How To Grow An Organic Garden

Growing Organic Asparagus

Amazing Asparagus Factoids

Asparagus historically was classified a member of the lily family, along with onions and garlic. It now has its own family classification.

The native areas for growing asparagus are in Spain, Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany.

If you're concerned about your health, growing asparagus is a great low-calorie source of folate and potassium.

Peru loves growing asparagus; it lead the world in asparagus exports. The United States also loves eating asparagus; it was the leading importer as of 2004.

When to Plant

You can grow asparagus from "crowns" or seeds. Most gardeners start with crowns as seed take an additional year to harvest.

Growing asparagus from crowns takes 2 to 3 years before you'll be able to harvest; about 3 to 4 years from seed (which is why most gardeners choose crowns).

You can plant asparagus crowns a 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost. Asparagus is a hardy plant and will survive most winters. It's a good practice, though, to mulch your asparagus in the fall with straw for a little extra insurance.

In the Southern climates, you can plant asparagus in the late fall and starting around mid to late January.

While it's not necessary, you can start seeds or crowns indoors (see "Starting Asparagus Indoors" below) 12 weeks before the last frost.

Where to Plant

Asparagus loves sunlight, but can survive some shade. It should have at least 8 hours a day of sunlight.

Asparagus also likes cool weather the best. It will tend to bolt (go to seed) if it gets too warm too quickly in the spring.

The ideal growing temperature for growing asparagus is 60° to 65°F.

As asparagus doesn't mind competing with weeds and grasses (which also help keep the soil cool), planting it along a fenceline or on an edge of your garden works well.

Asparagus is not a swamp grass, so it likes well-drained soil when possible. In our area our soil is a little heavier, but has a lot of small rocks, so the soil drains well and is ideal for growing asparagus.

Planting asparagus around the edge of a garden or lining a fence is the perfect place for them in order to receive a good amount of sunlight without disturbing any other landscaping possibilities in your garden.

Preparing the Soil

Ideal pH levels for soil that asparagus is growing it is 6.5 to 7.5. Asparagus will not grow in soils with a pH of less than 6.0.

Asparagus loves nitrogen. Some good sources of organic nitrogen is composted manure, especially chicken manure (organic if available) and bone meal (add 10 to 20 lbs. per 100 square feet).

Because asparagus needs to develop a strong root system, it needs significant amounts of phosphorus. Good sources for organic phosphorus are bone meal or rock phosphates.

Asparagus also likes a good supply of potassium. Compost (with banana peels if you have them), wood ash (particularly hardwood), and granite dust are good organic sources of potassium.

If you're starting in a fresh garden area, it should be noted that a planting of asparagus can last up to 20 years, so you'll want to apply generous amounts of the above soil supplements prior to planting asparagus.

If you are able, plant in an area free of Johnson's grass (quack grass) as weed control becomes difficult once your asparagus is planted; and it may be in the same spot as long as 20 years.

Choosing the right Seed Varieties for your Area

As Asparagus rust can be a problem in some areas, check with your county extension to see if you need to plant rust-resistant varieties like Viking KB3, Jersey Giant, and Martha Washington.

Asparagus Crown Rot is another problem that you should check with your county extension on. The Jersey Giant, Viking KB3, Jersey Knight, and other "Jersey" family asparagus are all resistant to the rot.

Seeds and Germination

Asparagus seeds are good for up to three years after you've initially purchased them.

To get your asparagus seeds to germinate more quickly for planting indoors, pre-soak them in water or a compost tea (compost mixed with water). [The USDA recommends a water temperature of 85° to 90°F for 4 to 5 days].

Once you've soaked your seeds, plant them immediately in flats or individual pots. The best soil temperature for germination is about 70° to 77°F. They should come up in about 10 to 12 days at this temperature.

Asparagus seeds will germinate in 53 days at 50°F, 24 days at 59°F, and 15 days at 68°F. Germination times begin to increase above 77°F.

If you're planting seeds in your garden, the best temperature range for your soil is around 60° to 65°F.

Getting Started Indoors

Although asparagus is a cool-weather plant and it's really not necessary to plant it indoors, we like to offer you the option to do so with these simple instructions.

I covered a bit of how to start indoors in the section immediately above this on germinating your seeds. This will give you additional information.

You can soak your seeds per the USDA recommendation (if you trust your government to know best) for 4 or 5 days. Others recommend planting the seeds in potting soil after soaking just a couple hours. Either should work.

Don't use garden soil for potting soil to start your plants as it may have weed seed and/or bacteria that may become harmful to your plants at the warmer inside temperatures.

Make sure your potting soil has a pH balance of 6.5 to 7.5. If you need to bring it up quickly, add lime to the soil. Add sulphur if you need to lower it.

While you can plant asparagus seeds in flats, small peat pots are preferable as you can plant the whole pot directly in the soil. This leaves the roots undisturbed and your plant will have less shock when transplanted.


We've had questions about growing asparagus in containers. If you live in an area where you can't garden, this is an option to consider.

If you're going to grow asparagus in a container, you need to make sure you've got lots of room for asparagus' roots.

A 5-gallon bucket is about as small as you'd want to go...maybe too small of diameter. The recommended area for the roots of one containerized asparagus plant is 20" x 20" - I can't verify this to be true as we've not planted asparagus in containers and are relying on outside information on this topic.

If you do use a plastic container or bucket, drill several 1/2" holes in the bottom and a couple on the sides (opposite of each other), so the water will drain well.

On the bottom of the container, put a couple inches of small stones, then add your potting soil on top of that. The next section will tell you how to plant your seeds in pots or in your garden.


Plant your asparagus seeds about 1/2" deep in a peat pot, container, or in your garden.

If you want one plant, plant two seeds. Usually you'll have at least one seed germinate. If both germinate, cut the other off at soil level to reduce your plants to one.

Pre-sprouting seeds is a useful option as your seeds between damp paper towels and put them in a Zip Lock-type bag and place in an area that remains at about 70°F. The seeds will germinate at about 10 to 14 days.

After the seeds have germinated, move to a cool, light area like a windowsill, but out of direct sunlight.

If two plants come up, remove one carefully or cut it off at the dirt level.

Transplanting sEEDLINGS to Your Garden

To acclimate your asparagus plants to the outdoors, once the threat of frost is past, take your plants out-of-doors for a couple weeks during the daytime. This is called "hardening off" your plants and helps prepare them for transplanting.

Once the threat of frosts are over they will need to be gradually accustomed to conditions outside - this known as 'hardening off' and can take between 2-3 weeks. 

Initially you'll want to put them in the shade most of the day, but gradually increase the amount of sunlight they're getting.

Keep the soil moist but not wet.

You may note that as you move them in and out, leaves may yellow and drop. This is normal as your plants are getting ready to put on new leaves that are more suited to the outdoors.

After a couple of weeks, transplant your seedlings to the garden. If you've used peat pots (recommended), cut the bottoms off, dig a small hole, and put the entire pot in the hole.If you've used a flat, remove the plant with the soil intact as carefully as possible so as not to disturb the roots and place carefully in the small hole you've created; backfill and press the dirt firmly around the plant.


If you've chosen to plant asparagus crowns, purchase one-year old crowns as they're less prone to breakage than older crowns.

A good-quality one year old crown should have 8 to 10 roots and a healthy bud cluster will give you good potential to harvest some asparagus the following year.

Plant the crowns in the early spring 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost.

To plant your asparagus crown, soak the roots in warm water for a couple of hours.

Lightly trim the roots (they can be quite tangled). Dig either a trench or a series of 12" deep holes - the plants should end up about 18" apart.

Mix compost, bone meal, manure, and other soil supplements into the dirt that will be put back into around the roots, and/or in the bottom of the hole.

Remove any dead or rotted roots from the crown; place the crown bud side up in the hole and spread the roots out. Mounding the dirt up in the trench will help when spreading out the roots.

Pack dirt around the roots, then cover the crown with 2 to 3 inches of soil. If there is still some room in the trench, add dirt over the asparagus gradually through the summer as the crowns will tend to rise.

Direct Planting (planting seeds directly into garden bed)

If you want to plant your asparagus seeds directly in the garden, add your supplements to the soil and till or spade them in.

Soak your seeds for 48 hours between wet paper towels in a Zip Lock-type bag. If you can, keep the temperature at about 85°F during the 48 hours.

Plant your seeds 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost. The seeds will germinate, albeit slowly at this time of spring.

Plant your seeds about 3 inches apart: plant 3 tight rows about 15 to 18" apart, then plant your next triple row about 4 to 5 feet away if you are going to grow a lot of asparagus.

When you put soil over your seeds, make sure it is moist and packed in around the seeds well and that the soil doesn't dry out.

If you want to harvest asparagus at variable times, you can plant the crowns at different depths; (3 inches, 4 to 6 inches, 6 to 8 inches, 8 to 10 inches).

Mulching half of your asparagus can also accomplish this; the exposed soil will warm up more quickly and the asparagus will come up faster.

Growing Your Asparagus

Once your seedlings have emerged, thin your plants to 12" to 14" apart.

Adding mulch over your asparagus will help control the weeds and keep the soil moist as well as adding nutrients to the soil.

It is a best practice not to harvest any asparagus for the first couple of years; this allows the roots to become well-established.

Asparagus will grow "ferns" during these first couple of years. These ferns are receptors for photosynthesis and are what will help give you asparagus spears next year.

Asparagus is considered to be drought-resistant because of its deep roots. However, good moisture levels in the soil will reward you with a better crop.

Throughout the year, continue adding composted vegetable and manure waste to your asparagus for better results next year.

In the fall, after the frost, cut or mow the tops of your asparagus to 2 inch stubs when the foliage has turned yellow and the before the red berries fall off the plants.

Jenny's Tip #1 - When you're growing asparagus, when the ferns are growing in the summer, spray them with a liquid organic leaf spray fertilizer. We highly recommend Organic Garden Miracle™. OGM  naturally stimulates your garden plants to produce more plant sugar in the photosynthesis process. That in turn creates a more robust plant, more produce from your garden, and better and sweeter flavor from your crops. And they have a really good warranty!

Weeding and Mulching

We've discussed using mulch for delaying harvest, retaining soil moisture, and weed control. How much and what types can be used?

We prefer barley straw as we have a ready and inexpensive supply in our area. You can also use grass clippings or chopped up leaves. Hay isn't a good option as it's full of weed seed.

I recommend 3 to 4 inches of straw mulch, and 2 to 3 inches of grass clippings applied 2 or 3 times during the growing season. This will vary by the length of your growing season.

If you want to speed up harvest on half of your asparagus, as mentioned above, remove the mulch in order to warm up the soil.

Don't till around your asparagus to control weeds. If you use a hoe, stay back from the plants at least 6 inches and hoe just the surface. Hand-pull any weeds that are closer to the plants.

Asparagus is salt-tolerant, however, the practice using salt to control weeds is not recommended.


Asparagus does best with drip irrigation, but if this isn't an option, water heavily in the morning when your soil appears dry; the plants have time to dry out completely by afternoon.

Watering in the morning will help your asparagus not to develop fungus-related diseases.

You should water 1 to 2 inches at least once a week during the summer heat; mulching, as mentioned before, also helps keep the soil cool and retains moisture. Don't overwater or underwater asparagus.

Stop watering asparagus in October and November to make the plants turn yellow and go dormant.

By the time asparagus is 4 years old, it has developed a root system that can go as deep as 48". You can irrigate every 2 or 3 weeks, but water heavily enough to get down to those roots.

Companion Planting and Rotation Considerations

Plants that play well with asparagus:

Marigolds, parsley and basil help control asparagus beetles (more on that in the "Pests" section below). Parsley is also said to invigorate asparagus.

Dill aids in controlling spider mites and aphids.

Coriander is also helpful in repelling aphids, spider mites, and potato beetles.

Comfrey helps to build calcium, phosphorus, and potassium in the soil. It also helps control slugs, and is said to be a good compost activator.

Tomatoes are probably one of the best companions for asparagus. The tomato plant repels the asparagus beetle, and asparagus repels harmful root nematodes that affect tomatoes.

Plants that don't play well with asparagus:

Onions, garlic, and potatoes attract the wrong sorts of insects and predators to hang out in your asparagus patch.

You don't really need to worry about rotating your asparagus crop except every 20 years or so. Pay close attention to the ground before you plant it though.

When to Harvest

When asparagus stalks reach anywhere from 6 to 9 inches, cut them at or slightly below the soil level; definitely harvest them before they flower.

You can also snap the spears off to harvest them; bend them with a quick motion by grasping near the base of the spear.

Don't harvest anything the first year, lightly the second year, then go for it on the third year. Add a year to the previous if you're planting from seed.

Asparagus harvest lasts about 8 weeks; harvest daily. If you don't, the spears will become tough and inedible.

Pick your asparagus patch clean so those nasty little asparagus beetles don't have any place to lay their nasty little eggs.

At the end of harvesting, large ferns will develop from any remaining spears...these will strengthen the plants for next years harvest.


It's best to cool your asparagus as rapidly as possible once you've harvest it (harvesting in the morning is also desirable if possible).

An ice-water bath is an effective way to cool asparagus rapidly. Fill your sink with water and ice; when you've picked your asparagus, place it in the ice-cold water to rapidly cool it.

After cooling your asparagus, refrigerate it; it will keep for 2 to 3 weeks at 35° to 40°F. It goes bad quickly over 40°F.

Asparagus can be blanched and frozen, canned, and pickled. Jenny pickles asparagus and it's a family favorite during the holiday season.

Preventative and Natural Solutions to Common Pests and Problems

Pests: the worst insects for asparagus are the asparagus beetle, the spotted asparagus beetle, and the asparagus aphid.

Asparagus beetles are common wherever asparagus is grown; adults and larvae both feed on the spears in the spring and damage the crop, then defoliate the ferns in the summer which affects the crop the following year.

Defoliation by asparagus beetles can also make asparagus susceptible to fungal diseases like fusarium.

They show up about the time the asparagus does in the spring and cause asparagus to turn brown, scar, or bend over.

Asparagus beetles are about a quarter of an inch long, oval, with antennae. They're kind of bluish-black and has 6 beige-colored spots on its back.

Adult spotted asparagus beetles are more common in the Eastern U.S., but are pretty much the same as far as what they do to your asparagus, but the larvae doesn't do much damage to the spears as it feeds on the berries later in the year.

They're about the same size as the asparagus beetle, but they're reddish-orange with a dozen black spots on their backs. They look a bit like ladybugs, but ladybugs have variable quantities of spots.

So, how do you control these little pests? If you're able to, you can let your hens forage on the beetles. Organic pyrethrins are also effective against the asparagus beetles.

If you have a small patch, you can patrol your patch daily and pick the little buggers and their eggs by hand and drop them in a pail of soapy water.

You could also introduce natural predators such as the chalcid wasp or ladybug larvae.

The asparagus aphid comes from Europe; it first showed up in the U.S. in 1969, and is pretty much all over North America now.

The asparagus aphic causes "witches broom;" a stunted, bushy growth. However, they're not difficult to control with pyrethrins or insecticidal soap sprays.

Environmental Factors

The most common diseases found in asparagus are purple spot, asparagus rust, and asparagus crown rot.

Asparagus rust causes rusty orange to yellowish spots on asparagus stems after the harvest.

Asparagus rust is caused by disease with a long Latin name. The upshot is that at first there's some light green lesions early in the season. These are followed by tan-colored blisters, and finally black blisters that protrude later in the season, usually after harvest.

Severe rust infections can kill or stunt asparagus shoots, reducing the asparagus' plants ability to gather strength for the next season's crop.

If you rub your hand across the asparagus stalk, and it turns orange, your plants have rust.

The best way to control rust is to plant varieties that are resistant before you have problems: Viking KB3, Martha Washington, and Jersey Giant are a few varieties that are rust-resistant.

Asparagus crown rot is caused by a fungus with another long Latin name, but the short version is Fusarium and it causes blight in the asparagus crown.

You'll suspect your plants are infected with Fusarium if your asparagus wilts in the summer heat, turns yellow before fall, or just dies.

If the crowns turn brown, and on further investigation you find the roots are also decaying, your plants have been infected.

The best way to control this disease is to choose varieties that are resistant to it; a couple of names are Jersey Giant and Viking KB3.

Lastly, purple spot disease on asparagus plants is caused by yet another long Latin name. It seems to me if they'd stop using these long Latin names we wouldn't be having these problems with these diseases (that's a joke...hahaha).

Purple spot disease shows up as, you guessed it - purple spots! Usually on harvested spears. It lives through the winter, but appears as black spots on the dead ferns.

Purple spot disease tends to multiply during wet years.

How to get rid of purple spot disease; remove, burn, bury, or destroy crop debris in the fall.

Growing Organic Beets       


Growing beets as food is traceable to the Mediterranean as far back as 2000 B.C.

In the 1800's, agricultural scientists in Germany developed the sugar beet. Growing white-colored sugar beets has become a primary source of white sugar (sucrose), along with sugar cane.

The primary beets grown in gardens for eating are known as "garden" beats. Eastern Europeans are especially fond of growing beets for "borsch, " a beet-based soup. Garden beets are close relatives to Spinach and Chard.


Garden beets are "cold-hardy" plants. Seeds can be planted directly into the garden as early as 4 weeks before your last frost date. Beet varieties generally take 50-55 days to mature.

For a spring crop, plant beets as soon as the soil dries out and you can work it, typically from March to mid-May, depending on your climate. If your springs are wet and cold, it is critical you do not plant if your soil is still holding water. The seeds will not germinate in water-logged soil.

For continuous harvest, make successive planting every two week into early summer or up to soil temperatures of 65°F. Beets grow best in soil temperatures of 60° to 65°F. For a fall harvest, begin planting again 8 weeks before your first expected frost date.

Planting beets consecutively rather than one big crop will provide smaller, more tender beets throughout the season.

Winter crops: If you live in a mild winter area, beets can be planted in the fall with consecutive plantings throughout winter and into spring.

Where to Plant

Planting seeds in full sun will help your beet plants to establish better roots. If you prefer beet greens, planting in partial shade will produce a higher yield of leafy greens. Beets prefer sandy soils rich in organic matter and retains moisture yet drains well enough to prevent standing water.

Preparing the Soil

Like any root crop, you’ll get the best results planting in soil that is root and rock free. Loose soil is critical for proper development of the roots. If all you have is rocky soil, sift the planting area a minimum of 6 “down.

Deeply till the soil, and then smooth the surface in order to prepare a good seed-bed.  If your soil is heavy clay, hard, or alkaline, mix in an inch or so of compost. 

The optimum pH range is between 6 and 6.5.  Beets do not grow well in high acidic soils (a pH lower than 6).

Boron is required for all plant growth and beets use boron inefficiently. Corky black areas in the roots indicate boron deficiency. Boron is less available to the plant in soils with high pH and high organic matter.

Before planting, incorporate up to 2-4 inches of well composted organic matter and work it into the top 6 inches of soil. Use only well-composted manure. Manure that is too fresh can cause forked roots.

Sprinkle and till in a bit of wood ash (out of your woodstove or fire pit), if handy. Its rich supply of potassium enhances root growth.

Seeds and Germination                               

Before planting, soak seeds for 12 hours to stimulate germination. This is especially important in late summer when the weather is hot and precipitation is sparse.

Seeds will germinate in temperatures as low as 41°F (42 days).A soil temperature of 60°F will take approximately 10 days to germinate.

Your seeds should last about 4 years from your initial purchase date.

Getting Started Indoors

Although beets have been started indoors, we do not recommend it for a couple reasons. First, being a cool weather crop, beet seeds can be planted very early in the season and planted over a period of time. An indoor start is not necessary to receive a good harvest. Second, beets are a root crop and root crops do best when their roots are left undisturbed.

planting seeds directly into YOUr garden

Plant your beet seeds to a depth of one half inch, spacing one inch apart. For row planting, plant seeds 3 “ apart, ½ inch deep in rows 12-18” apart. To utilize space, beets can be planted in 2 or more rows or in a wide bed with 3-4” between rows. 

Press the soil down firmly (using the back of a hoe works) to pack the seed in fairly tight. The sandier the soil, the tighter the pack is needed.

Because each beet ‘seed’ is actually a fruit which contains 2-6 true seeds; you will see a cluster of seedlings develop for every seed you plant. When seedlings are around 1” tall, thin clusters to one seedling every 3”. The small, tender leaves can be used in salads.

Young seedlings can be transplanted with care which will provide a second later crop since transplanting will set the plant back about two weeks.

Be careful not to pull up the seedlings next to the one you have chosen to keep. This could potentially disturb the root system or even pull it right out of the ground. Cut off the beet seedlings growing right next to your desired plant at soil level.

One idea to aid germination (especially in heavier soils) is to cover the seeds in the garden with dampened vermiculite, peat moss or some other non-crusting material. This will keep the seed moist and warm, but not inhibit it from breaking through the surface.

Growing Your beets

Temperatures of 60° to 65°F and bright sunny days are ideal for beet plant growth and development.

Once the seedlings are 4-6” tall, thin plants to 4-6” apart. Enough space is needed for the roots to develop properly. When the root has reached 1” in diameter, do a final thinning by harvesting every other plant.

Competition with weeds and uneven watering can make beets stringy and tough. Too much nitrogen will encourage top growth at the expense of root development.

When beets mature in warm weather, they are lighter colored, have less sugar and have more pronounced color zoning in the roots. Best color and flavor develop under cool conditions and bright sun.

Fluctuating weather conditions produce white zone rings in roots. Beets are biennials. Normally, they produce an enlarged root during their first season.

Then after overwintering they produce a flower stalk.

If they experience two to three weeks of temperatures below 45°F after they have formed several true leaves during their first season, a flower stalk may grow prematurely.


Use about 1” of mulch to help maintain even moisture, suppress weeds, and protect from hot spells. Water your plants well before applying mulch. Spread a layer of straw, grass clippings, or shredded leaves around the base of your beet plants.

Mint is also an effective mulch around beets and helps to deter pests.


Weed control is vital in establishment of beets, especially in the early stages. Hand weed, being careful not to disturb or damage beet roots. The root crops grow slowly for the first few weeks after planting and cannot successfully compete with weeds. Frequent, shallow cultivation will control the weeds and keep the surface of the soil loose.

The roots of the root crops are very close to the surface of the soil, so it is important not to cultivate too deeply. Cultivate just deeply enough to cut the weeds off below the surface. Deep cultivation after the weeds are large damages the beet roots.


Consistent watering keeps beets tender and growth continual. If heavy rain is predicted before plants emerge, place a cover over them. This will prevent soil from crusting which can prevent proper growth and slow the harvest.

Supply your plants 1” of water a week. Not enough water will cause the roots to become tough and crack and the plants will bolt to seed.

Companion Planting and Rotation Considerations

Planting beets where beans grew the previous year will benefit the plants. All beans enrich the soil with nitrogen-fixed form the air, improving the conditions for whatever crop you plant after the beans are finished.

Beets do not grow well near walnut trees; garlic improves growth and flavor of beet plants; rather than planting invasive mints around beets use your mint clippings as mulch.

Radishes are a deterrent against cucumber beetles and rust flies, and leaf miners; sage deters unwanted pests and benefits each other in garden; runner or pole beans and beets stunt each other's growth; beets are closely related to Swiss chard and spinach. Avoid following these crops in rotation.

Beets are relatively disease and pest free, and even the problems they do have are relatively easy to manage organically.

When to Harvest

Beets can be harvested at any stage of development, from the thinning to the fully mature stage at about 2 inches in diameter. As the roots get larger they tend to get more fibrous.

Beets must be harvested before the ground freezes in the fall. Hand pull by pushing the root to the side and pulling it out of the ground. Remove as much dirt as possible. Do not wash unless using immediately. Cut or twist off the tops of the beets 1” above the root to prevent staining (or bleeding) during cooking. If you are removing the entire crop at one time, it may be helpful to use a spading fork to loosen the soil next to the plants before pulling them. Harvest your thinnings by cooking up the small beets and using the greens in salads.

For a fall harvest, pull up your beet crop after a hard frost. Beets harvested in fall have stronger colors than spring-planted beets and usually have higher sugar levels. 

Be sure to and store the beets in a box of sand in a cool place like a basement or a root cellar until you are ready to eat them. 

Beet Storage

Beets can be stored in a Ziploc bag in your refrigerator for several weeks. Beets also store well in a root cellar or cool, dark area packed in peat, sand or sawdust with moderate to high humidity for 2-4 months. Cut tops ½ “from the root when storing.

Harvested beets also may be stored in a pit in the ground covered with enough straw to keep from freezing. Ideal storage temperature for beets is 32°F with 95 percent humidity. Do not allow the roots to freeze.

Beets can be frozen, canned or pickled and dried beets yield fairly good results.

Freezing magnifies imperfections and woodiness in over mature beets. For freezing, select deep, uniformly-red, tender, young beets.

Canning Beets with a diameter of 1 to 2 inches are preferred for whole packs. Avoid canning beets more than 3 inches in diameter as they are often tough and fibrous.

Preventative and Natural Solutions to Common Pests and Problems


Flea Beetles: these small beetles chew small, round holes in cotyledons (first leaves on a plant) and the adult leaves. Flea Beetles can spread disease and ruin your beet crop, particularly when your beets are seedlings.

Prevention: The best organic prevention is floating row covers. Place row covers over your newly planted beet crop so the beetles aren't able to find them. Make sure the covers are sealed 100%, or these small beetles will find a way in to your plants. If you remove the covers to weed around your beets, replace it as soon as you are able.

Prevention: 1) Rotating your crops with crops that aren't susceptible to flea beetles is also advisable. 2) Make sure your soils nutrients are properly balanced and that your beet plants are getting plenty of water. Flea beetles are particularly devastating to weak plants.

Treatment - "Diatomaceous Earth" (Food Grade): Dusting your plants with DE will help rid your garden of flea beetles, or at least bring them under control.

Rodents - such as rabbits: Rodents will dine on your beet roots if you let them and they're a problem in your area.

Prevention: Bend a piece of poultry netting in a U-shape over your beets and secure the edges to the ground; these pests will go look for easier food.

Maggots: Another pest that may feed on your beet roots is maggots.

Prevention: Harvesting your beets as soon as they're ready will reduce the risk of maggots dining on your beets before you do.

Leaf Miners: Small white maggots that burrow and feed on beet leaves; you can tell where they've been as they leave a lacy trail. While leaf miners don't affect the yield much, they make the leaves unusable.

Prevention: The best organic prevention is floating row covers. Make sure the covers are sealed by placing dirt around the edges to hold the cover down. This will keep adult flies from laying eggs on your beet leaves.

Problem - Forked Roots: If your soil is too rocky, this is a major cause of forked roots. Another cause can be starting beets indoors then transplanting them in your garden, which is another reason we'd recommend against transplanting.

Problem - small roots and lots of plant leaves: Beets planted too close together with no subsequent thinning. Too much nitrogen can also create this condition.

Disease - Leaf Spots: circular spots on leaves created by fungus. This occurs mainly if the leaves remain wet for long periods of time, particularly in fall crops.

Prevention: Use drip irrigation or water early in the day so the plants will dry off by late morning. Also, don't leave beet plants too close together or they'll lack air circulation. In the fall, make sure to dispose of affected leaves and beets.

Problem - "Root Rots:" Fungal disease that decays your beet's roots.

Prevention: Rotate your crops and make sure your soil drains well.

Problem - "Yellows:" leafhoppers carry this disease which is characterized by - you guessed it - your plant leaves turning yellow.

Prevention: Use row covers.

Problem: "Black Heart:" When a beet root has hard, black spots in the flesh, it's known as black heart. Basically it's a boron deficiency. Beets require more boron than most plants, 8.6 oz. per acre.

Prevention: Adding compost to your soil may help. You might also try Organic Garden Miracle™, a liquid organic leaf spray fertilizer with traces of boron in it. Its primary function is to increase a plant's ability to absorb nutrients from the air and soil to increase a plant's sugar. It appears to improve not just plant size and health; we've also noticed an improvement in the flavor of any vegetable we've used it on.