Driftless Seed Supply Grower Resources

Beet Growing Resources

History and Cultural Significance of Beets

Beets, originating from the Mediterranean region, have a history dating back to ancient times. Initially, people only consumed their leaves, but Romans began to eat the root, recognizing its nutritional value. They've been used in traditional medicine and even as aphrodisiacs. In Eastern Europe, beets are crucial in dishes like borscht, symbolizing regional identity. The vegetable's hardiness makes it accessible and valuable for cold climates. Rich in nutrients and antioxidants, beets have gained global popularity, finding their place in modern diets as juices, salads, and even desserts. Their vibrant color and unique flavor make them culturally and gastronomically significant.

1) Site Selection and Soil Preparation

Choose a well-drained, loamy site with good sun exposure. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0. Incorporate organic matter or compost to improve soil structure and fertility.

2) Planting: Timing, Spacing, and Depth

  • Timing: Plant in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. A second fall planting is possible 8–10 weeks before the first expected frost.
  • Spacing: Sow seeds 1–2 inches apart in rows spaced 12–18 inches apart.
  • Depth: Plant seeds at a depth of 1/2 inch.

3) Irrigation

Provide consistent moisture, especially during germination and root development. Drought can lead to woody and less flavorful roots. Drip irrigation is recommended for better water efficiency.

4) Beet Fertilization

Beet crops generally have moderate nutrient requirements. However, the specific rates can vary based on your soil test results. Here are some general recommendations:

  • Nitrogen (N): 80–100 lbs per acre
  • Phosphorus (P₂O₅): 50–80 lbs per acre
  • Potassium (K₂O): 50–100 lbs per acre

Apply half of the Nitrogen at planting and the remaining half when the plants are 4–6 inches tall. Phosphorus and Potassium can be applied in full at planting.

5) Pest and Disease Management

  • Crop Rotation: Helps prevent soil-borne diseases like Cercospora leaf spot.
  • Scouting: Look for leaf miners, aphids, and signs of fungal diseases.

Certified Organic Pesticides for Specific Pests and Diseases

  • Leaf Miners: Spinosad is an organic insecticide that is effective against leaf miners.
  • Aphids: Insecticidal soap or Neem oil can be effective for aphid control.
  • Flea Beetles: Pyrethrin is a botanical insecticide effective against flea beetles.
  • Cercospora Leaf Spot: Copper-based fungicides are generally approved for organic farming and can be effective against this disease.
  • Downy Mildew: Bacillus subtilis-based fungicides can help in controlling downy mildew.
  • Root Knot Nematodes: Mustard meal or marigold as a cover crop can be used as organic soil fumigants.

Always read and follow the label directions for all pesticides and consult your local agricultural extension service for tailored advice. It’s also essential to make sure that any pesticide you use is approved for organic production and registered for use in your state.

6) Harvest Recommendations

  • Indicators: Harvest when roots are 1.5–3 inches in diameter.
  • Methods: Loosen soil around the beet before pulling to avoid root breakage. Leaves can be harvested when 4–6 inches tall.

7) Post-Harvest and Storage

  • Storage: Store in a cool, humid environment like a root cellar.
  • Post-Harvest: Cut the tops off to extend storage life and reduce moisture loss. Beets can also be canned or pickled for longer preservation.

Always consult local and specific guides for the most accurate and personalized advice.