A step-by-step guide to growing beets
Deep red, earthy, beautiful beets …. you either love them or you hate them. If you love them (or want to give them another chance), try growing them in your container garden this year. Growing beets in containers is easy and they don’t take up much space, so they’re perfect for beginners!
Another great reason to grow beets is that you can eat them from stem to root. “Beet root” is what we think of as the main product of the plant, but beet greens are delicious as well.
Beets are a great root crop to grow in the garden, but they can also thrive in containers.
No matter how you use them, you’ll love having fresh beets and leafy greens right outside your kitchen door.
Beets are a root vegetable and can be planted at any time of year — and while they prefer cooler weather and don’t mind frost or even freezing temperatures, they will also tolerate moderately warmer weather.
However, if you live in a warmer area (like zone 9 or warmer), aim for winter, early spring or fall. Bolt-resistant varieties are best for these areas as well.
When it comes to nutrition, beets are rich in folate, iron, magnesium, vitamins A and C, potassium and more.
These roots take up very little space in the garden and are ready to harvest in a short amount of time. While you’re waiting to harvest the roots, you can enjoy the healthful greens. Roasted, pickled, raw, or juiced, the naturally earthy, sweet flavor of homegrown beets is pretty amazing.
In this post we’ll cover how to grow beets in containers and provide a few helpful tips for success for container gardeners interested in growing these powerhouses of nutrition and flavor.
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How to grow beets from seed
Like other root vegetables, beet plants do best when grown from seed, rather than seedlings.
Sow seeds about a half inch deep. If you aren’t familiar with beet “seeds” you may be surprised to find out that each individual piece you’re planting can be 3-4 seeds stuck together.
Seeds germinate quickly in moist soil, generally in 5-8 days. You can soak them for 24 hours before planting if you’d like, or just keep the soil moist on top.
Since the seeds have several in each clump, it’s especially important to thin your seedlings once they’re a few inches tall. Simply snip the greens off with kitchen scissors; if you pull them out, you can disturb the roots of the healthy seedlings you’re leaving in the soil.
Best beet varieties for containers
Beets generally don’t need a lot of room to grow, so many varieties do well in containers. That said … here are a few of the best for growing in pots!
Best containers for growing beets
Beets have shallow roots, so you don’t need a very deep container. They can also be grown close together, depending on how large you want the root to grow.
You generally harvest beets between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball, so imagine how large you want the root to be and add a little wiggle room. If you only have room for a smaller container, that will work too — you just might not get as many large beets.
Containers in the 8-10″ diameter range will work for a few beets, just make sure the container is at least 8″ deep so the root has room to develop.
Suggested small containers:
- Vivosun 3-gallon fabric grow bags – If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know I’m a huge fan of fabric grow bags. The 10- to 20-gallon sizes are awesome for bigger plants, but this 3-gallon version works great for plants that need less space. The 3-gallon size is about 10″ diameter. If you want to grow more than a few beets, just get a bigger size.
- 15″ whiskey barrel-style planter – This has the look of a whiskey barrel but it’s lightweight and durable, with drainage holes and a UV protectant coating to prevent fading.
- 10″ Saturn planter with saucer – Simple, highly rated container that comes in a ton of colors!
How to grow beets in containers
Beets enjoy full sun, so ensure your container is in a sunny spot that gets around 6 hours of direct sunlight each day for optimal growth. Make sure your container has good air circulation around it and adequate drainage (at least 1-2 drainage holes) to prevent root rot.
They tolerate cold, so you can plant beets starting in early spring, as soon as your soil isn’t frozen. That’s typically 3-4 weeks before last frost. (Not sure when yours is? Check this frost date calculator from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.)
If you love to garden and spread out your harvest, beets are perfect for successive planting. This is the best way to keep a steady supply.
To succession plant, start a new container every 2-3 weeks, but keep in mind they won’t do as well when the daytime highs are above 75F.
So take a break from planting new seeds at the hottest part of summer, but then start again in late summer for a late fall/early winter harvest when temps cool down some. Start back up about 4-6 weeks before first fall frost.
(Check out more fall and winter veggies to grow when you plant your beets!)
Ensure your soil is free of rocks and other debris. Remember you’re looking to grow beautiful, round roots, so if they run into any obstacles in the soil you will have imperfect shapes.
How much water do beets need?
Beets need plenty of water, as they like a moist soil for growing. About 1 inch per week is good.
Make sure to keep them watered when it gets warmer so they don’t bolt or flower. If they bolt, the root will be inedible.
How to fertilize beets
Beets don’t necessarily need soil amendments, but if you do want to add some, keep the nitrogen low as too much nitrogen will give you more greens but small roots.
Jobe’s Organics time-release fertilizer is a great option for general soil enhancement. It has a low relative nitrogen level and provides steady nutrients throughout the growing season. I use Jobe’s in all my container herbs and veggies.
(Want to learn more? Check out my Fertilizer 101 post!)
Common beet pests
Don’t use soil that has recently contained beet cousins like spinach or chard, as that can attract similar pests and disease.
Some common beet pests include:
- Flea beetles
- Leaf spot
- Mosaic virus
How many beets per plant?
Each beet seedling is a plant/root! Again, they will each grow a root to eat and can be grown fairly close together, so you can have quite a yield when you grow beets in containers.
When and how to harvest beets
Harvest beets when they are the size of a golf ball or up to a tennis ball. Keep in mind that the larger they get, the woodier or tougher they can be, so don’t let them get much bigger than that.
To harvest the root, gently loosen the soil around it and carefully pry it out with a trowel or your hand.
You can harvest greens anytime, taking one or two leaves at a time per plant. Just make sure to keep a few leaves on each one, as the beet needs some foliage to grow.
If you have a root cellar or cool, dark basement, beets can keep very well so you can enjoy them all winter. The greens can be cooked like spinach and are easily frozen.
More ideas for container garden inspiration:
- Weird home remedies for container gardens
- How to attract pollinators to your container garden
- How to attract dragonflies to your container garden
- Compost 101
- Potting Soil 101
- Small compost bins for container gardens
- Best edible flowers for container gardens
- Dirty Dozen foods you can grow in containers
- How to grow edamame in containers