I've been intending to write about the garden and how everything did this summer. I guess it is such a daunting amount of information that I haven't known where to begin. So I suppose it makes sense to narrow my scope and write about one or two crops at a time. I pulled these beets out of the hay pile the other day, and noted with much satisfaction that they are holding up just fine.
We grew several varieties of beets this year, including: Early Wonder Tall Top, Robuschka, Golden, Detroit White, Chiogga and one called Egyptian something- flat top? Our beet bed was about three feet wide and twenty-five feet long. I haven't done the math lately to see what yield we should have had. As we were harvesting beets out of the bed from the end of June until late September when we pulled the rest, it's impossible to know the overall yield. This was officially the longest growing season on record for Fairbanks. We had a nice balance of rain and sun.
We got an early start (for this area) direct seeding beets, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, scallions, greens and radishes in early May. The plus side of this was that we were harvesting these crops much earlier than usual; pulling baby beets and turnips by mid June, decent sized carrots by early July. So we were eating more diversely out of the garden for a longer stretch than in previous years. The down side is that the final harvest was significantly smaller than expected.
I thought the bed I'd sowed beets in was one of our richer beds, with lots of compost and amendments (bone meal, blood meal, lime, chicken and goat bedding, horse manure - all somewhat but not completely composted). Beets are one of our favorites, I know they need good soil to grow well, so I thought I was giving them what they needed. There was a significant percentage of small beets at final harvest time, that had never grown. I also noticed that the Chiogga variety had light green leaves by the end of the summer. Coincidentally the Chiogga beets taste bitter, whereas all the other beets taste fine. We were watering with a fish emulsion which was highest in nitrogen, but the greens never greened up. We worked in some bone and blood meal hoping to bulk up the size of the roots, but they didn't seem to grow much after mid summer. I left them in the ground for storage, but the bulk of the growing took place in the first couple months and then they were at a stand still. We didn't have any pest problems. We did have quite a few beets bolting in June. I suspect that it was our long day light hours, although I don't remember beets bolting before. The Early Wonder Tall Top bolted the most. As far as which beets did the best for us, the Robuschka was overall the largest at harvest time. The Detroit White was decent size and mild in flavor. The Egyptian was second in size and pretty. I love the colors of the white, gold and bulls eye beets in comparison with the red beets in a salad.
Conclusions: allot more room for beets, add more goodies; more nitrogen rich additives such as fish and kelp meal. Also I'm going to try and resist adding partially broken down compost, and be more diligent about the compost piles. We did use fabric row covers over the beets as we had sown a row of radishes next to them. I've never had root maggots bother beets so I may save the covers for other crops. Also, I'm thinking of sowing a second planting around June first. Have one bed that is for eating fresh all summer, and another bed which is for a fall harvest.
Our favorite ways to eat beets: I boil or roast them just till fork tender. The kids prefer theirs with just butter and salt- and I love them simply as well. I adore beets adorned with some good olive oil, sherry or champagne vinegar, sea salt, fresh black pepper, maybe some orange zest. Take it a step further and put them on a salad with toasted nuts and goat cheese; I could eat this dish every other night.