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Growing beets from seeds

Q. Last year, I planted beets from seeds and was very disappointed in the weak, spindly seedlings that emerged. Some of the beets never produced roots at all. I would like to try again. Any ideas?

A. Beet seeds are actually clusters of seeds contained in very small dried fruits or berries. Because several seedlings can grow from each fruit, it is essential to thin the seedlings to 2 or 3 inches apart when they are just a few inches tall. Don't discard these extras; they can be used in cooking or added to salads.

Overcrowding seedlings and planting seeds too deeply are two causes of poor root production. Heavy spring rains can produce a "crusting" of your garden soil, especially if you have heavy clay. This phenomenon also results in poor yields.