Geoff McCabe

Beets – How to Grow Them

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How to Grow Beets in Hot Tropical Areas of Costa Rica

Beets Growing in the Tropics Spanish Name: Remolacha
Seeds: Each seed is a cluster. Soak in water 12-24 hrs before planting
Soil Type: Sandy, high phosphorous, raised beds
Ph: 6-7 (Neutral)
Germination Time: 5-10 days
Spacing: 1/2″ deep, Very Close: 2-4″ between plants and 12-18″ between rows
Water: Daily, keep soil moist
Sun: Full or Partial Sun
Harvest Time: 4 weeks for greens, 8-10 weeks for beetroot

History and Nutrition

Usually thought of as red or purple, beets also can be yellow or even white. The red/purple ones can be used as a dye or food coloring, and have the often scary effect of turning one’s bodily fluids red, sometimes scaring people into thinking they’re bleeding. Beets supposedly can reduce the effects of “garlic breath.”

Many people hate the taste of beets, saying that they taste like dirt, and this is probably genetic as it is with cilantro. The chemical that certain people dislike in beets can be neutralized by cooking them in orange juice.

Studies show that beets are especially good for the liver, and also for preventing heart disease. They have many vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, and are particularly high in B9 (Folate)

It’s closely related to Chard, and the two can cross-pollinate each other.

Beets are known as a vegetable that’s best grown in cooler climates, but it’s also possible to grow them in hot weather, but they can be more woody or stringy. We’re hoping to find some more heat-tolerant varieties and a method of growing them so they work here. If nothing else, perhaps we can grow them just for the greens.

Seeds to Use

Currently running tests on various types, searching for hotter-weather varieties.

Soil Preparation

Our first attempt at beets produced greens but not much root. This is probably due to too much nitrogen and not enough phosphorous. Like carrots, beets want sandier soil without an excess of nitrogen compost. If you have clay soil, which is most common in Costa Rica, then you can add extra organic material to lighten the soil.

Good drainage is essential, so mix rich soil with 50% sand, and add phosphorous. Best to use raised beds.

Planting Instructions

Beet seeds come in irregular clusters, and can be broken apart or planted whole, ideally after soaking them in water overnight so soften them. If not broken apart, several plants will grow together, so they should be thinned when young, leaving the strongest. Don’t pull them out because that can disturb the roots of the remaining beet plant. Instead, PINCH them off. These thinnings can be eaten and are very tasty.

Plant the seeds only 1/2″ deep. While they grow, expect to see the top of the beetroot from above, which can protrude from the soil.

Spacing: Plant the seeds close together… 2-4 inches apart. They can grow very close together. The rows can be 12-18 inches between them.

Companion Planting

    Good Companion Plants: Bush Beans, Kale/Cabbage Family Vegetables, Mint

    Bad Companion Plants: Pole Beans

Growing Carrots

    Composting: NO. You shouldn’t need to add compost during their growth or they’ll produce too much greens and not enough roots. The initial compost you have in the soil when they’re planted should be enough for their lifecycle.

    Sunlight: We have red mixed reports on this. Beets like full or partial sun, but they also don’t like heat. We think that partial sun is best for them here in the tropical regions of Costa Rica.

    Mulch: Mulch beets well to keep them moist or the beetroot can turn out woody and dry.

    Seasons: The rainy season in Costa Rica may be too much for beets, even though it’s cooler. I suspect that since we’ve had so much trouble with chard growing here in the humid/rainy season (May-Nov) then beets may not work well either, since the are closely related plants.

Pests/Insects

No info yet

Harvesting

Paragraphs about harvesting them

Tips & Troubleshooting

Common problems and what to do about them

Our Results

Specific details of our experiments, success, and failure at growing these.

References

Beets – Wikipedia article on beets. Has complete info on nutritional info
Almanac.com – Lots of info on growing beets

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