If you are planning on growing beets in your garden this year, you might be wondering how big they will get. That way, you can plan the number of plants and the amount of space you will need for your crop of beets.
So, how big do beets get? Beet plants grow 8 to 24 inches (20 to 61 centimeters) tall, 4 to 12 inches (10 to 30 centimeters) wide, and produce roots that are 1 to 4 inches (2.5 to 10.2 centimeters) in diameter.
Of course, the quality of your beets (if you get any at all!) depends on the care that you give your plants. Let’s take a closer look at beets, including size, growing conditions, and time to maturity.
How Big Do Beets Get?
Beet greens (the stalks and leaves) can grow to a height of 8 to 24 inches (20 to 61 centimeters) above the soil, with a width of 4 to 12 inches (10 to 30 centimeters).
The average size of a beet is 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Some larger varieties of beets can grow up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) in diameter.
However, you will want to harvest your beets before they grow too large. Otherwise, you will get beets with tough roots that are difficult to eat.
How Long Does It Take Beets to Grow?
Some beets, such as Merlin beets from Burpee, can mature in as little as 48 days, while some take up to 70 days to mature! Most beets take 50 to 60 days to mature.
According to Michigan State University, beets seeds will germinate in 5 to 21 days, assuming proper moisture and ideal soil temperature of 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 to 29.4 degrees Celsius).
How Do You Know When to Pick Beets?
For most beet varieties, you can harvest them when the roots are 1.5 to 3 inches (3.8 to 7.6 centimeters) in diameter at the surface of the soil.
If you let your beets get much bigger than this, they will become tough.
You can expect about 1 pound of beets per foot of row planted.
Remember that the beet greens (stalks and leaves) are even more nutritious than the beet roots themselves! You can harvest beet greens at 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) tall and use them for greens in salad, or cook them as you would spinach.
For more information, check out this article on beets from Burpee.
Why Are My Beets So Small?
Beets will grow small if you provide too much nitrogen in the soil or give the plant too much shade.
In both cases, the beet plant will grow large leaves at the expense of the root. Avoid adding too much nitrogen or planting beets in the shade of trees and other tall crops in your garden.
What Do Beets Look Like?
Beets are roots that grow in the ground. Most are small and round or bulb-shaped. Beets can be red, pink, purple, or even golden yellow on the outside, with similar coloring on the inside.
Beets send up stalks with leaves on them (greens). These greens can be used in salads, but you will want to harvest them at 4 to 6 inches tall for this purpose.
Are Beets Hard to Grow?
Beets like full sun, so make sure you do not plant them in the shade of trees or other crops in your garden. Otherwise, you will get beet plants with large leaves and small roots.
Like carrots, beets are grown mainly for the roots, which need loose, sandy soil without too many rocks or soil clumps. This will allow your beets to grow without obstruction. The soil should have a pH between 6.0 and 6.8.
There are many other factors that affect beet growth, including temperature, watering, fertilizing, and spacing. Let’s start with temperature.
Temperature for Beets
The minimum temperature for beet seed germination is 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius). If the soil is any colder than this, you will see low germination rates – that is, if you can get any seeds at all to germinate!
This is nature’s way of protecting beet seeds from sprouting at a time when they will be unable to survive. This is why it is suggested that you start beet seeds indoors to avoid cold soil temperatures in early spring.
The maximum temperature for beet seed germination is 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). If the soil is any warmer than this, germination rates will decrease.
Combined with high humidity, high temperatures can encourage the growth of mold, which is another threat to your plants. So, don’t wait too long to plant your beet seeds and transplant your established plants outside!
You should show beet seeds directly into the soil outdoors, 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost date.
You can start seeds indoors if the growing season is short where you live. However, remember that it is easy to disturb the roots of beets when transplanting them outside.
The ideal (optimal) temperature for beet seed germination is between 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius) and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4 degrees Celsius).
Keep in mind that these temperatures refer to soil temperature, not air temperature. If you want to find out the soil temperature, use a probe-type thermometer to check.
If the thermometer reads a temperature that is too low, then you have some options. One option is to wait until the sun warms up the soil.
To speed up this process, clear away any debris, such as leaves or grass clippings, from the soil surface. Also make sure to choose a location for planting that gets plenty of sun, so that it can warm up the soil faster.
If you are worried about a short growing season, you can also use a cloche (a plastic or glass cover) to trap some heat and warm up the air and soil near your beet seeds.
A cloche can be made from a plastic water bottle to retain warmth and humidity in the soil for seeds or seedlings as they grow.
For more information, check out the table below, and check out this article from the University of California on ideal seed germination temperatures.
|Ideal||65 to 85||18.3 to 29.4|
Watering for Beets
Putting mulch on top of your soil will help to retain moisture, especially during periods of hot, dry weather. If you find that you have a problem with dry soil, check out my article on how to treat dry soil.
On the other hand, over watering your beet plants (or any plants for that matter) can lead to root rot and eventual death. The best way to decide when to water is to feel the soil with your fingers.
If the soil feels dry 2 or 3 inches below the surface, then go ahead and water. For more information, check out my article on over watering your plants.
Try to water early in the morning, rather than at night, to allow water to soak into the soil. Avoid getting the leaves wet to prevent rot, mold, and diseases.
Fertilizing for Beets
Adding compost to your soil before planting beets is a good way to improve drainage for clay soil, improve water retention for sandy soil, and add nutrients to your garden.
For more information, check out my article on making compost.
Beets are a heavy feeder, so you may need to use a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, before planting. According to the Texas A&M University Extension, you should apply 1 cup of fertilizer per 10 feet of beets planted.
However, avoid excessive nitrogen, since too much will cause beet greens to grow large and lush at the expense of the roots.
For more information, check out my article on over fertilizing your plants.
A similar warning applies if you use manure in your garden – be sure to let it decompose completely before applying it to your plants, or else you can burn them with salts from the animal waste.
Spacing for Beets
Sow beet seeds directly into the garden, at a depth of 0.5 to 1 inch (1.3 to 2.5 centimeters). Leave 1 inch between seeds, and leave 12 to 18 inches between rows of beets. This will leave space to make weeding, watering, and harvesting easier.
When beet plants are 2 inches tall, thin them to 3 inches apart (4 plants per foot). This is necessary because every beet “seed” is actually a cluster containing several seeds.
For more information, check out this article on beets from the University of Maryland Extension.
Finally, make sure to weed carefully, especially when your beet plants are small. The young roots are sensitive and can be damaged easily when pulling up weeds.
By now, you have a much better idea of how big beets get, in terms of both the root below ground and the stalks above ground. You also know a bit more about the care that is necessary to ensure a healthy crop of beets in this year’s garden.
I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone else who can use the information. If you have any questions or advice about beets, please leave a comment below.