Beet in the garden

Grow garden beets for a tasty, healthy diet!

The beet or beetroot is a simple vegetable that is easy to grow. If you live in a warm climate you can sow successive plantings right through the winter. Beets thrive in a wide range of temperatures and take up relatively little space in the vegetable garden . There are more sizes, shapes and colors available in beet varieties than ever before. Beets are low on calories, high in antioxidants and high in potassium and folate acid. And this is a vegetable that is not only packed with nutrition for a healthy diet, but tastes great and looks decorative, too.

Grow beets from seeds as they do not transplant well. They germinate best at temperatures between 50' - 80'F. If you are planting rows of beets, plant seeds spaced at least 4" apart with rows at least 24" apart. Beet seeds will often throw up two plants when germinating so you may want to thin out the plants to one whenever this happens or the plants will likely grow together flattening the swollen beet root on one side of each.

Beets can be round, cylindrical, deep, or flat and they come in reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, whites, purples or with rings or stripes. Another advantage of growing them from seed is that you get to select whatever variety or varieties that most interest you.

Grow beets in a rich loam with lots of compost in a sunny spot. Keep them well watered at all times. You can feed them lightly every other week in warm weather. Most leaf vegetables do well with a food higher in nitrogen. Look for the first of the three hyphenated digits printed on the front of plant food packages to be higher than the rest. But since phosphorus and potassium encourage root development, look for higher ratings of the second two numbers when buying foods for beets, carrots and other root crops.

Harvest the beets when they attain the size you want. Another bonus of growing beets is that the tops are edible. You can pick beet leaves and use them like spinach. Beet tops are rich in vitamin C and A as well as being an excellent source for lutein for the eyes making them an excellent choice for a healthy diet. Some varieties are even grown especially for their leaves.

Beets are great to eat raw, grated in a salad, or cooked. If you cook dark colored beets, it is best not to cut the leaves off too close to the root or to cut the root in any way (including that little long piece that sometimes trails off like a tail at the bottom). The color will bleed out of the root faster if there is damage to the skin. A cooked beet will peel easily, the skin slipping away by rubbing with thumb or finger.

So whether you can garden through the cool months of winter or just in the spring and summer, consider growing garden beets for a healthy diet, a handsome member of the vegetable garden and a tasty addition to your culinary offerings.