before transplanting.
  • You can pre-warm your soil to sow seeds earlier - see: Warming soil in your garden using plastic mulch but be mindful of weeds.

Planting instructions

  • Beets need good soil contact and consistently moist but not wet soil throughout germination. Seeds will germinate faster in warmer weather, but they will also dry out faster. There are several ways to keep your seeds moist throughout germination. 
    • Plant your seeds according to the seed package (likely about 1 cm deep) and water often enough to keep your soil moist but not wet. Depending on your soil and weather, water once or twice daily.
    • Or: Sow your seed on top of the soil and then cover the seed with moist vermiculite. Cover this with a layer or two of damp newspaper, damp burlap or a light board to help conserve the surface soil moisture.  Monitor the covers and remove them as soon as seeds germinate (ie: when you see a green plant) to allow emerging seedlings to grow. 
    • Or: Pelleted seed refers to seed that is covered with an inert clay material.  Pelleted seed is slightly larger in size than bare seed, making it easier to handle.  The clay material around the seed also helps to retain moisture during seed germination. Seed tape is seed that has been sandwiched between sheets of thin paper. You can buy seed tape or make your own. Seed tape is easier to plant and the paper does hold some, but not a lot, of moisture. Whether you're using pelleted seed or seed tape, you still need to keep your soil moist using either option above. To make your own seed tape see: How to make your own seed tape
  • The ideal layout for beets depends on your gardening method and cultivar. In general, we suggest:
    • Typical yield, low intensity. Planting in rows and harvest once: Typically done where there is not ample water or high-quality soil. These are probably similar to the directions on your seed package. Plant your seeds about 3 - 5 cm apart. Once plants germinate, thin to about 8 - 10 cm apart. Mulch your pathways. Harvest beets when they are about 5 - 7 cm in diameter, or a larger size of your choosing.  
    • Higher yield, lower intensity. Plant in a grid and harvest once: Typically done in raised beds with high quality, loamy soil and good water access. Sow your seeds in a grid pattern, each seed about 3 -5 cm apart.  This works out to about 18 plants per square foot. For a large garden, you can include mulched walking paths between a row of grids for accessibility. In smaller spaces, you can constrain your beds to be about 1 to 1.5 meters wide so you can reach from either direction. Thin plants to about 8 - 10 cm apart to allow room for the roots to grow in diameter. Harvest beets when they are about 5 - 7 cm in diameter, or a larger size if you choose. 
  • For a steady supply of tender beet roots and beet tops, do successive seeding. Plant part of your row or section in early spring, then do another planting 2 weeks later, and a third planting 2 weeks after that. 

Don't forget to label what you planted. It's also helpful to draw a map to help you track planting locations and success each year. This information is critical if you're rotating your crops to help prevent insect and disease issues.

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Beets cultivar recommendations:
There are lots of choices when it comes to beets. There are small, round cultivars and longer, cylindrical cultivars. Beet roots can be red, yellow or orange.
  1. Here are cultivar recommendations from the North Dakota State University Cultivar Trials, as they share a similar prairie climate and soils. You may download their list here: North Dakota State University Vegetable Cultivar Recommendations for 2021
      •  Red: Bull’s Blood, Cylindra, Detroit Dark Red, Eagle, Merlin, Red Ace, Sweet Dakota Bliss.
      • Gold: Boldor, Burpee’s Golden, Touchstone Gold.
  2. The following cultivars are recommendations from the University of Saskatchewan vegetable program field trials which were conducted from 1989 through 2016. 
    • Alto, Cylindra, Detroit supreme, Formanova, Merlin, Moneta, Pablo, Red Cloud, Ruby Queen

 

  • Beets compete poorly with weeds especially in younger stages, so stay on top of weeding and consider mulch for pathways. Besides weeding, beets are typically low maintenance plants.
  • Providing you have enough moisture during the germination phase, beets can be grown successfully most years without additional water though you can expect smaller beets as a result. Water will affect yields, so if you're using more intensive growing methods you will need to water.
  • Actively growing beets prefer 2.5 cm moisture/week in well-drained soils.
  • Beets tolerate moderate fertility. Too much nitrogen will promote leafy growth at the expense of root development.

Beets are not recommended for fall seeding. They are sensitive to inconsistent moisture and don't compete well with weeds when young. Cool soil temperatures in spring can lead to early bolting of the plants. 

See: Fall seeding

 

Forgot what you planted? Not sure if it's a weed? Germination in carrots.

Here is a video showing brocolli germination. Unfortunately, we don't have one for beets but since they look similar, this will give you an idea of what the new seedlings look like when they emerge.

Broccoli germination

See our preservation section for more videos.

Beets need only about 50 - 75 days from seeding to maturity. They are a cold season crop that tolerate cool soil for germination. Beets are recommended for northern parts of the prairie provinces, sub-arctic and arctic regions with a short number of frost free growing days.

Normally, beets are direct seeded but in cold regions with a short number of frost free growing days, seeding beets indoors or in a cold frame and then transplanting the seedlings is recommended.

Raised beds are recommended. Prepare a raised bed, which is simply a mound of soil higher than the natural grade, which may be framed or unframed. Raised beds tend to warm up faster than level ground in spring which enables you to sow seeds earlier.

Once the snow has melted, lay a sheet of clear plastic on top of the soil. Studies show that clear plastic works better than black plastic to warm soil. Be sure to anchor the edges so the plastic does not blow away. Remove the plastic before planting. See: Warming soil with plastic mulch

Mulch soil after seedlings emerge. 

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Growing in containers

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Beets can be grown in a container outdoors. Choose a large container with holes on the bottom. An eight-litre (2 gallon) pail or container is ideal.

See: Vegetable container gardening

Growing indoors in a container is possible, but not very practical. Since beets need lots of sunlight, supplemental lighting would be needed. 

See our Growing indoors page for detailed growing advice.

For containers, try 'Early wonder tall top'.

 

Saving seeds

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Seeds are expected to be shelf-stable for one year from date of sale if purchased from a reputable retailer. If you wish to save your seeds beyond that, store them in a sealed jar in the fridge. Seeds lose viability more quickly if they are too humid, too dry or too warm.

The life expectancy of beet seed stored under favourable conditions is four years.

Seeds stored under less favourable conditions will show poor germination after just a single year of storage. Beyond this, you can expect your germination rates to go down (ie. not all of your seeds will grow, but some might). To test your seeds, you can do a simple germination test. Follow the link for instructions. If you are still getting some seeds germinating, seed more thickly and thin any extra.

We do not recommend saving seeds from beets. Beets are biennials. This means that they do not produce flowers in their first year's growth. Instead, beets will collect energy in the form of natural sugars and store it in their taproot during the first year's growing season. 

Sometimes beets prematurely produce a flower stalk in their first growing season if there are 2 - 3 weeks of temperatures below 7°C in a row after they have formed several true leaves. Newer varieties are less sensitive to this. This is more common in a long, cool spring.

In climates where beets can successfully over-winter, they will use the energy stored in their tap root to produce flowers and set seed in their second year. In some pockets of the prairies, with sufficient winter protection, a few beets left behind may set seed the second year though this is increasingly unlikely as you move further north. As our climate continues to change, this may become a viable option for prairie gardeners in the future.

Harvest

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  • Maturity time from seed to harvest is about 50 - 70 days depending on the variety and environmental conditions such as weather. Succession planting is recommended for a continuous supply of beets. (Plant part of your row or section in early spring, then do another planting 2 weeks later, and a third planting 2 weeks after that.) 
  • Beet tops can be harvested at any time. Take a few outer leaves of each plant, but leave some at the centre so the plant can continue growing and making food (photosynthesis). 
  • Beet roots are best when young and tender - about 5 - 7 cm in diameter.
  • Beets do not tolerate frost, so harvest before it freezes.
  • Use season-extending options with mindful that older beet roots tend to be woody.

In loose soils or containers, you may be able to grasp the beet by the top and, with some wiggling, pull it from the soil.

In firmer soils, you may need to use a garden fork to loosen the soil near the beets and then pull it from the loosened soil. It may help to water two days before harvesting to soften firmer soil. 

The skin of vegetables protects it from bacteria. If you intend to store your beets, store only the ones that have not been damaged during harvest, and eat or cook those that were cut or heavily scuffed.

Once harvested, gently brush soil off beet roots for long term storage. Don't scrub the beets as the soil will scratch the protective coating on the outer skin. For long term cold storage, you can store beets "dirty". If you want to store them in the fridge, soak your beets in the sink until you can gently rub off the dirt.

Beets have a low respiration rate and store very well. While it is important to keep them cool during harvest, as it is with most vegetables, it isn't critical.

Cooking and preserving

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Preservation methods include freezing, fermenting, dehydrating (drying) or canning.

Beet roots can be used in soups like borscht or stews and are especially good roasted. Beet tops can be eaten raw, steamed or stir-fried. Tops can be used like cabbage to make holubsti (stuffed rice rolls). Beets can be steamed and mashed for baby food.

 

 

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Storage

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Beet roots can be stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator for several months. If you're hoping to store them longer than a couple of months, check the long term storage information.

  • Ideal storage conditions for beets are near 0˚C with high humidity. Your fridge is likely a few degrees warmer than this, but that's fine. As they age, your beets will give off extra moisture. To maintain adequate but not excessive humidity either poke a few holes in your bag (ok), or use a plastic bag meant for vegetables (better), or keep a few sheets of paper towel in the bag with them and switch the paper towels for new ones once they become too moist (best).
  • Remove tops and excess soil before storage. If you must wash beets before storage, wash gently:  new wounds will encourage bacterial rots. If you're only storing for a few weeks to a few months, you can likely wash your beets. We do not recommend cutting the beet roots at all as damage to the skin will encourage bacterial growth. This is why it is best practice to leave beets unwashed for longer storage.
  • Do not store apples in the same location as beets.  Ethylene from apples will cause bitter flavours in beets.

Beet tops can be stored in the refrigerator for a week. Wrap loosely in plastic and store in the crisper. 

You may be able to store beets longer than a couple of months following the short term suggestions, however, spoilage is more likely with time. 

Beet roots:

Leave about 2 cm (1 inch) of greens on your beets to prevent shriveling. Gently brush off excess soil. Place vegetables in a single layer on cardboard or newspaper. Set them in a cool dry and dark place to cure or dry for a day or two. Brush off any remaining excess soil and get ready to store.

Washing is not necessary, in fact it’s better not to wash. Washing can damage the outer skin of the vegetable which can lead to rot and encourage disease like sclerotinia. Some like to wash root vegetables with cold water to remove the soil. If you do this, make sure that the vegetables are completely dry before you store them to avoid rot. They still need to be cured for a day or two before storing.

To decrease spoilage:

  • Ideal storage conditions for parsnips are 0˚C, 95-100% humidity.
  • See our cold storage page for detailed advice on finding a suitable storage location and choosing storage methods

Beet tops:

For longer term storage, blanch beet tops in boiling water for 2 minutes, cool completely and store in an air-tight plastic or glass container in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Other preservation methods we recommend include freezing, fermenting, dehydrating (drying) or canning.

Troubleshooting

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Beets are relatively low maintenance. Providing their water, light and soil needs are managed they don't tend to get a lot of issues. Ensuring you don't overplant your beets and maintain healthy soil with adequate organic matter will go a long way towards preventing most issues.

A common problem with beet tops are leaf miner. Cover plants with row cover after they germinate to prevent the fly from laying its egg in the leaves.

See the Common problems tab on this page for advice on other specific beet issues.

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