It’s easy to assure that growing beets in a container is difficult, but it’s actually pretty easy once you learn the process. Beets prefer cooler weather and are tolerant of any climate or soil, so growing beets, even in a container, is less complicated than growing some other crops.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know to grow beets in containers.
Table of Contents
1. Choose a Container
As you might expect, choosing the right size container is important when growing beets. If you use a container that’s too small, the soil will dry out too quickly and the roots won’t have enough room to grow. If you use one that’s too big, it becomes too heavy and difficult to move around.
A lot of people prefer to start seedling in starter pots or small containers and then transfer them to a larger container when starting a garden.
But this isn’t the best way to grow beets. They often don’t do well when transferred from small containers to larger ones. If you prefer to start in a smaller container, use biodegradable pots made of paper or peat so that you can quickly and easily transplant seedlings without disrupting them too much.
Beets are ready to transplant to a larger container when they develop their first set of adult leaves. If you try to transplant earlier than this, the roots aren’t established enough and there’s a chance the plants won’t make it; any larger, and it’s likely to shock the plants and lead to stunted growth.
The permanent container you choose for your beets should be about eight to 12 inches deep. Beetroots need a lot of space, so deep containers are a necessity. Large containers also take longer to dry out, which means that you don’t have to worry about watering them as often.
You also need to ensure that the container has drainage holes so that water doesn’t pool at the bottom of the container. This could cause root rot and kill the plant.
2. Choose the Soil
Beets are very adaptable and can adjust to most types of soil, but they do thrive when in the right conditions. Generally, beets prefer enriched solid that’s loose with a pH of about 7.
Compacted soil, rocks, and pebbles in the soil can cause problems with growth as they make it harder for the roots to push through the soil and cause deformities.
Beets are heavy feeders, which means you have to make sure they have the right amount of nutrients in their soil. Adding compost and organic amendments is a great way to get them what they need.
You should also add organic fertilizer. When looking at the NPK ratings, choose one with low nitrogen and high phosphorus. You may also want to consider adding boron as some beets suffer from boron deficiencies. Seaweed is a great natural source of boron.
3. Choose the Right Spot
Beets prefer cold temperatures and full sun, which in some locations can be a little hard to find. If you live in a warmer climate, make sure that you add a layer of mulch to the top of the container to keep the soil as cool as possible.
Plants should get at least eight hours of direct sunlight every day. When beets get a lot of light, they taste their best.
Now that you have a better idea of the basics, here’s a step-by-step guide for planting crops in a container.
1. Prepare the container. Remember, your container should have drainage holes at the bottom, but you should also add a layer of gravel at the bottom. This facilitates adequate drainage and prevents root rot and waterlogging.
2. Fill the pot with soil. Ensure that there are no clumps, rocks, or stones in the soil.
3. Presoak the seeds. This part of the process helps break down the outer casing of the seeds so they germinate faster. Your seeds will still germinate if you skip this step, but it will take longer.
4. Plant the seeds. Place each about a half-inch under the soil. Don’t worry about which way should face up, you can plant them in any direction. Leave about an inch between the edge of the container and the seeds and two inches between each seed.
5. Water and cover the seeds. Water the seeds well and then cover the top of the pot. Covering the pot helps to increase humidity, which the seeds need to germinate.
6. Thin the seedlings. Thinning the seedlings helps you choose the strongest plants that appear most likely to survive. You can either pull the seedlings out by hand or use shears to snip the seedlings you’re getting rid of. Ultimately, you want to leave at least three inches between the remaining seedlings.
7. Water. After you have thinned the seedlings, make sure that you water them adequately. The soil should be moist but not wet. How often you water depends on a lot of things, so there’s no set schedule. Check the first few inches of soil. If they are dry, then go ahead and water. Generally, this should be about every other day or so.
8. Fertilize. After about a month, it’s time to fertilize your seedlings. You should only have to do this once during the growing period. Be careful when adding fertilizer to potting soil because it may cause there to be too much nitrogen, which can cause smaller beets.
Tips and Tricks
- Beets like full sun, but they don’t like to be hot or dry. In warmer climates, beets can usually be grown all winter long. In cooler climates, as long as the soil is above 40 degrees F (4.4°C), beets should grow just fine.
- Use covers to prevent pests and bugs from getting into your pots when needed.
- Remove dead or damaged leaves as the plants grow.
- Harvest when the beets are between one and 2.5 inches in diameter. Larger beets may be tempting, but they usually don’t taste as sweet.
- You will probably have to dig around in the soil to make sure that the beets are big enough to harvest.
- Do not remove the stem until you’re ready to eat the beets. Removing the stem leads to the beet drying out.
- The best time to harvest beets is just before the first hard frost.
- After harvesting, store beets in a cool, dry place.
Here are some common problems when it comes to growing beets in containers.
1. The seeds don’t germinate.
Remember that beets are a cold-weather plant. If you’re used to germinating seeds with a heat pad and humidity, prepare to change your approach. Most of the time, beet seeds fail to germinate when the temperature is too high. Add mulch to the surface of the soil to keep the temperature down until the seedlings emerge.
2. Fungus is growing in the pot.
A common fungus that affects beets is called damping-off fungus, which can quickly kill seedlings right after they germinate. The most common causes of this fungus are too much humidity and overwatering. Seeds that are planted too deeply can also cause damping-off.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to cure seedlings that are already experiencing damping-off. Prevention is the only cure. Avoid overwatering and make sure the soil drains adequately. Also, ensure that the container has good air circulation.
3. Stunted growth and unhealthy leaves.
The most common cause of stunted growth and unhealthy leaves in beets is boron deficiency. Other signs include brittle leaves, dying or yellowing leaf tips, fewer flowers, and beets with soft brown centers.
Boron contributes to cell wall development, sugar transport, protein synthesis, and seed production. As you can see, it’s a very important nutrient for beets. A deficiency is caused by too much fertilizer, too much moisture, and placing the beets too far apart.
To correct a boron deficiency, amend the soil with boron fertilizer, but do a soil test first just to be on the safe side.
4. Woody roots
If you leave the beets in the ground too long or if you allow the soil to get too dry or warm, the beets will be hard and woody. To avoid this, harvest them a few days before they mature and keep the soil evenly moist.
Final Thoughts about Growing Beets in Containers
The most popular reason to plant beets in a container is that you don’t have space for them in your yard. But growing beets in a container has other benefits, too. Notably, it’s much easier for you to control the environment when the beets are in a small container. Plus, you can easily move them in and out of the house when the temperature isn’t ideal.
Beets are a great root vegetable to grow because they mature in as little as 55 days. Growing them in a container isn’t difficult as long as you know what you’re doing. We hope this guide told you everything you need to know about setting up your container garden.