Friday, July 8, 2011

Itty Bitty Beets

I have had many gardening failures. Usually I can figure out what has gone wrong: poor placement, planted too early or too late, not enough water, too much water, soil issues, etc. I learn from my mistakes and go on to produce the crop successfully, adjusting whatever needs to be adjusted. Occasionally, I will give up on a particularly problematic crop, especially if it is not well suited to our cool Bay Area climate. However, I am stumped by my lack of success with beets.

For some reason, my beets do not want to produce nice large bulbs. The seedlings languish in the ground for months, producing a few leaves but no round root. Eventually, the roots will begin to bulb up, but by that time, they are woody and still small. Btw, woody beets are nasty.

I've read that beets like consistent watering. Check. I've got my drip system in place and this year produced an amazing spring crop of carrots, whom also love consistent water, grown right next to the the Goldens, Chioggas, and Ruby Queens.

Beets don't like the heat. Um, yeah... that's certainly not a problem around here.

Beets like acidic soil, around 6.5-7 pH. I'm not sure what the acidity of my soil is so this may be the culprit. However, beets are said to be "easy to grow" so I'm doubting that they are that picky.

I know I'm the one that is usually dispensing advice on this blog, but today I am putting the question out to you, dear readers. What do you think is going wrong with my beet crops? Do any of you have some fool-proof tips for the beetroot challenged? I'm trying to get a handle on this before I put in my fall crops this next week. (Thanks to Rachel over at Dog Island for reminding me that it's time. I don't know what I would do without you!)

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  1. I have had patchy success with beets...looking forward to seeing what other people say. Can't beat blogging for beating up some crop beating beet advice...hopefully.

  2. My beets are behaving much the same way - growing well but no bulbs. I have no idea why but it could possibly be because the soil is too heavy for them. I was told mine were growing leggy because the ground was too wet. Not sure if that is worth looking at as well. However some plants just won't grow in a particular spot despite all cultural conditions being met - I have 100% failure on basil and parsley for obvious reason why.

  3. I'm debating getting a soil testing kit after a few problematic crops. I couldn't get my garlic or onions to bulb up despite great looking and delicious shoots.

  4. Those home soil testing kits are notoriously inaccurate. Send your soil off to get tested. I personally like A&L Western Labs - the full test is somewhere around $30 and that includes their recommendations for fixing your soil.

    Beets also like boron. So you'll want to test for that. My biggest problem with beets was getting them to germinate at all. I had to end up starting them in trays and then setting them out.

  5. I have trouble with beets also, exactly what you are describing. I have no idea how people grow big beautiful beets - but I'd like to because I love them.

  6. Nice to know I'm not alone on this. I'm enjoying the beet greens in salads and such, but haven't gotten any beets. I think I'll take Rob's advice and start my fall crop in a different location.

  7. I'm unsure why mine grew so well..I am over in Oakland but that shouldn't make too much difference. I do have them in raised beds in nice loose soil, not sure if that is why. They did take a while to get going though. I do not have drip irrigation yet, and my husband and I frequently forget to water because we think the other person is doing it. So I wouldn't chalk it up to water. As for the soil ph, I never measured it, but since they are in raised beds, we did buy bags of soil which we amend with worm casings every now and then. This is all probably too vague to be helpful, but they turned out to be baseball sized, eventually

  8. I have trouble with beets also, exactly what you are describing. I have no idea how people grow big beautiful beets but I'd like to because I love them..
    Thanks for sharing..
    Dogwood trees Tennessee

  9. Perhaps you are sewing the seeds too close together? Or not thinning them after they begin to sprout? I would think if you can grow carrots you can grow beets. I love the Early Wonder and Bulls Blood variety, pretty hardy down here. Good luck!