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 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-65° F). The higher temperatures of summer can cause "zoning" in beets, e.g. alternating light and dark rings and lower sugar content. Beets 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 and Chard Varieties
Bunching Spring Beets Summer and Fall Beets
Kestrel Kestrel
Boro Boro
Red Ace Red Ace
Red Cloud Red Cloud
Detroit Supreme - OP Moneta (monogerm)
Early Wonder - OP Pacemaker III
   
Beet Greens Specialty Beets
Bull's Blood - OP Cylindra - cylindrical
Early Wonder Tall Top - OP Taunus - cylindrical
Fresh Pak Boldor - yellow
  Touchstone Gold - yellow
Chard Varieties Chioggia Guardsmark - OP, striped interior
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 6.5-6.8. 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 legume sod was plowed down or if manure was applied (see Table 1, page 2 and Table 7, page 15).

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 B per acre (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"-0.5" deep in rows 18"-24" apart aiming at a density of 15-30 plants per foot. For most beet varieties (except monogerm varieties) each seed ball contains up 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 1-2 weeks at 32°F and 95%-98% relative humidity.

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