How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Cultural Tips for Growing Beets

Published 3/21

In This Guide

Site selection

Plant your garden in a convenient location, where you can check it frequently. Choose an area near an abundant supply of water so you can water as needed easily. Vegetables do best if they receive full sunlight (at least 4 to 6 hours a day). Plant them in a well-exposed area in the garden, where they are not shaded by trees, fences, or walls. Try to plant away from areas that will be watered by lawn sprinklers.

Whenever possible, select a location that is not heavily infested with weeds, especially weeds such as field bindweed, nutsedge, and Bermudagrass that can be hard to control with hand weeding. Also avoid areas that have had previous disease problems.

Try to plant on level ground. Level ground is easier to work on than sloping ground. Vegetables will do well on a wide range of soils; they do best in well-drained soils. If your soil forms a clump when squeezed, then it is too wet; if the soil crumbles easily, it is a good soil to use. Damp soil surfaces encourage snails, slugs, sowbugs, and root diseases; fruit decay and leaf spot diseases may also increase. Soil amendments can make clay and sandy soils easier to work with, and correct soil preparation can improve poor soil.

Adding organic matter (compost, peat moss, manure, sawdust, ground bark) makes clay and sandy soils easier to work with. The soil should be kept at a pH level of 6.0 to 6.5. Lime or gypsum can be added to soils low in calcium.

Soil recommendation

Deep, well-drained soils such as sandy loam, silt loam or muck. They may be grown on heavier soils with more clay, but harvesting becomes more difficult and root growth may be impaired.ained fertile soils; choose non-saline sandy loam or silt loam.

Soil improvement

Any type of soil can be improved with soil amendments. Heavy clay or sandy soils can be improved by adding organic material such as compost, manure, or leaf mold. Texture is an important consideration when choosing an amendment. An amendment that is granular and fine grained is important for container mixes. For gardens, a more coarse-grained amendment can improve drainage and aeration. Work amendments into soil by rototilling, raking, or double-digging.

Soil preparation

The preparation of your soil is just as important as adding fertilizer and soil amendments. Before working the soil, make sure it is moist but not thoroughly wet.

  1. Use a shovel, rototiller, metal bow rake, or all of them together to loosen the top 1 to 2 inches of soil. Rake the area to remove weeds and old crop debris. Be sure to dig out roots.
  2. Irrigate the plot deeply to encourage the germination of weed seeds.
  3. In a week or two, after a substantial number of weeds have germinated, work the area again to kill the weed seedlings. Be sure to break up the clods in the soil, as seeds planted in cloddy soil will germinate poorly and won't live long because the soil dries too quickly.
  4. Form soil into beds if desired, and plant while soil is still wet.

Time to plant

Beets are cool-season annual vegetables. Beets typically reach harvest size in 42 to 70 days depending upon the variety. Higher temperatures can lead to rapid growth and white rings in the interior of the beet root. The minimum soil temperature for germination is 41° F but optimal temperatures are 50° and 86° F. Beets will tolerate frosts and mild freezes.

Planting Dates for Beets in California*
North and North Coast
Monterey County north
February – August
South Coast
San Luis Obispo County south
January – September
Interior Valleys
Sacramento, San Joaquin valleys
February – April
Desert Valleys
Imperial and Coachella valleys
September – January
*Planting dates are only approximate as the climate may vary greatly within the regions denoted. Contact your local UC Master Gardener program and experiment on your own to find more precise dates.

Planting Beets

Beets can be direct seeded in the garden and can be sown every 2 to 3 weeks for a continuous harvest. Seeds should be planted 2 to 3 inches apart and 0.4 to 1 inch deep. When seedlings are 1 to 2 inches tall, thin the plants by cutting the greens to avoid disturbing the roots. As beets continue to grow, thin to about 3 to 4 inches between plants. The thinnings can be cooked and eaten.


Most vegetables require fertilizer for growth. Organic materials, such as manures and compost, and inorganic materials, such as chemicals, can be used to fertilize plants. Using both types of materials usually provides the best growth. Manures and compost can be used to increase soil fertility. They are usually applied at 1 pound per 4 or 5 square feet. These materials should be worked into the soil several weeks before planting in order to allow it to decompose. Manure that contains straw, sawdust, or similar materials should be applied with a commercial nitrogen fertilizer. Generally, if the soil has been properly amended with compost or manures or other organic materials, the only nutrient needed is nitrogen, if anything. Some commercial nitrogen fertilizers available are urea, ammonium sulfate, calcium nitrate, and ammonium nitrate. Apply these fertilizers at rates of 0.5 to 1 pound of nitrogen per 100 feet of row.

If manure and other organic material has not been used, apply fertilizer that contains both nitrogen and phosphorus before planting. All commercial fertilizers are labeled by the percentages of N-P-K; nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Some common mixed fertilizers are 5-10-5, 5-10-10, 8-16-16, and 12-12-12. Apply these fertilizers at rates of 1 - 2 pounds per 100 feet of row. After plants are 3 to 4 inches tall, sidedress nitrogen in narrow bands or furrows and water thoroughly after application or apply through the drip system. Consider light but frequent applications of nitrogen fertilizer every 3 to 4 weeks. Avoid letting the fertilizer come into contact with the plant stems to avoid burning.

Application tips

Inorganic fertilizers can be sidedressed. Manures are more difficult to use as a side dressing and must be tilled into the soil.

Banding: Make a small groove 1 or 2 inches deep on both shoulders of the bed, 4 to 6 inches from the plant row and band in the fertilizer. Replace the soil and irrigate.

Broadcasting: Fertilizers can be scattered along the bed shoulders. Work into the soil soon after. This is less efficient than the banding method but will be more practical when the plants are so large that the bed shoulders are inaccessible for banding.

Where sprinklers are used, fertilizer may be scattered on the soil surface between rows before irrigating. Where drip or trickle tubes are used, apply fertilizer on the soil surface near the drip tube.

Watering Beets

Examine your soil visually and with your hands to determine the need for additional water. Irrigate beets carefully, especially early in the season so as to avoid overwatering. When plants are small, frequent, light irrigation will maintain a loose soil surface. Proper irrigation will keep your plants vigorous and help protect them from insect damage and sunburn.

Harvesting and Storing Beets

Beets are ready for harvest in 42 to 70 days depending on variety, planting date, size, and growing season. To avoid damaging the roots, use a spading fork to gently lift the entire plant out of the ground. To store beets, remove the green tops and be sure roots are clean and dry before storing in the refrigerator. Beet greens should be used quickly after harvest.

Harvest tips

Harvest beets when the roots are between 1 and 3 inches wide. Beets that are larger or left in the ground too long get tough.

Bunches of beets.

Bunches of beets.

Seed bed preparation.

Seed bed preparation.

Amending soil to prepare for planting.

Amending soil to prepare for planting.

Beets growing in a garden bed.

Beets growing in a garden bed.

Bag of fertilizer.

Bag of fertilizer.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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