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By Bobbie Whitehead

Now is a good time to plant additional beets if you haven’t already done so.

Though most gardeners and growers plant their beets in the spring, some also stagger their beet planting to assure they have an adequate supply of beets throughout the summer and into the fall.

If you haven’t done that, you can plant more beets now as the end of the summer nears. Beets tend to prefer cooler weather, so by the time they begin sprouting and growing well, the temperatures should be more tolerable.

Since beets are a root vegetable, make sure you have sandy or loamy soil for them to grow. Soil with lots of clay will prevent the beet from growing properly.

Before planting your seeds, put some fertilizer, about two pounds of 10-10-10 “per 100 square feet”, in your soil, according to the “Root Vegetables” article by Diane Relf and Alan McDaniel, horticulture specialists at Virginia Tech.
When you’ve completed that step, Relf and McDaniel suggest planting the beet seeds about ½ an deep and about two to three inches apart. In addition, make sure the rows are wide or at least 12 inches apart.

Once the seeds are planted, water the row or rows, and keep the beets moist but not too wet. If rain is slow in coming, it might be best to water the beets about once a week. You can also place mulch over the rows, Relf and McDaniel suggest, to keep the soil from becoming “crusty.”

“Beets often take a long time to germinate, so be patient. Control weeds, and water if necessary,” Relf and McDaniel write.

The extension specialists also suggest in their article to add a “sidedress with 1 pound of 10-10-10 four to six weeks after sowing or when plants are 4 to 6 inches tall.”

Grower Howard Piland of B&H Produce in Suffolk suggests using “potash” on the soil before planting the seeds.

“Potash makes a better stem and root for the vegetable,” he said.

For a 10-foot row, Piland said to use no more than ¼ or less of a pound.

In addition to growing beets for their tasty purple root, growers and gardeners also grow them for the greens. If you haven’t tried the beet leaves in a salad, try them because they are quite tasty and add nice color to any salad, if you’re considering the aesthetics of your cooking.

When harvesting the beets, they taste best when they are up to 2 ½ inches in diameter. Larger beets tend to be tough. Also, if the leaves are cut before the beet is harvested, the beets tend not to grow much larger.

Beets are a sensitive vegetable, and if your soil is lacking a nutrient they need, you may have difficulty getting the beets to germinate or grow properly. If you’re finding your beets aren’t doing well, have your soil tested. Click here for more information on obtaining a simple soil test.

Summer’s end is a good time to plant another beet crop

Plant a second crop of beets for a fall and winter harvest.

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