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A cinch to grow in any full-sun garden, beets are a fast-growing, early-spring crop that can be planted a second time in midsummer to yield a fall harvest. When growing beets, keep in mind that both the leaves and the fleshy roots are edible—which makes this vegetable exceptionally productive for small spaces. Beet varieties range from those with deep crimson roots to ones with golden yellow and candy-stripe red-and-white roots. Plant a couple of varieties and explore the different colors. And enjoy the flavor of garden-fresh beets, which is a delicious combination of sweet, rich, hearty, and earthy.
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What to Plant Beets With
Beets thrive in cool weather. They produce the most tender, flavorful red roots and greens when they mature in spring, early summer, or late fall. Pair beets with other cool-weather-loving plants such as spinach, greens, peas, and radishes. They also grow well alongside broccoli and cauliflower. Spring-planted beets make good companion plants for tomatoes and peppers because the beets will be ready for harvest long before the tomato and pepper plants expand.
Caring For Beets
Beets grow best in loose, well-drained soil and at least 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. If your soil is clay or boggy, plant beets in raised beds or large containers filled with quality topsoil. For best results, plant beet seeds directly in the garden in early spring, two to three weeks before the average last frost date for your area. Sow seeds 1 inch deep and 1 inch apart in rows 10 inches apart. Cover the seeds with a loose layer of soil and water seedbed gently.
When the seedlings are 3 to 4 inches tall, thin them to stand 3 to 4 inches apart (save the thinned-out plants to use in salads). Thinning is especially important because every beet "seed" is actually a cluster of several seeds. If seedlings are not thinned, the young roots don't have space to grow and produce harvestable beets. Beet plants typically need consistent moisture, so provide supplemental water during hot or dry spells during the summer.
Enjoy beets and their greens at all stages of maturity. Beetroots are ready to harvest when they are 1 to 1½ inches in diameter. These petite beets are often called baby beets. Mature beets are 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Beet greens are especially delicious in salads when they're young and tender. Treat mature beet greens like chard when cooking.