Beets - when to harvest?

pam225June 26, 2008

This is my first year at trying to grow massive amounts of beets - well, at least 4 rows of beets.

My seeds went in on or about May 5. The varieties that I have are Detroit Dark Red, Morse's Strain (supposed to grow to 3" in diameter and say 60 days to harvest) and organic Yellow Intermediate Mangel Heirloom (grow 2"-8" roots harvest in 65-70 days).

My garden is in raised beds that are 8'x4' in diameter (obviously the beets only take up a portion of this!) and are filled with the following: layers of newspaper at the bottom, aged horse manure (free from Fairmount Park), UCGs from Starbucks, grass clippings from the first cutting (it was long!), and then compost (again free from Fairmount Park). Interspersed is the kitchen veggie clippings and some egg shells (more clippings than egg shells). My mix seems to be working for all of my veggies since everything is thriving, tons of green tomatoes and I have already harvested zuchini, my lettuce and spinach were awesome, already have peppers growing.

So I go out this morning with my coffee to check my plants, water if necessary, etc. I notice that some of my beets (both the red and the yellow) are showing the beet tops just above ground. Some are just showing, some are about a 1/4" above. The largest diameter showing (from what I can see) is about 3/4". The greens still look awesome, and everything looks okay and not dying.

My questions are what to do with the ones showing? (1) do I leave them alone, (2) do I throw more compost around them to cover them up, or (3) do I harvest them?

I guess my concern is that I used ONLY compost, which again seems to be doing wonders for my garden, but I'm wondering if it's settling and I just need to add more.

Thanks in advance,


Havertown, PA

(I've attched a picture of my beets, although you can't see the ones above ground, you can see where they are planted, etc.)

Here is a link that might be useful:

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billv(z6 WVA)

I have picked beets when they are nearly half out of the ground and they seemed fine to me - cooked or pickled (sliced). Preserving them whole is the only reason I would have for pulling them small.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 10:30AM
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I do believe if you intend to cook or can them whole, then small diameter is what you shoot for. I understand that when smaller (2"or so) they are more tender and as they get larger you run the risk of beets that are fiberous (ie: tough, leathery). I have harvested beets up to 3-4" w/o them being fiberous, but they definitely were more tough than the younger, tender 2"-ers. Just a matter of preference and intended use perhaps.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 10:36AM
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Thanks for the insight! I will let them go a little longer I think and then pull them. For storing them I think I will be pickling some and cooking some and freezing (but I don't think I'm going to have all that many left - my 15 year old likes them). Can anyone direct me on how to pickle them?

One more question...can I sow them again later this summer for a fall/winter crop? When do I want to do this?



    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 10:39AM
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No, you don't need to cover them. If you planted in early May and they are about that size, sounds about normal to me. You can always add more compost or fertilizer, it certainly won't hurt them.

As said above, harvest beets sometime between the size of a golf ball and the size of a tennis ball/baseball. The smaller they are, the lower the total yield, but the higher the quality. For the mangels, be sure to harvest those before they get much bigger than about 3 inches in diameter, or they will get quite tough, in my experience.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 10:41AM
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