Beets

pistol(z6okla)March 13, 2008

I have a hard time with these. What soil temp should they be planted at? Any other advice? Thanks in advance.

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macmex

I'm not sure about exact soil temperature. But I have just recently planted mine and am awaiting their appearance. Beets do well in cooler temps, especially when germinating. It's not good to plant them and then have them dry out before germination. So the cooler temps help. I also have been watering mine, in order to assure a better rate of germination.

George

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 11:48AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Pistol,

You said "I have a hard time with these". Can you describe what you meant......is it that you have a hard time getting them to germinate? Or, do they germinate and then grow poorly?

I'm not sure of the exact soil temperature you'd need in order to expect good germination, but I think that the general rule is to sow beet seed 4 to 6 weeks prior to your average last frost date. In most parts of Oklahoma, that timing probably would put your soil in the 45 degree and warmer range. And, for many cool season crops, 45 degrees is just about the lowest temperature at which you can expect germination to occur.

The key to remember with beets is that they do prefer the cooler weather, as George said, so early planting is necessary. This allows them to do most of their growth before the daytime high temperatures begin consistently exceeding the 60 to 65 degree range. Your best beets will be those produced during this cool temperature range. However, you still will get good beets as long as they mature before the daytime high temperatures begin exceeding 80 degrees. If the weather gets way too hot way too quickly, your beets will be lower in quality--with the beets themselves being tough and fibrous and the leaves being excessively bitter.

If you want to plant beets for a fall crop, plant the seed only after daytime highs are 80 degrees or lower. Your beets should remain vigorous for a long time in the cool fall weather, and will be fine until the nighttime lows start getting down into the mid-20s. Sometimes it is easier to get a good beet crop in the fall than in the spring.

And, of course, beets tend to bolt, much like onions do, if this specific sequence of events occurs: (1) seeds planted, (2) seeds sprout and grow in relatively warm spring weather, (3) a late cold spell occurs and keeps low temps under 45 degrees for about 10 to 14 days which (4) forces the plants into a period of dormancy, (5) followed by warmer weather which tricks them into thinking they are in their second season, and leads to (6) the initiating of a flower stalk and seeds, which (7) ruins the crop. If the bolting is the problem you've been having with them, then there really isn't a solution, since none of us can control the weather.

And, if getting the seed to germinate is the problem, you might want to pre-soak it in water for 12 to 24 hours prior to planting. Two other common problems in getting beets and similar crops to sprout are (a) soil that crusts over and gets hard, preventing new sprouts from breaking through the soil surface, and (b) planting seed too deeply. On heavy clay soil, plant seed no more than 1/2" deep, and on lighter sandy or sandy loam soil, plant it no deeper than 1". If your soil crusts over and the beets can't break through the surface of the soil, interplant the beet seed with radish seeds. Radishes are good at breaking through a crusty soil surface...and they mature fast, so you can pull them out and the beets will have plenty of growing space.

Dawn

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 8:05PM
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pistol(z6okla)

Dawn, its getting a good stand that gives me problems. My soil is blow sand that crusts really easily. I may try covering the seed with lightweight mix that is moist and putting some radishes it too. Thanks

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 9:48AM
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macmex

I put a lot of nail holes in a #10 coffee can and go out before work, each day (if it's not raining) and "sprinkle" the seeds which are sensitive to drying out. Also, if you can find some bona fide burlap, that would be a great cover. You'd lay it over the seed bed and water through it, lifting it each day to see if anything was coming up.

My January planting of parsnips is looking really impressive! They didn't sprout until the very beginning of March. But they are up thickly. I planted beets last week and they are not yet up.

George

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 12:36PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

George,

It seems like it always takes beets forever to sprout! I've also used large pieces of wet cardboard instead of burlap to keep them moist and covered.

I'm glad your parsnips came up and are growing well.

Dawn

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 1:02PM
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macmex

This is the best stand of parsnips I've managed to get in my adult life! I'm hoping that my beets do as well, and I suspect they will, as they haven't come close to drying out since I planted them.

George

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 7:46AM
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pistol(z6okla)

I am going to plant mine today. Is it too late? It stays cold late up here in NW Okla.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 11:23AM
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macmex

Do you mean too late for beets or for parsnips? I doubt that it's too late for either, but I guess I've have more confidence in the beets. I planted a small additional patch of parsnips, apart from the main patch, just last week. My idea is that I know how greedy we get for them at harvest time, and I want to leave at least half a dozen in the ground to make seed. So, the small patch will be set aside for seed.

George

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 1:28PM
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mulberryknob

Pistol, most years I try for the first week in Mar to get my beets in the ground here in Adair Co., and I interplant with radishes. I like to soak my seed overnight before I plant. (I think one of the main problems with beets is bad seed, as it is not a favorite crop of many people, and the seeds hangs around too long waiting to be sold.) Anyway this year the first week in March was too cold so I planted the second week. Watered when I planted, but not since as we got almost 5" here on the 18th. Good luck Dorothy

    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 6:21PM
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