ASK WENDY

A delicious red beet is hard to beat


The best all-round beet to grow for North Central Florida is the Red Ace.

Published: Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 2:54 p.m.

Q: Is now a good time to grow beets? I want to put them in my fall garden.

A: Yes, now is the perfect time to plant those delicious red globes in your garden. The "UF/IFAS Extension Vegetable Gardening Guide" recommends planting beets from September through March.This allows enough time to have a couple of crops this fall, and one more in the spring. Beets grow well from seed, provided you sow them in moist soil and are able to keep the soil slightly moist while they are germinating. Once the seeds are up, thin them to leave 3 to 5 inches in between plants. The beet roots can be harvested about 60 days from planting.

The beet greens are edible and quite delicious, besides having a beautiful color. Some gardeners are surprised to learn that beets (Beta vulgaris) and leafy Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. Cicla) are just different sub species of the same plant. Beet greens from seed will be ready to eat in 33-35 days, depending on the variety of beet you choose to grow. If you harvest all the leaves, the bulb will not form, so you have to make that decision in the garden if you are growing them for the beet or for the green.

The best all-round beet to grow for North Central Florida is the Red Ace. It is good for the beet as well as the beet greens. Detroit Red and Cylindra produce good, dark red beets. If you would like to try a yellow beet, plant the Yellow Detroit. The most recommended beet variety for the tops is one called Early Wonder Tall Top.

You also could grow beets to add to micro green mix. The young shoots are easy to harvest, and they are delicious.

Beet plants will do best in full sun with regular watering in well-drained soil. Fertilize the plants at least twice during their growing period. For more information about growing vegetables, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County Master Gardeners at 955-2402.

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Q: There are weird clumps of foam dropping from my oak tree in Archer. My neighbor also has seen them. They are about the size of a dime or larger. Has anyone else seen this, and what are they?

A: What you are describing sounds like a new spittlebug pest that is being seen on live oak and laurel oak trees in Florida. There have been more than a few reports of this insect from the southwest part of Alachua County. They also have been spotted in Pinellas County. University of Florida IFAS entomologist Dr. Eileen Buss suspects that it will show up in other counties, as well.

Spittlebugs are small insects, less than -inch long, but you don't always see the insect because they are hidden in a mass of frothy foam. They feed on leaves and stems of the tree or plant, and they exude foam as protection. Researchers are trying to discover if the damage they cause will be a detriment to the tree. If you see these insects or the foam coming from oak trees, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office. The one in Alachua County can be reached at www.alachua.ifas.ufl.edu.

Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at wlwilber@ifas.ufl.edu.

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