Beet and Swiss Chard

Introduction

Beets (Beta vulgaris var. crassa) and Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla) are members of the Chenopodiaceae family, along with lambquarters. Both of these are cool season crops that can tolerate frosts and light freezes. Chard is raised for its large leaves and stems, and beets are raised both for greens and roots. The best quality is obtained when beets are grown under conditions of good sunlight and cool temperatures (50°F to 65°F). The higher temperatures of summer result in zoning with alternating light and dark rings and lower sugar content. They grow best in deep, friable, well-drained, sandy loams to silt loams. High organic content in the soil is desirable and will help maintain an adequate moisture supply. Organic matter should be well decomposed to avoid scab problems with beets.

Types and Varieties

Beet Varieties  
Bunching Spring Beets Summer and Fall Beets
Crosby Green Top - OP Kestral
Detroit Supreme - OP Merlin
Early Wonder - OP Moneta - (monogerm)
Kestral Pacemaker III
Merlin Red Ace
Red Ace Red Cloud
Red Cloud  
  Specialty Beets
Beet Greens Cylindra - cylindrical
Bull's Blood - OP Taunus - cylindrical
Early Wonder Tall Top - OP Touchstone Gold - yellow
Green Top - OP Chioggia Guardsmark - OP, striped interior
   
Chard Varieties  
Bright Lights - multicolored mix  
Fordhook Giant - OP  
Large White Ribbed - OP  
Silverado  
Ruby Red  

Codes: OP: open-pollinated.

Soil Fertility

Apply lime according to soil test to maintain soil pH at 6.5 to 6.8. In alkaline soils, the chance of boron and manganese deficiency is increased. High levels of nitrogen in relation to phosphorus and potassium will result in heavy leaf production with poor root development. Beets have a high potassium requirement. Less nitrogen fertilizer will be needed if manure or legume sod was plowed down (see Table 1, Nitrogen Credits from Manure and Table 2, Nitrogen Credits from Previous Crops).

Beets are subject to boron deficiency; young leaves fail to develop normally, turn black and die. This is accompanied by internal breakdown, canker, or dry rot of the root. To prevent deficiency, apply 2 lb boron/A (10 lb Solubor, 20 lb borax) with the broadcast fertilizer application. Make sure that the next crop in the rotation schedule is not sensitive to boron residue.

PLANT NUTRIENT RECOMMENDATION ACCORDING TO SOIL TEST RESULTS FOR BEET AND SWISS CHARD
BEET AND SWISS CHARD NITROGEN (N)* LBS PER ACRE PHOSPHORUS (P) LBS P2O5 PER ACRE POTASSIUM (K) LBS K2O PER ACRE
SOIL TEST RESULTS   VERY LOW LOW OPTIMUM ABOVE OPTIMUM VERY LOW LOW OPTIMUM ABOVE OPTIMUM
Broadcast and Incorporate 75-100 150 100 50 0 300 150 75-100 0
Sidedress after 1st or 2nd cutting 30 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL RECOMMENDED 105-130 150 100 50 0 300 150 75-100 0

Planting

Seed is planted 0.25" to 0.5" deep in rows 18" to 24" apart aiming at a density of 15 to 30 plants per foot. Each seed ball contains 1 to 6 seeds, so thinning is required. Both beets and chard may be transplanted for an earlier spring crop. 

Harvest and Storage

Swiss chard: Chard does not bolt or go to seed as readily as spinach and, therefore, is a good summer substitute. Many successive harvests can be made from one planting. Chard is frost resistant and can be harvested well after the first killing frost. Once harvested, chard can be kept for 1 to 2 weeks at 32°F and 95 to 98% relative humidity.

Beet: Bunched beets can be kept for 10 to 14 days at 32°F and 98% relative humidity. Topped beets can be stored for 3 to 6 months or more at 33 to 36°F and 98% relative humidity.