How To Grow Beets In Containers: Step-by-Step Guide

Newly harvested red beets

If you are considering a fast-growing root crop to plant in containers, yet don’t like a spicy bite of radish, then why not try growing beets which is pretty simple! It can be the answer to your needs.

Although radish can be harvested sooner compared to beets, this root crop grows fast too.

Beets have a sweet taste and prefer the cold weather of spring and fall, so you’ll be able to utilize the growing containers for the summer crops after you harvest them. Awesome, right? Then let’s continue to learn how to grow beets in containers.

Step-by-Step Guide To Grow Beets In Containers

Choosing The Appropriate Beet Container

Four black plastic container pots.

Beets can grow in almost any climate or soil condition, and growing them in a container garden is completely fine too.

Size matters when you consider planting beets in container pots. The smaller the container, the quicker the soil dries out and the less room its roots have to grow.

Depth is the most significant factor you have to consider when growing beets in a container. But a container that is too big is also heavy to move around, and you need to spend an ample amount to fill with adequate soil.

When beets start to germinate, moving them from a small container to the bigger one is what the plant hates, which is why planting them into their permanent container is necessary.

However, you can use biodegradable pots like those made out of peat, newspaper, and other organic materials to transplant your plant if you wish to.

This type of material decays quickly in soil, so you can transplant the seedlings without removing them from such pots, preventing root damage from handling.

Hand holding beet seedling.
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Beets are ready to transplant when they get their first pair of real leaves. Transplanting them when they are bigger is already too late. This will increase the possibilities of transplant shock, resulting in stunted growth.

Adequate space is necessary to allow beets to develop correctly, making it essential to select a container that is at least 10 inches deep or more.

When choosing a container pot for beets, see to it that it has drainage holes and is deep enough to accommodate proper root development. These are the factors that you should consider for successful beet growth.

Preparing The Potting Soil

Newly germinated beet.

Beets can adapt to any variety of soil, but they do better when provided with an enriched one. Like many other crops, beets prefer loose and aerated soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5.

However, barriers like pebbles, rocks, and compacted clumps in the soil can cause its deformation.

Beetroots are heavy feeders, so the plant requires an initial potting soil with high nutrients. Also, adding soil amendments once during its growing period like compost and premium organic amendments is a smart idea.

Choose Appropriate Locations To Plant Beets

Beets require full sun and cold temperatures to thrive. When the temperature is too warm, it is best to provide a deep layer of mulch to cool the soil.

However, ensure the plants receive at least eight hours of direct sunlight every day, to allow the beets to grow at their full potential. Beets that receive full-day sunlight produce the best beet taste.

Planting Beets In The Container

Now that you have prepared all the basic needs to start planting beets, let’s begin. The following step-by-step guide will help you from the very first phase of planting beets up to your harvest time.

#1) Prepare Beet Container

Place a layer of small rocks or gravel at the bottom of your empty container. The stones of about an inch or two deep will serve as a barrier to promote adequate soil drainage to ensure the soil does not become waterlogged.

Small lava rocks are also excellent in providing aeration, moisture control, and gradually breaks down into usable plant minerals over time.

#2) Fill In The Potting Soil

Fill the container with your potting mix. If you opt for the regular soil, remove any existing small pebbles, gravel, and compacted clumps in the soil.

#3) Pre-Soak The Seed Overnight

Usually, beet seeds have a hard seed coat, taking much time to germinate. To help speed the germination process, you can pre-soak the seeds in water overnight. It will soften the seed’s hard coat to allow the seeds to sprout faster.

#4) Start Planting

Start planting seeds about half-inch deep in the container pots. You can plant beet seeds in any direction for a full crop. Make sure to leave at least an inch between the rim of the container and the beets.

#5) Cover and Water The Seeds

Water the seeds well and cover the pots to keep the soil moist. The beets will start to germinate in a couple of weeks.

#6) Thin The Seedlings
Thinning beet seedlings by hand pulling.
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Once majority of the seeds begin to sprout, thin out the seedlings to provide adequate space about 3 inches apart.

When thinning the seedlings, you may opt to use scissors to snip the base of unneeded seedlings or pull them gently by hand. However, you have to be careful as you pull as to not damage the remaining healthy beets.

#7) Water Plants Sufficiently

Now that the beets are in proper spacing, most of your remaining tasks will be watering while the plants are growing.

You have to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Water-logging can cause the beets to rot.

Watering beets every other day for outdoor containers is sufficient. Always perform the soil finger-test to determine if the plants need water.

#8) Adding Fertilizer

Adding fertilizer onto the plants after a month is essential, and remember to follow the directions provided at the back of the fertilizer bag to prepare a one-time application. This will boost beet production and ensure a quality harvest.

Beets quickly use up nutrients in the soil, so it is necessary to add supplemental fertilizer once during its growth.

Organic fertilizer with equal NPK levels or homemade liquid compost is sufficient enough to provide essential nutrition.

Do not add nitrogen-fertilizer during planting if you use potting soil because too much nitrogen will result in a lush leaf but smaller beet.

Proper Care For Growing Beets

Five pieces of red beets.

  • Beets love full sun but do not like hot weather or dry conditions, so plan well considering your climate when you plant beets.
  • Adding a deep layer of mulch to cool the soil is ideal when the temperature is too warm.
  • Water the plant regularly to keep the beet tender and to prevent discoloration.
  • Use row covers to prevent issues like pests and leaf miners.
  • Keep the plants tidy by picking off damaged leaves as the plants grow.
  • Beets that grow in an enriched soil do not need additional fertilizer. Excessive nitrogen will result in larger leaves but smaller root development.

Harvesting Beets

Newly harvested beets from a container garden.

  • Most growers harvest beet crops when they are about an inch in diameter for delicious flavor, but not more than 2 ½ inches in diameter. Beets tend to become woody when left in the ground for too long.
  • Dig around a little to see if the beets are large enough to use.
  • Keep the stem attached to prevent bleeding that will moisture out the crops when harvesting beets.
  • Also, just before the hard frost is the ideal time to harvest the crops.
  • To lessen bleeding in leaves, twist to remove greens instead of cutting them.
  • Store the newly harvested crops in a cool, dry place.

Saving The Seeds For The Next Season

Beet seeds in a blue plastic container.
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Beetroot produces a cluster of seeds during warm weather. You can leave them to mature and dry, and harvest the stalk after.

Dry seeds can easily be brushed off from the stem. The seeds are wind-pollinated and can cross-pollinate unless isolated or bagged.

The Best Beet Varieties Suitable For Container Gardening

A bunch of early wonder beet.

When preparing supplies for growing beets in a container, it is also necessary to consider the variety of beet that will thrive well in small spaces. Here are a few varieties you can pick that grow well in container pots.

  • Bull Blood

Bull blood is a variety of beets that takes 50-60 days to reach its maturity. It produces deep red foliage and medium-sized beets. Its vibrant color can be a great addition to your garden.

  • Early Wonder

Early Wonder is a variety of beets that takes 45-50 days to reach its maturity. This quick maturing beet features a candy red stripe and a white interior.

  • Detroit Dark Red

Detroit Dark Red is a variety of beets that takes 55-65 days to reach its maturity. It features robust leaves with classic deep-red beets.

The following varieties above provide exceptional results when grown in a container. But, you can try growing Golden or Chioggia beets too. They are the best variety to consider when you hunt for more exciting beets to harvest.

The Most Common Problems When Growing  Beets

1) Seedlings Fail To Germinate

Seedlings that fail to germinate happens when the temperatures are too high when you plant the seedlings. To address such a problem, add mulch like straw or grass clippings around the plants to allow the soil to cool. Keep the soil moist until the seedlings begin to emerge.

2) Damping-Off Fungus

Damping-off is a fungus that will weaken or kill seedlings just before or after they germinate.  Overwatering and too much humidity can cause this mold. Planting too deep also stimulates its growth. 

There is no treatment available for plants that have already incurred damping-off. However, providing good air circulation is the best way to avoid such a problem. 

Always ensure there’s no water-logging by keeping the soil well-drained and free from other pathogens. Avoid overhead watering too.

3) Cutworms Curling Under The Soil
Cutworm on soil
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Cutworms are pests you can find curling under the soil. They will cut and chew stems, roots and the leaves of your plants.

You can deal with this problem by placing a 3-inch paper collar around the stem. Sprinkling wood ash around the plant base and keeping the garden weed-free can help too.

4) Leaves Turning Red

Leaves turning from green to red when the temperature reaches freezing is not harmful to beets – some varieties have red leaves naturally.

5) Boron Deficiency

Beets require a pretty high amount of boron, about 3 lbs/A. Boron is responsible for the plant’s cell functioning, protein synthesis, cell wall development, sugar transport, pollen growth, carbohydrate metabolism, fruit set, and seed production.

Boron deficiency is a disorder caused by rapid growth due to wide spacing, excessive nitrogen and potassium applications, and too much soil moisture.

You will know your plants are boron deficient if you find these following symptoms:

  • Stunting of plant growth
  • Distortion to top tip that leads to tip death
  • Brittle foliage
  • Yellowing of lower leaf tips
  • Flowering and fruiting less
  • Distortion of developing fruit 
  • Development of soft brown centers in the root crops

You can amend boron deficient soil with boron fertilizer like borax, boric acid, and solubor. Boron deficiency varies on the susceptibility of different varieties. So, a soil test is necessary to know the crop’s exact requirements. Soil high in pH prefers foliar applications.

6) Deformed Roots

Root deformation happens because of overcrowding and heavily compacted clay soil. The best approach to deal with such a problem is to ensure you have loose soil free from rocks and pebbles and correct spacing.

7) Woody Roots
Red beets with hairy side roots disease.
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Leaving the beets too long in the ground will result in hardy, woody roots.

Also, soil that has gone dry for a while and warm temperatures contribute to such a problem, aside from making the beets form hairy side roots when leaving them too long in the ground.

Therefore, it is always best to harvest the beets before full days of maturity and keep the soil evenly moist during its growing phase to avoid this.

8) Bolting Beets

Beets are biennials. Overwintered plants will naturally start to flower when exposed to temperatures below 50°F. Tricked by the weather, assuming they are in their second season, they will produce flowers prematurely.

When beets flower prematurely, the plant’s energy is no longer directed into the root, especially if followed by its seeding. Such an occurrence will result in smaller beets.

Planting at the right time is essential to avoid such an issue, and to lift the roots when the plant begins to flower.

Final Thoughts On How To Grow Beets In Containers

Beet gardening in a container is not for limited space alone. If you opt to garden in containers, you’ll have better control in the growing environment of your crops. You will be able to move them around or bring them indoors when outside temperatures are freezing.

Growing beets in containers is relatively easy and inexpensive. In addition to that, beet container growing will save you from back pain due to bending and weeding.

Any variety of beets can thrive in large containers and can give you a continuous harvest if you plant every three to four weeks until late summer.

Beets grow fast, and their maturity usually reaches after 55 days. However, other varieties are good enough to harvest before their full maturity, while some a little bit later.

If you find this article helpful and would love to share your beet gardening experience, please feel free to share it by writing in the comment section below.

About Benita Abucejo

Hi there! My name is Benita Abucejo. What can I say? I truly love spending my days in the outdoors, specifically in the garden. Gardening has always been a strong passion of mine since I was a little girl. It has brought me so much joy and happiness that it is definitely safe to say that I will be a gardener for life. For a period of time, I was able to work with people who are into home gardening and I found it to be quite beneficial to my physical health, as well as my mental well-being. Here at Seasonal Preferences, I am going to share with you my experience and ideas so that you can fulfill yourself with the same satisfaction and happiness. Of course, if you have ideas, I would love to hear those as well! Being creative in the garden can really be quite fascinating so let's share our experiences and be the best gardeners we can be. With that being said, thank you for dropping by and please leave me a comment on one of my posts if you would like to get in touch!

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