Days to Maturity
Just because a seed package declares that the days from planting to maturity will be 60 days does not necessarily mean that in exactly sixty days you will be harvesting the entire bed. The number given on seed packages are rough estimates that can alter with temperature, soil fertility, exposure to sun, how much water they receive, and many other factors. A better way to decide when to harvest your vegetables is to pay attention to specific characteristics of ripeness.
At What Size Are Beets Ready to Be Harvested?
At what size you harvest beets is really personal preference. Some people prefer baby beets while others prefer larger, sliced beets.
Beets can be harvested as soon as they are 1” in diameter. This is also the size that the greens are at their most tender. Harvesting when they are small takes a bit of practice as the beet itself will not so obviously protrude from the ground like a larger beet will.
If you prefer a larger beet, begin harvesting when it reaches 2-3” in diameter at which time they will be obviously protruding from the ground.
End of Season Harvesting
As a cool season crop, you should harvest your spring planted beets prior to the hot, humid days of mid-summer. Long periods of heat tend to make for fibrous, woody beets.
Beets can withstand very cold temperatures but will not tolerate frost. All beets should be harvested prior to the first frost of the season. If you want to attempt to extend the growth period, you can mulch the bed heavily (several inches) to help retain soil warmth.
How to Harvest
Harvesting beets is as simple as grabbing the greens and pulling from the ground. Wear gloves and garden clothes when harvesting as beets are prone to staining.
Once they are harvested, cut off the greens leaving one inch attached to the beet.
Don’t Forget to Use Your Thinnings
Directly seeding beets into the garden will mean that you will have to thin them. As you go through this process, do not discard the thinning. Baby beets and greens are wonderful in salads.
“Beet.” – Vegetable Directory. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2014. <http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/beet.cfm>.
“Harvesting Guide.” Cornell University. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2014. <http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets/vegetables/harvestguide.pdf>.