By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
Beets are a favorite garden vegetable of gardeners in the United States. Also known as blood turnips or red beets, table beets provide a nutritious source of vitamins C and A. Beet tops or greens can be cooked or served fresh, while the roots may be pickled or cooked whole. Beets are also popular ingredients in many vegetable smoothie and juice recipes. What happens when you have deformed beets or your beets are too small though? Let’s learn more about these common issues with beet roots.
Common Beet Root Problems
Although beets aren’t difficult to grow, there are times when issues come up that compromise the quality and size of beets. Most beet root problems can be alleviated by proper planting. Plant beets thirty days before the frost-free date. Seedlings establish best in chilly weather. You should also plant successively, in three or four week intervals, for beets all season long.
The most common issues with beet roots involve small or deformed beets.
Why Beets Have Good Tops But Small Roots
Beets don’t like to be crowded, and it is imperative that seedlings be thinned to 1 to 3 inches (2.5-8 cm.) apart and rows at least 12 inches (31 cm.) apart. Leafy tops and poor growth issues with beet roots develop when beets are too close together. For best results, ensure adequate spacing between plants and rows.
When beets are too small, it can also be due to a lack of nutrients, namely phosphorus. If your soil has a higher nitrogen content, then your beets will produce more lush top growth rather than bulb production. By adding more phosphorus to the soil, such as bone meal, you can induce larger root growth.
Sometimes beets are too small or malformed as a result of too much shade or overcrowding. Beets prefer full sun but will tolerate some partial shade. For the best quality, aim for at least five hours of sun a day.
Beets don’t like acidic soil and may perform poorly in soil with a 5.5 or less pH rating. Take a soil sample before planting to ensure that you don’t need to amend the soil with lime. Additionally, beets prefer sandy, lightweight soil that drains well.
The best way to overcome issues with beet roots is to provide adequate growing conditions. Even if all these conditions are met, however, beet root problems may still occur. Don’t let this sway you from enjoying your crops anyway. If all else fails and you find yourself left with small or deformed beets, you can always harvest the leafy tops for greens.