December 6, 2005

Homegrown beets are a tender and delicious treat best enjoyed fresh from the backyard garden. Growing red beet roots in the home garden is not a difficult task, but they can be a challenging crop for the beginner gardener.

The most troublesome aspect of growing beets is getting them started. They are often reluctant to germinate and once they do you’ll probably encounter a cluster of seedlings emerging from each seed that germinates. Fresh seed will produce the best results, and some growers soak them in water overnight for improved germination.

Beet seeds should be planted about half an inch deep in deeply loosened soil. If you garden in raised beds, broadcast them over the growing area and cover with a lightly tamped layer of topsoil or aged compost.

When I plant red beets in my organic raised beds I often make five or six rows along the length of the bed and plant the seeds in the rows. This results in rows that are about eight inches apart. Because of the inconsistent germination I sow rather thickly and worry about thinning the beet plants later.

After planting it’s a good idea to water frequently to prevent the soil from drying out and forming a hard crust on the surface that would make it more difficult for the beet seedlings to break through. Once the seedlings have germinated and are established you will need to thin them to prevent overcrowding and to encourage rapid growth.

I’ll post another entry tomorrow that will cover gardening tips for growing beets to maturity, discuss harvesting and cooking tips, and look at some popular and colorful varieties that are ideal for the home gardener.

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