There is far more beets that the canned, pickled variety. These easy to grow, sweet tasting vegetables love the Bay area’s mild winters, making them an excellent autumn crop.
How to grow beets
Beets grow well in full sun or in shade gardens and they absolutely love raised beds. Beets can be sown directly into the ground as temperatures begin to cool. Seeds should be planted 1/2 inch deep and thinned to 12 inches apart. It is a good idea to top dress around the plants to help retain moisture and add important nutrients. Be sure to water regularly, allowing the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. Once you discover how delicious fresh beets really are, you will probably want to start planting them in succession, for a ready supply.
Beet pests and diseases
All of the usual pests will go after your beet plants: aphids, armyworms, cutworms, flea beetles, grasshoppers, leaf miners, leafhoppers, spider mites, whiteflies, and wireworms. Row covers can be used to protect young plants, but older plants seem to be well equipped to protect themselves. Diseases commonly occurring in beets include whitefly- and aphid-borne viral diseases, powdery mildew, curly top, and various root rots.
Perpetual beet harvest
Your beets can be harvested at any time, but most people wait until the beet root’s “shoulders” have pushed their way above ground. Before you pull up all of your beets, consider this: beets make a lovely foodscape plant. Rather than harvesting all of your beets, leave a strategic few in the ground. These plants will put out tall, feathery flowering stems. These stems will produce hundreds of seeds that you can allow to scatter naturally, or you can cut the stems and shake the seeds loose wherever you might want beets. Birds and other seed eaters will get most of your beet seeds, but, a lucky few, will , in time, germinate and produce new beets. It ends up, these seeds usually pick the best growing spots for beets. The greens of your seed-producing beets will continue to be edible for, well, I’m not sure how long. My two have been producing for nearly 3 years now. [So much for their classification as annuals...]
UPDATE: If a delicious, nutritious crop isn't reason enough to grow beets, cat owners have yet another reason: Research has just shown that adding beet pulp to your cat's food will help them poop out more hairballs, rather thank hacking them up.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!