Tips & Techniques for Growing Beets
Growing Beets
Varieties of Beets
Beets belong to the same family as swiss chard and spinach.  Beets are a root crop similar to turnips but have leaves that can be eaten.  The roots can be round or cylindrical in shape.  Most beet varieties have a dark red flesh.  However, there are some with red and white or golden colored flesh.  The size, texture and color can very even among the red varieties.  Beets are often grown for pickling.  Some of the dark varieties, e.g. Boro and Red Heart, make attractive and good tasting pickled beets.  The leaves of select varieties, e.g. Bull's Blood, are good cooked or in salads.  Beets and their leaves are rich in iron, magnesium, betacyanin and vitamins.
Preparing the Soil
Beets are best grown in rows.  Prepare the soil for planting beets by tilling at least six inches deep and marking off rows.  If you do not have sandy soil, you may want to till in some compost to keep the ground loose while the beets are growing under the ground.  To prepare the rows for planting, make a straight shallow trench.  The seed can then be sowed in the trench.  Beet rows can be located near most garden plants including onions but not recommended near pole beans or marigolds. 
Planting Beets
Beets can be planted early since they can handle light frosts and cool nights.  Sow the seeds evenly, but not too thick, in the trench made when marking off the rows.  The seed are fairly large and not that difficult to sow without getting them too thick.  The plants should be about two inches apart.  If you do need to thin them, it can be done as you weed the rows.  Cover the seed with approximately a half inch of dirt.  If you plant them too deep, they will not be able to push up through the ground.    
Weeding & Plant Maintenance
Since beets are sowed, you will need to pull the weeds that come up in the rows to prevent them from smothering out your small plants.  You should be able to remove most of the weeds from the middles and next to the plants with your tiller.  You should till and pull weeds about three or four times during the growing season.  If water is available, you may want to water several times but don't leave them in standing water for very long.  
Controlling Diseases and Insects
Beets usually can be grown without too many problems with diseases.  However, there are several insects that will eat the leaves of beet plants including aphids and flea beetles.  If you have a severe problem, you may choose to use a pesticide.  Also, I have found deer to be a problem.  They will not only eat the leaves but pull up the beets and eat them as well.   I have resorted to putting part of my garden within a fence.  If you find that a garden dust or insecticide is needed, make sure you read and follow the directions on the containers. For specific details on controlling diseases and pests, click on the "Gardening Resources" tab and go to the Sources of Information on Vegetable Garden Diseases and Pests.
The leaves of beets are best eaten while they are young and tender.  The roots of the beets should be harvested as soon as they are adequately large.  They are not as good, if you wait until maximum maturity.  They can be pulled by hand.  Break off the greens but leave a little to prevent bleeding when you cook them.  You can boil beets and the outer skin will pull off with your hands.  They can then be pickled or cooked.  Care will need to be taken to prevent the red color of the beets from staining your clothes as you work with them.  Beets can be stored in a cool dry place for eating during the winter.