It's heartbreaking when your beet plants look perfectly healthy above ground, but something creepy is happening underground.
You have a picture of the picture-perfect roots you will unearth after all these weeks of working and waiting. You can already imagine the earthy aroma when you pull the roasted vegetables out of the oven …
But if you get your price off the ground, the damn things will be split or rotten!
What went wrong?
Beets can crack, split, or rot for a variety of reasons, from disease to problems with watering or feeding problems.
In some cases, if you're lucky, you will see signs above ground that something is wrong and you can take steps to remedy this before harvest.
Other times, if you look at the leaves and stems, everything will look fine and you won't know bad things are happening underground until it's too late.
This guide will tell you what to look for and how to avoid many of the potential problems that can cause problems with your crop.
We will address the following:
A quick tutorial on beets
Before we jump in, remember:
When you water your plants evenly, make sure they have adequate air circulation and follow good gardening practices such as Test your floor Rotating your crop will help you avoid all of the problems we are going to discuss.
How's that for the motivation to be a responsible gardener?
If you haven't read ours Guide to growing beets yetNow is an excellent time to try it out.
Here's a quick rundown of the basics:
Turnips, Brassica rapa subsp. Rapa, are suitable for growing in gardens USDA hardiness zones 2-9. They prefer cool weather, which is why they are usually grown in spring or fall, or as a winter harvest in warmer areas.
These root crops need well-drained, loose, nutrient-rich soil in order to thrive. You also need even, even moisture.
Leaving your beets in the ground for too long leaves them exposed to various risks that can lead to cracking. So pull them out as soon as they're done.
Harvest time depends on the variety you are growing. However, most varieties ripen in 30 to 60 days.
Check your seed package and write down in Your garden journal the expected harvest date.
Why your turnips crack
First, it treats various diseases that can cause problems with your crop.
Next we will look at environmental conditions and improper gardening practices that can cause physiological problems in your crop, such as: B. Cracking, splitting and rotting.
Various diseases can cause your beet crop to break down and rot.
Fungal or bacterial, or caused by water mold, prevention is the best choice to keep these problems out of your vegetable patch.
You can learn more about that common diseases affecting beets in this guide.
Anthracnose is a disease caused by the fungus Colletotrichum higginsianum. The good news is that you can usually see the disease progressing on the leaves of your beet plants before it damages the roots.
It first appears as small, circular lesions on the foliage that look dry and brown. Later on, similar lesions also begin to form on the roots underground.
When you pull them up, the roots will have dry, sunken areas that are discolored and cracked.
This disease spreads in warm, humid weather, so it's more of a problem for spring growers or at the start of the fall planting season. It can be spread through infected seeds, weeds, and garden waste.
To prevent this disease, buy disease-free seeds from a reputable source, water only at the base of plants, and keep the garden free of weeds and plant debris.
The correct distance also goes a long way towards preventing it. If necessary, cut off a few leaves from each plant to improve air circulation.
Do not spray when you are ready to eat the leaves the day before the planned harvest, and never mix copper fungicides with other products.
Bacterial soft rot
The bacterial soft rot is caused by Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. Carotovorum Bacteria.
When it infects the roots, muddy, water-soaked spots will form on your plants, making them inedible. Yuck!
How do you know if your beets are infected with soft rot? You will find that the leaves and stems appear soaked in water and mushy, and the rotting areas usually smell bad.
Should I be a little more specific? Unsurprisingly, the foliage smells like rotting vegetables that you've left in the back corner of your fridge for way too long.
The bacteria can survive in the soil and on plant debris, making it difficult to control this disease once it sets in and there is no effective treatment for it.
To prevent recurrence in future crops, ensure good air circulation by spacing seeds or grafts apart as recommended and cutting off some of the foliage as needed as described above.
Water near the ground instead of sprinkling the foliage and cleaning your tools with a 1:10 mixture of bleach and water between uses.
If you notice symptoms of this disease, pull the plants and destroy them. Don't plant anything the Brassica family in this area for at least three years.
Black rot is a serious disease caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris subsp. campestris. If the name alone isn't scary to your heart, just wait: there's more.
Black rot is incredibly easy to spread, and the bacteria that cause it can survive on buried plant material for years. If you find your plants have it, they could already be toast.
If your plants are infected, as the name suggests, this disease can cause your turnips to rot underground and you cannot enjoy the fruits of your labor.
For more information on how to detect, prevent, and treat this problem, see our complete guide to beet black rot.
Downy mildew loves the type of environmental conditions that are common in many areas in the fall. This is also an ideal time to grow beets.
When moisture levels are high and the weather is cool, Peronspora parastica, the aquatic mold, or oomycete that causes this disease, may make its way.
Symptoms usually start on the lower leaves where you see yellow spots that turn brown and can expand. Later, you'll see "fluffy" white moldy mats on the foliage. Eventually the affected leaves wither and die.
In severe cases, the disease can spread to the crown and infect the roots, turning them brown or black and developing cracks.
Sometimes you may not even realize your crop is infected until the roots deteriorate in storage.
On the plus side, this disease is relatively easy to deal with.
Since you can see the symptoms above ground, you can potentially nip this disease in the bud before it progresses sufficiently to tear your roots, as long as you care for your plants carefully.
Prevention methods include keeping your garden weed-free and watering at ground level rather than overhead. You can also spray plants with a 50:50 mixture of milk and water if the forecast includes the weather conditions this pathogen prefers.
If you notice symptoms, take action quickly before they spread to the roots. Bonide Fung-onil is a great foliar spray option, and you can find it on amazon.
Planting your turnips in spring and avoiding fall altogether when this option is available to you can also make sure you don't have to worry about downy mildew as a problem.
You can learn more about it How to identify and treat downy mildew in this guide.
Physiological complaints and other problems
Some problems that can cause problems with your harvest are not caused by bacteria, fungi, or oomycetes.
Rather, soil conditions, storms or improper gardening practices can play a role.
Brown heart / hollow heart
Boron deficiency isn't as common in the garden as it is with some of the other problems you may encounter. However, if your soil is too acidic or alkaline, sandy with insufficient organics, or too dry, this may be the culprit.
While the foliage above ground often appears healthy, at times it can be stunted or thick, or the leaves can turn yellow or otherwise appear discolored.
Cracking and rotting in this case typically occurs internally, and this condition is also known as a hollow heart. You probably won't notice it until after you've pulled up your beets and prepped them in the kitchen.
Another manifestation of the symptoms of this physiological disorder – known as a brown heart – can cause roots to develop solid water-soaked spots that eventually split, and roots can turn brown and fleshy, or they can be hollow inside.
The roots can still be eaten if you can cut off damaged parts after harvest, but they won't be stored well.
It is always a good idea to test your soil before planting to take preventative measures. Trust me, it goes a long way in solving all sorts of problems.
If the results of a test indicate your soil is lacking boron, you can add borax to the soil before planting.
Borax is also known as sodium borate available from Amazon.
Mix one tablespoon of borax with one gallon of water and distribute one ounce on each square foot of the soil surface.
Although some gardeners recommend supplementing the planting area with borax at the first sign of symptoms (if you notice something before harvest), this nutritional deficiency is similar to this Blossom end rot in tomatoeswhere a lack of calcium will damage the fruit – prevention by changing the soil beforehand as needed is recommended and supplementing it later is unlikely to save your crop.
Remember, boron deficiency is often associated with excessive nitrogen. Boron cannot be made available to plants if the macronutrient content in the soil is not in balance.
Some may like it hot, but beets don't. When air temperatures begin to creep above 75 ° F, you run the risk of harvesting roots that have become woody and cracked.
While hot weather can cause stunted growth and a woody texture in your roots, it can also cause them to grow unusually quickly, which can lead to cracking.
Cracking beyond the weather can occur if you don't carefully consider your plants' needs.
If you follow a heat wave by pouring on the water, the roots can absorb too much too quickly, causing them to crack or splinter (more on this below in the section on water issues).
There is not much you can do to control the weather. However, you can protect your plants and water them additionally.
When you have a brief warm period, try placing a shady cloth over your plants to lower the temperature a little. Mulching around your plants can also help protect them from the heat and retain moisture in the soil.
Deep and even watering is key to growing healthy root crops. Don't wait until the soil is completely dry to water and keep an eye on the weather forecast so you can anticipate your plants' needs.
If you plant your crops in the fall and are regularly exposed to warmer than expected temperatures early in the season, give it a try Start your plants indoors next year and wait until they're out until summer officially sings its last hurray.
As a root plant, transplanting beets is not ideal. But also no woody and cracked roots.
It might be worth the risk to transplant them as seedlings rather than planting seeds directly in the ground.
To make the transition easier, plant the seedlings in peat pots and cure them for at least a week before transplanting them directly into the garden in their biodegradable containers.
This is by far the most common reason for cracked roots.
Just as they can be harmed if they are too hot and dry when beet plants suddenly get a torrent of water from a spring downpour or a strong autumn storm, they are likely to absorb that water too quickly, which can cause it to crack.
It won't be a problem if your plants have been watered evenly and then hit by a hard rain. However, if your beets went through a period of drought and then suddenly flooded, it can cause them to crack.
The best practice is to keep the beets moist but not soaked, and not to let the soil dry out. You need regular, even water, and the floor should always feel like a well-wrung sponge.
All is not lost!
A cracked turnip is not necessarily inedible. Use your judgment, but if the root looks otherwise good, go ahead and dig in.
However, if you do see mold or rot, it's probably best to throw it away.
The next step is to take a deep breath and not be discouraged! Every gardener has problems every now and then. You work with living organisms and things are not always okay.
If you are having problems with cracked roots, please share your questions and stories in the comments below. We'd love to hear what you discovered and what worked for you!
If you want to know more about it growing beets in your gardenNext, take a look at these guides:
About Kristine Lofgren
Kristine Lofgren is a writer, photographer, reader, and garden enthusiast based outside of Portland, Oregon. She grew up in the Utah desert and set off for the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two dogs in 2018. Her passion these days is focused on growing ornaments and foraging in the urban and suburban landscape.