European native known botanically as Beta vulgaris. Raised for their edible roots and tender young leaves, beets grow best in relatively cool weather. In hot-summer climates, sow in early spring or late summer so that plants will mature before extreme heat sets in. In mild-winter areas, you can also plant in late summer for fall and winter harvest. To harvest beets over a long season, sow seed at monthly intervals.
Grow in fertile, well-drained soil without lumps or rocks. Sow seed 1 in. apart and cover with 1/4 in. of compost, sand, or vermiculite. Thin plants to 2 in. apart while small—the thinnings (both tops and roots) are edible. To keep roots tender, keep soil evenly moist. Begin harvesting when roots are 1 in. wide and complete it before they exceed 3 in.; they will be woody if allowed to grow bigger. In cold climates, harvest all beets before hard frosts in fall.
Types with round, red roots include —Detroit Dark Red— and —Crosby—s Egyptian— (old favorites) as well as many newer varieties like —Kleine Bol— and —Sangria—. —Bull—s Blood— and —Lutz Green Leaf — are grown for roots and edible greens. Novelties include —Cylindra— and —Forma Nova— (with long, cylindrical roots) and —Chioggia— (rings of red and white); there are also varieties with golden yellow or white roots.
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