Skip to main content

Growing Beets

clump of beets and a clump of carrots

Beets (Beta vulgaris) are a popular cool season root crop for production and marketing in West Virginia. Beets are closely related to spinach and Swiss chard vegetables. Beets are a great source of folate.

Like most root crops, beets do best in a light textured, deep soil without stones. Raised beds,which permit the soil to be relatively deep and loose, are well suited for root vegetables. Beets should be seeded early or late enough in the year to grow under cool weather conditions which favors both yield and quality.

Choosing a Beet

Beet roots are actually enlarged portions of the stem called the hypocotyl. Most modern varieties having a round shape but there are some beet cultivars which have a cylindrical shaped root. Some beets also have edible foliage and are eaten as greens. Beets can be harvested as small vegetables, often referred to as “baby vegetables”.

Planting Beets

Beets grow best in a soil with a pH of 6.0-6.8. Beet “seeds” are actually fruits containing several seeds. Thus, when seeded, beets are typically thinned to one plant. Each seed is planted 1-2 inches apart and thinned to one plant every 3 inches. Beets can be either direct-seeded or transplanted. Beets should be sown beginning 6 weeks before the last spring frost and in August for fall beets in West Virginia.

When transplanted, beets are sown in small cell containers and transplanted 4-6 weeks later.Beets are spaced approximately 2-3 inches apart with rows 12-18 inches apart. If the objective is to harvest beet greens for a salad mix, the beets can be broadcast- seeded over a raised bed.When the leaves are approximately 2 inches long, they can be harvested.

Beets should be sown beginning 6 weeks before the last spring frost and in August for fall beets in West Virginia.

Growing Beets in Low or High Tunnels


Planting beets in low tunnels or high tunnels can significantly lengthen the growing season for beets. Low tunnels are essentially cold frames which are fabricated from plastic or metal pipe into bows covered with row cover material. High tunnels are walk-in cold frames and can be used to grow and harvest winter beets. Using high tunnels, beets can be seeded in September for early winter harvest. The following spring, the beets can be seeded as early as February for harvest in April. For a continuous supply of beets, a new seeding is made after the first true leaf appears on the current planting.

inside of a high tunnel made of plastic over arched metal framing

After thinning, the beets should be evenly watered. Drip irrigation is the preferred method of watering beets since this form of irrigation wets only the soil without wetting the foliage. Approximately 60 lbs/acre of actual nitrogen can be applied before planting with an additional30 lbs. applied as a side dress 4-6 weeks after planting. Do not apply nitrogen through the drip lines when growing beets. Too much nitrogen can reduce quality of both beets and roots. Uneven soil moisture will cause beets to exhibit a condition called “zoning” which is uneven internal color. Beets can be grown on either organic or plastic mulches. Since beets do not compete well with weeds, the mulches reduce weed competition and soil moisture loss.

Beet Variety Selection

Selecting suitable varieties is a critical decision for any grower. Here is a list of recommended beet varieties for West Virginia:


Relative Maturity (days)


Early Wonder Tall Top


Very early beet; edible leaves; good for salads

Bull’s Blood


Dark red foliage; excellent for beet greens

Chioggia Guardsmark


Candy-cane striping of beet; very sweet



Excellent beet for baby beet production

Red Ace


Early, high-sugar beet

Pacemaker III


High-sugar, uniform beet with dark red color

Touchstone Gold


Uniform golden color beet



Long, cylindrical beet

Harvesting Your Beets

Beets can be harvested at any stage in which color is optimum. Baby beets are usually harvested36-40 days after sowing. Baby beet leaves are often harvested as cut greens for salads. For mature harvest, beets should be approximately the size of a golf ball. The beets can be gently dug from the soil with a fork or simply pulled. Fall/winter beets should be dug before the ground freezes. If they are being placed in storage, the tops can be trimmed and the beets can be lightly washed of soil and placed in boxes or bins until use or market. Optimal storage conditions are 32°F with high (95%) relative humidity. Happy growing!

Author: Lewis W. Jett, WVU Extension Specialist – Commercial Horticulture