Growing the wonderful beet - with Jack Kouwenhoven

Before you start planting it’s a good idea to give the beet seeds an overnight soaking in a shallow dish of water that has a teaspoon of fish fertilizer or sea weed emulsion added to it. This will give you a more uniform and quicker germination. Dry the seeds a bit before planting for ease of handling.

Prepare the furrow with fine soil and water well with a fine spray from a watering can. When ready to plant space the seeds 2.5 cm apart, covering with fine soil about 1.5 cm deep mixed with some fine organic matter.

I use some leaf mould in the mix as it contains minerals that aid germination. The row should not be watered after sowing, unless very hot weather prevails for several days.

Within one to two weeks the tender seedlings should begin to appear. Never water any seed rows with a blast of water from a garden hose. This will cause baking of the soil, preventing the young seedlings from poking their heads out.

Once they have reach 7 cm in height start to thin out the thickest clumps of seedlings. Space them about 8-10 cm apart for best development of the roots, but don’t toss those removed to the side, if carefully handled they can be transplanted in vacant spots. The rest of them are quite edible.

Do not walk in the rows, try working from the outside edge. Hoe any foot-steps after a rain.


Soil conditioning

The secret of smooth-skinned beets lies in proper soil preparation. Once you get to know the beet’s sensitivities, likes and dislikes, you will get to know how simple it is to make the best crop.

Beet leaves are amongst the most nutritious greens you can eat. In fact, beet greens are richer than spinach in iron and minerals. The variety we grow, Red Ace, is popular for uniformity & slicing. The beet plant gives you two vegetables in one.

Under acid conditions, beets become very sensitive to boron deficiency. You can avoid potential problems with black spot, bitterness and stunted growth by making sure that your soil makes this trace element available to the plants.

Soils that had barn-yard manure applied on a regular basis tend to be close to neutral, pH 7. The ideal soil for beets would be pH 6.5 to 7.0.

Clues of boron deficiency are a red coloration on the leaves, with a purplish tint that initially affects the margins or tips. Black spot, a condition common to boron- deficient beets, can be recognized from the scattered brown or black corky spots that usually appear at the surface of the beet or near it’s growth rings. Preventing this can be as simple as applying compost as a mulch. Granite dust is an excellent source of boron-containing potash and many trace minerals.

If the pH is lower than 6.5, liming is necessary. To increase pH by one point (for example, from 6.0 to 7.0) per 102m use the following amount of ground limestone as a guide.

Sandy soil -1 kg, Sandy loam- 2 kg, Loam- 3kg, heavy clay- 3.5 kg.

The best time to make limestone applications is in the fall, or at least two weeks before sowing. Dolomite lime takes 5 months to break down and become available to the plants. It is best to spread out the heavier applications over a period of two weeks, incorporating it into the soil.

It is difficult to test for the lack of boron, but watch for the symptoms. If you have been mulching your garden with a variety of organic materials, you should not have to worry about it. If you didn’t have these problems, carry on as usual.

De-bugging the beets

The main pest problem in beets is the leaf miner. It makes the leaves brown and ugly. The leaf miner fly lays its eggs on the underside of the leaves. When you see the first sign of damage pinch the little maggot that is between the leaf layers or remove the leaves entirely and dispose of them in the garbage. There are several generations of this pest. Once they get a hold it is very difficult to get rid of them, particularly because our small garden plots don’t lend themselves to crop rotation. More on this as the season progresses.

Soils that had barn-yard manure applied on a regular basis tend to be close to neutral, pH 7. The ideal soil for beets would be pH 6.5 to 7.0.

Clues of boron deficiency are a red coloration on the leaves, with a purplish tint that initially affects the margins or tips.

If the pH is lower than 6.5, liming is necessary. To increase pH by one point (for example, from 6.0 to 7.0) per 102m use the following amount of ground limestone as a guide.

Sandy soil -1 kg, Sandy loam- 2 kg, Loam- 3kg, heavy clay- 3.5 kg.

The best time to make limestone applications is in the fall, or at least two weeks before sowing. Dolomite lime takes 5 months to break down and become available to the plants. It is best to spread out the heavier applications over a period of two weeks, incorporating it into the soil. It is difficult to test for the lack of boron, but watch for the symptoms.

c. 2018 Chilliwack Garden Club

  • Facebook Social Icon