Seeds of the Alaska pea. You can find them here, Alaska Pea and Lutz Green Leaf beet. Here it is as I write this the middle of August in Michigan and I’m buying more garden seed. I’ve been trying to figure out good ways to keep the ground covered in the garden to have better soil health. But it seems to have led me to find an excuse to buy more garden seed.
I’ve tried several methods over the years of mulching and continue to experiment with them to see what works best for the plants and me.
So I picked up a book by Will Bonsall, I’m not done reading his book at the time of this writing. So far it has been very helpful and a good read if you are into Permaculture type stuff. You can check it out here. Will Bonsall’s Essential guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening. He speaks about green manure, and a living mulch of Oats and peas. Lots of other things to consider in his book as well. So I’m going to give some things I found in there thus far a try. I already grow a hulless oat variety, but I don’t care much for peas. So probably needless to say but we don’t grow em round here.
I do love split pea soup and always have. So growing a soup pea or field pea should be fine. We can smother weeds and maybe even have a bowl of homemade pea soup sometime too.
I like the stuff I grow to be versatile like beets. That’s what I really wanted to talk to you about here are the beets. Beets are a very versatile root as you can eat the tops and the root too. Not to mention they are extremely healthy, and taste good! What more could you ask for in a vegetable? When I was searching for my pea seeds and I purchased several kinds of them but that’s for another post. I happened to think about beets.
This year we are growing the Detroit dark red Beet. This is a respectable beet to grow very tasty and they can get pretty sizable too. Around three inches or so.
But they are nothing like the Lutz green leaf beet. When I first started gardening the first beet we grew was the Lutz Green leaf beet. Also known as Winter Keeper Beet or Long Season Beet as well. The description said something about huge beets with long storage capabilities if my memory serves me correctly.
The Lutz green leaf beet, we were able to grow several to a very large size. Most were over three inches. One was huge almost six inches across. The best part though was the fact that these big beets were tender. I’d peel them, cut them up into 1/2” cubes, boil them until they were just firm. Take them from the water, put them in a bowl and add butter, salt, and pepper. I cant wait to grow these seeds out. You can take the greens and boil them at the same time along with those beets. Put the greens in a bowl and add a little apple cider vinegar. Now that’s the way to do it.
It pays to research what you grow
I looked at the new Beet seed packet I just bought along with those Alaska peas it says.
“Plant seeds 1” apart and thin weakest seedlings to desired spacing. Keep soil evenly moist to prevent roots from getting woody.”
Well first of all I take issue with a one inch spacing for something it says on the package that is 6” across on average. That’s a lot of thinning when the plants are still very small. I’m not into harvesting micro greens. Now don’t take this the wrong way I Purchased these seeds from a good company. Everything I’ve ever purchased from them has grown well for me. I’m not knocking there suggestion so much as there is something more you aught to know about all beet seeds in particular. Something that may make you consider a wider seed spacing from the start.
Each beet seed is actually a small cluster of seeds left over from the tight flower cluster that grew from the second year root of a beet plant. What this means is most of the time a beet seed actually has multiple seeds in one. Up to five seeds per cluster. I’ve circled in red where the multiple seeds per cluster are in the picture of the beet seeds.
I was always told to plant more just in case, then thin the plants as needed.
I’ve always planted three squash seeds, then thinned, and always planted three tomatoes seeds, then thinned too. That way I knew something would come up and I always thinned to the healthiest looking plant. If you knew that these beets grew to six inches across you may have already thought, ok so I’ll plant three seeds in each hole one foot apart and I’m all set. Accept you may have just planted somewhere between six to fifteen seeds in that one spot!
What to do? Well I simply plant one seed every six inches. You will find in most cases that you will see multiple plants at each site you planted a beet seed. Just snip off the smallest weakest plants. Avoid pulling them out as this will damage the roots of the one beet plant you want to keep.
Thin to a one foot spacing after the beets have grown for some time to give them leg room to get nice and big. You get the bigger greens, and some small beets this way earlier on. Occasionally a seed even in this case doesn’t pop up and you will have room for slightly larger yet odd spacing for one or two plants in the garden. That’s okay because the root system on a beet is much more extensive than one would think. The more room you give these the bigger they can get. As far as beets are concerned there are lots of different kinds. Check out these Beet Roots.
A couple more Beet growing tips
Beets like to have a steady water supply so don’t let them dry out completely. Side dressing with compost is very important. Beets have always done very well for me when I keep them side dressed with homemade compost. Another way to plant these out that I’m becoming more fond of is planting a few here and there in the garden. Along with other vegetables this helps to confuse pests. It makes the garden look better too. I like to see the different combinations of plants all growing together. Hope this incourages you to grow the lowly but most wonderful Beet.
Thanks for reading.