How to Know When to Harvest Beets

A hand holds multicolored beets
Harvest At-A-Glance
When is the right time to harvest beets? It will depend on where you live and the variety you are growing. Learn how to tell when beets are ready to be picked.

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Love them or hate them—it seems like there is no in-between with beets! But if you’re in the “hate them” camp and have never tried garden-fresh beets, we encourage you to give them a go!

Growing beets is a breeze, and the key to sweet, tender, flavorful beets is choosing the exact right time to harvest beets to maximize their delicious taste. Let us show you when and how to harvest them so they’ll satisfy beet-lovers and beet-haters alike!

A wooden sign in the garden reads "Beets"

What month do you harvest beets?

Beets are a cool-weather vegetable that is typically ready to harvest in late spring or during the fall months, depending on when you planted your beets.

Why are my beets growing above ground?

As beet roots start to bulb, they tend to push out of the ground and show off their round bulbs. This is a good sign, it means your beets are ready to harvest!

The top of a beet pokes out of the soil

How do I know when my beets are ready to harvest?

Beets are one of those magical vegetables that you can harvest and enjoy at any stage of growth. In fact, the sweetest garden beets are often much smaller than the beets you’d pick up from the grocery store. Anything over 2″ in diameter is a good time to pull up and enjoy. Try not to let your beets get larger than 3-4″ in diameter—that’s when they tend to get tough and start to lose their sweetness.

Multicolored beets are piled in a cloth-lined crate

How long can beets stay in the ground?

Like carrots, beets do a great job of storing in the garden—with one caveat. They will keep growing during warm weather, which can eventually render your beet too large and tough to be enjoyable.

How many beets do you get from one plant?

Just one beet comes from each beet plant. However, a single beet seed (which is actually a capsule of multiple seeds) can sprout multiple beet plants during germination.

A person crouches and holds three red beets in the garden

Can you harvest beet greens before the root?

You can harvest beet greens early, just with a little caution! You want to leave enough greens to allow the plant to still pump energy to the root, so harvest one or two greens from each beet instead of lopping off all the greens from one root.

Growfully Protip

When harvesting just beet greens, clip the larger, outside layers of leaves first—leaving the inner leaves intact to keep growing.

Red beet stems topped with green leaves

How to Harvest Beets

  1. Harvest beets when they are around 2″ in diameter.
  2. Grasp the base of the greens snuggly, and pull the beet out of the ground.
  3. Dust off any soil on the root. Do not wash the roots until you are ready to use, because the excess moisture can cause premature rotting.

Growfully Protip

When separating the greens from the beetroot, twisting the greens off instead of slicing them off tends to result in less bleeding (which means less staining!).

A hand pulls a ripe beet out of the soil

What do I do with the greens?

You can use beet greens just like any other green like spinach, Swiss chard, or kale! Sauté them as a side dish, pop them into salads, or use them in smoothies. They are packed with vitamins, nutrients, and fiber, and they are delicious! Just be aware that they do have that slight earthy flavor of beets that is noticeable.

Help! I pulled my beets too early.

No worries! Small, sweet, early beets are a delicacy! Roast them up, shred them into salads, or blend them into a smoothie for a special treat. And then maybe go plant another crop so you can do it again!

Growfully Protip

Beets are a great option for successive plantings—especially in areas where spring is hot and short. Plant a new crop of beets every 10-14 days to ensure you have small, tender beets ready to harvest all spring long.

Hands hold a small red beet

What happens if you leave beets in the ground too long?

During warm months, the beets will continue growing and the beetroot will eventually get too large, which can result in a tough, less sweet root that sometimes splits open.

If you leave them in the ground during cooler months (like growing during the fall into winter), beets tend to get sweeter during the colder weather.

A gloved hand holds three just-harvested beets

Can I leave beetroot in the ground over winter?

Sure can! Beetroot is a great option for both overwintering storage in the garden and overwintering young seedlings for early growth in the spring. Either way, make sure to cover the beets with a heavy layer of mulch after the first frost to help protect them. You can harvest as long as the ground isn’t frozen.

How to Store Beets

Beets are an excellent storage crop, and you don’t need a root cellar to make it happen! Just remember—beets like to be stored in a moist environment just barely above freezing. Here are our best methods for storing beets:

Short-Term Storage in the Refrigerator (3-4 weeks)

  1. Remove the leaves by twisting off the greens about 1-2 inches above the root. You’ll want to leave about an inch of stem on each beetroot.
  2. Wrap the beets in a damp kitchen towel and then place in a zip-top plastic bag with holes punched in it.
  3. Another option is a damp Vejibag, which is what we use to store beets in our house!
  4. Store in the crisper of the fridge, making sure to dampen the towel or Vejibag when it dries out.

Red beets with their greens removed lay in a wooden crate

Long-Term Storage (2-3 months)

  1. Remove the leaves by twisting off the greens about 1-2 inches above the root. You’ll want to leave about an inch of stem on each beetroot.
  2. Place the beets in a container of moist sand, damp sawdust (do NOT use sawdust from treated wood), or damp peat moss. Make sure to space them out so they aren’t touching, and cover all the beets well.
  3. Set the lid on the container loosely so there is good circulation.
  4. Store the container in a spot that stays cold, but above freezing (like an unheated garage, basement, or porch).
  5. Make sure the sand, sawdust, or peat moss stays continually moist—we recommend keeping a spray bottle nearby.

Growfully Protip

Because of their lower sugar content, red beet varieties tend to store longer than white or golden varieties.

A beet is ready to harvest. The top of the root pokes out of the soil, and the red stems splay outwards

What are your favorite ways to use beets?

Now that you know the perfect time (and process) for harvesting beets, you can convince even the biggest beet-hater in your life to give them a try! Enjoy.

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Cassie is a Certified Master Gardener and the founder of Growfully. She's been gardening organically for over two decades, and she's so excited to answer all the questions you have about gardening!

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2 Responses
  1. Michelle

    Hi, we have enormous beets still in the ground, quite a bit larger than the size of a grapefruit, which are over 1/2 out of the ground. I understand that their flavor may be impacted compared to if we had harvested them earlier (they may taste woody, etc.), but my question is, is there any concern for health risk to cook and eat them?

Meet Cassie
Meet Your Guide

Hi! My name is Cassie.

I’m a Certified Master Gardener and founder of Growfully. I’ve been gardening organically for over two decades, and I’m so excited to answer all the questions you have about gardening!

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