Can't grow beets!?

catsgurleygirlMay 26, 2012

Okay, so I feel really stupid because my husband and I have been trying to grow beets for about 3 months and just aren't getting anywhere! We have not gotten one single beet. We are also trying to grow swiss chard and we have not had any luck there either. I just don't know what the deal is. I thought that growing beets was easy, but apparently for us' it's not. I mean we have grown Bhut Jolokia and Trinidad Scorprion plants from seeds and done well, but these beets are kicking out butts. I know it is getting to hot for beets here in hot, humid Memphis, but I think it is still okay for swiss chard, right? Our growing conditions for the yard are raised beds with garden soil that had a long release fertilizer in it. I don't know what else to do. I did fertilize again about a week ago with miracle grow because I just didn't know what else to do, but I am at a loss, some things have been munched on, but the beets aren't even developing roots and the swiss chard is just MIA except for some scraggly tiny guys here and there. I am going to try some swiss chard in the big garden tomorrow, so hopefully that will grow. Anyway, I know this is a bit long, but do any of you have any ideas or suggestions? I am just at a loss. TIA!!!

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I had problems growing turnips for three years, until a coworker told me that I planted the seeds to deep. I broad cast the seeds & raked them in. I should have rake my bed, then sprinkled the seeds on top.
I grew turnips & beets on this rule with no problem. I read a book (boy, am I dated my self, before the web)that said never plant a seed more then twice the thickness of the seed.
I do not know what would cause the root not to blossom or swell.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 1:53AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Some ideas that come to mind are: too deep (like jolj said), too wet, too dry, too inconsistent with moisture, or they are sprouting but getting eaten by slugs before you ever see them. That last used to happen to me with lettuce. I spent 2 years wondering why the heck I could not grow lettuce from seed while everyone else said how easy it is! Then I discovered the miracle of iron phosphate...

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 9:12AM
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Root plants do best when grown in the fall-winter season in the southern areas of the U.S.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 9:39AM
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Try planting both beets and chard in October. It will take months for the beets to make - some of mine are still very small and I started them early. And try broadcasting the seeds on the ground and leave them exposed, rather than burying them. I get better germination that way. You say you're in zone 10, but you're in Memphis? Is that right? I'm on the Gulf Coast and am in zone 9 - zone 10 is south of me.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 11:04AM
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Thanks so much for your replies. Will give the broadcast and cover method a try. May still try the swiss chard, I have read that it is supposed to be able to tolerate heat. Eahamel, my zone was obviously incorrect, :-) don't know how that happened, but I think it's been like that for a while.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 3:43PM
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No advice because I'm not anywhere near your zone. Just wanted to tell you not to feel dumb. Most of us have a crop (or three) that we have trouble with for no readily-apparent reason. :)

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 3:56PM
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I can't give any advice for your warmer zone, but I've had some trouble with growing beets over the years. Most of my seedlings get eaten by the birds, so my husband built a wooden enclosure that has rigid netting over three sides. It gets removed once the plants are about 6-8" tall. My other problem was that, when they finally did produce, I would find that some animal had gnawed on the roots. You can't win.

Last year I did something different, I dug out a trench and added fresh planting soil and the beets were the best ever! I didn't even have to share with the critters! The important thing is to thin them so that they have room to grow. I actually heard about someone starting beets in pots and then transplanting, but it seems like too much trouble. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 5:53PM
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^Sorry for the double post, wished there was an edit function! I was trying to correct for spelling!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 5:54PM
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" Root crops do better in the Southeast in fall and winter." Yes but I'm further south tha Memphis and I grow beets and turnips in the spring. They need to be planted real early after the last hard freeze but not necessarily the last frost. Light frosts don't faze them. For years I had trouble getting germination of beets untill someone told me not to plant so deep. It IS too late to plant them now.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 12:59PM
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The most common reason for unsuccessful beet and chard growing is too acid soil. They really prefer a pH above 7. Below 6.2 or 6.3, which is acceptable for most other vegetables, they are not worth the effort. I have different gardens with different pH, one is clay pH=7.6, the other is acid sandy soil, probably pH=6. The former will grow them with no effort, the latter failed numerous times, started producing something after a lot of wood ash was applied and will never do as well. If you don't have ash, use lime and apply it every year shortly before planting. I also had a complete failure once when I covered the beet seeds with composted pine needles. Zero germination that time.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 10:51PM
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dancinglemons(7B VA)


OK now this is totally different than anything I have ever done OR ever heard anyone else do -but- I just planted beets and they are growing like gangbusters. I can not tell you why I did this other than to say I was reading several different threads and put all of the info into my head. Here is what I did.

1. Forgot to plant the beets in early April.
2. Put the beet seeds in a glass with 50% warm tap water and 50% hydrogen peroxide (3%)
3. Let the seeds soak 24 hours.
4. Remove the seeds from soak and place in 100% hydrogen peroxide for about 1-2 hours.
5. Rolled the beet seeds up in a wet (not soaking wet) paper towel and placed in a plastic cup and put in the fridge for 2 days.
6. On day 2 I looked at the seeds and they all had tiny white roots coming out -BUT- I was not ready to plant
7. Moistened the paper towel a bit and placed seeds back in fridge.
8. On day 5 (or was it day 4??) I planted those seeds 3/4 to 1 inch deep in my raised bed. (bed has full sun until 2PM then light shade) I watered the soil and expected nothing!!
9. On day 7 (or maybe day 8)I had beet babies starting to come up.

Now, the seeds all had white roots when I planted them. I have ABSOLUTELY no idea why I did this -but- I do like to experiment so perhaps that is why.

Try soaking your beet seeds overnight in warm water and be sure to water your planting bed -BEFORE- planting your seeds and firm the soil (gently) over the seeds. I know it is hot in Memphis. I'm in Central Virginia and it was in the 80's when I planted these seeds. (I plant everything in late evening.)

BTW I grow Lutz Green Leaf beets which do well in heat.


    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 2:57AM
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I second Glib, for example this spring I planted chard in 3 different locations, and the one with the best soil texture also turned out to be unexpectedly low ph - 5.9 - and the chard hardly germinated and what did is barely growing, despite near-perfect weather conditions. Total loss. The other two locations though coarser sand are doing as expected, no problems.

In your case weather is likely also a factor, sounds like soil surface is hot and dry. Flea beetles can wipe out seedlings as they come up.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 7:33AM
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2nd the acid soil & grow during the cool season.

Try adding calcium carbonate sold as powder like flour (lime) rather than the pelleted Soil Sweet. Buy from a feed store not a garden center.

**dissolves quicker & makes a big difference for the beets as well as cabbage family plants here in my rainy climate -- I apply lime every year because my soils need it alternating with regular lime that includes magnesium every 3rd or 4th year.

Gets better every year for these crops.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 11:20AM
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qbush(6, NE MA)

OK Massachusetts is not supposed to be as hot and humid as Memphis, but this year we are much closer that most years with record high temps, and rain in humid bursts. This summer my beets are steadily improving.

Last year, more typical New England weather which should suit beets, I had NO beets. Plants were three inches tall at 70 day. Two replantings later I had to agree with glib's advice about ph levels. I had added a bunch of leaf litter that while nicely aged, and great for soil texture must have moved the ph to far out of optimum for beets.

This year I planted into soil improved with grass clippings and manure the fall before. Better growth, small beets. On the third bed I got a bee in my bonnet, and tried fertilizer. Specifically 0-20-0,(these numbers matter) Super Phosphate, a very small amount sprinkled in the furrow. I ran my fingers down furrow, wiggling to disperse, and planted Beets Boro 50 days, Beets Flat of Egypt 51 days, and Carrots Adelaide 51 days. They came up, and grew like storm troopers. SO the math:
Bed 1 120 days smallish tops, tiny beets about a pint to pickle
Bed 2 60 days larger tops, and some decent sized beets, still pickling.
Bed 3 35 days much larger tops, and shoulders showing better beets than either beds 1 or 2 in half the bed space.

So I guess they needed more phosphate. Super P is NOT an organic fertilizer so next two plantings I am going to use Super phosphate, and Bone meal to see if beets (not carrots) prefer one or the other. Oh, and Bone meal is much easier to find than Super Phosphate (0-20-0) and I am not ready to try Triple Phosphate (0-45-0) yet.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:16PM
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