Healthy beets alongside those not faring as well. (Corinne Conlon | For the Juneau Empire)

Healthy beets alongside those not faring as well. (Corinne Conlon | For the Juneau Empire)

Beets and Boron

Beets are a vegetable that I have worked hard to like. I can tolerate them in dishes, but I don’t find a plate of them enticing. My daughter does, which means they have a reluctant spot in my garden.

The seeds are really a dried fruit pod. Inside each one are multiple embryos ready to develop. As they sprout, you’ll get more than one plant. No matter how far apart you sow your seeds, you need to thin them.

Look carefully at your seed package to find the optimum size for the variety you selected. Thin plants to the suggested spacing requirements. Keep the bed well weeded, but use your hands to pull up unwanted plants if you’re within six inches of the root.

In my garden, my beets successfully began, but then failed to develop. They’d come up in nice, neat rows. I’d diligently thin them, yet they never amounted to anything more than skinny, pencil-like roots.

Suzanne Williams said the soil in Southeast is notoriously lacking in the mineral boron. To amend this deficiency, either add a boron additive, found where gardening supplies are sold, or borax, which you can find near the laundry detergent. Add one tablespoon per gallon and mix thoroughly. Then pour this around the beets once a month. She cautions against spilling any directly on the plant.

Some people treat their soil once every couple of years and grow fabulous beets. Too much boron can cause harm, but it’s a bit like Vitamin D. In our location, we rarely, if ever, get enough. You can try one boron treatment or you can follow Suzanne’s lead.

Regular watering is important for all root vegetables. Lack of water stresses the plant and causes it to taste wood-like instead of succulent. Southeast rains demand that our soil has good drainage to handle excess water. This means that when we have periods of little rain, our garden does not retain the moisture plants need. Watering is a must on hot, dry days.

Beets also require potassium. Add a cup of bone meal to every two gallons of soil to increase the amount of potassium and phosphorus where you are growing beets. Nitrogen isn’t important unless you want to harvest the greens.

Hopefully this year you and I will both have prize winning beets. Harvest when they are one and a half inches to two inches in diameter or when they start mounding the surface near their stems. Be sure to cut the stems an inch above the root. If the leaves are kept on the beet, they take up moisture from the root. Beet greens, like their relative Swiss chard, have a strong taste, but can be sautéed or put into soups.

When I told Suzanne Williams my dislike for beets, she had her husband fetch me two jars. One contained a golden beet soup while the other was a red beets with venison broth. And, because the beets were combined with something, they were delicious as is all of Suzanne’s cooking. However, it took me a long time before I was willing to open the jars to taste those beets.

• Corinne Conlon is a freelance writer based out of Juneau. She can be reached at

Row of beets. (Corinne Conlon | For the Juneau Empire)

Row of beets. (Corinne Conlon | For the Juneau Empire)

More in Neighbors

The Brewer’s Guild of Alaska, a trade organization, is celebrating AK Beer Month through Feb. 14 with a scavenger hunt, beer releases and other deals from breweries in Juneau and across Alaska. (Unsplash / Radovan)
Finally, something to stout about: AK Beer Month is here

In Juneau, the event will be marked with beer drops, deals and a scavenger hunt.

Tari Stage-Harvey (Courtesy photo)
Living and Growing: The key to joy in Juneau is humility

We live out the sense of community in a way that might be helpful for our nation.

Thank you letters for the week of Jan. 10, 2020

Thank you, merci, danke, gracias, gunalchéesh.

Do you really need to reply to all? This year, writes Geoff Kirsch, you should think before you click. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Slack Tide: Resolutions for Alaska’s Capital City 2021

Try not to reply all unless it applies to all.

Finding hope in 2021

I want 2021 to be a good and happy new year!

Thank you letter for Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021

Thank you, merci, danke, gracias, gunalchéesh.

Kristina is a member at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. (Courtesy Photo / Kristina Abbott)
Living & Growing: Resiliency is the antidote to living in a pandemic

When I think about this past year, I do not look back on it with bitterness.

Thank you letters for Dec. 27, 2020

Thank you, merci, danke, gracias, gunalchéesh.

Web tease
Juneau students earn academic honors

Recognitions for Dec. 27, 2020.

Goodbye, 2020. Good riddance, more likely. We had such high hopes for you—you were supposed to be this shiny new year to start off a new decade.
Gimme a Smile: Goodbye and good riddance to 2020

We all have high hopes for the year 2021. It’s got to be better than this past year.

Living & Growing: Finding hope at Christmas

By the Rev. Dan Wiese My thoughts are with those who are… Continue reading