Beets are cool season veggies grown primarily for their roots, or occasionally for the nutritious beet tops. A fairly easy vegetable to grow, the question is how do you propagate beet root? Can you grow beets from seeds? Let's find out.
Can You Grow Beets from Seeds?
Yes, the common method for propagation is via beet seed planting. Beetroot seed production is different in structure than other garden seeds. Each seed is actually a group of flowers melded together by the petals, which create a multi-germ cluster. In other words, each “seed” contains two to five seeds; hence, beetroot seed production may engender multiple beet seedlings. Therefore, thinning a beet seedling row is crucial to a vigorous beet crop. Most folks purchase beet seed from a nursery or greenhouse, but it's possible to harvest your own seeds. First, wait until the beet tops have turned brown before attempting beet seed harvesting. Next, cut 4 inches (10 cm.) off the top of the beet plant and store these in a cool, dry area for two to three weeks to allow the seeds to ripen. The seed can then be stripped from the dried foliage by hand or placed in a bag and pounded. The chaff can be winnowed, and the seeds plucked out.
Beet Seed Planting
Beet seed planting is usually direct seeded, but seeds can be started inside and transplanted later. Native to Europe, beets, or Beta vulgaris, are in the Chenopodiaceae family which includes chard and spinach, so crop rotation should be practiced, as they all use the same soil nutrients and to reduce the risk of passing potential disease down the line. Prior to growing seeds of beets, amend the soil with 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm.) of well composted organic matter and work in 2 to 4 cups (473-946 ml.) of an all-purpose fertilizer (10-10-10 or 16-16-18) per 100 square feet (9.29 sq. m.). Work this all into the top 6 inches (15 cm.) of soil. Seeds can be planted after soil temps reach 40 degrees F. (4 C.) or over. Germination occurs within 7 to 14 days, provided temperatures are between 55 to 75 degrees F. (13-24 C.). Plant seed ½ to 1 inch (1-2.5 cm.) deep and spaced 3 to 4 inches (8-10 cm.) apart in rows 12 to 18 inches (31-46 cm.) apart. Cover the seed lightly with soil and water gently.
Care of Beet Seedlings
Water the beet seedling regularly in the amount of about 1 inch (2.5 cm.) of water per week, depending upon temps. Mulch around the plants to retain moisture; water stress within the first six weeks of growth will lead to premature flowering and low yields. Fertilize with ¼ cup (60 ml.) per 10 foot (3 m.) row with a nitrogen based food (21-0-0) six weeks after beet seedling emergence. Sprinkle the food along the side of the plants and water it in. Thin the beets in stages, with the first thinning once the seedling is 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm.) tall. Remove any weak seedlings, cut rather than pull the seedlings, which will disturb the roots of abutting plants. You can use the thinned plants as greens or compost them. Beet seedlings can be started inside prior to the last frost, which will reduce their harvest time by two to three weeks. Transplants do very well, so plant into the garden at the desired final spacing.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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