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Select plants for seed: In fall, identify the beets that you would like to use for seed. Once the tops have begun to yellow and flop over, tie the stalks to stakes for support. Look for flowers in early summer (June or July).
Harvest seed: When the seed spikes are dry on the plant (they will turn a brown/tan color), cut them and place them in a paper bag to dry for two additional weeks. Once seeds are completely dry, rub the seed spikes to separate the seeds.
Label and Store: Store in a cool, dry place. Beet seeds can last up to four years.
Begin planting seeds a month before last spring frost. Beet seeds do best in soil temperatures above 50 degrees F, but can germinate in cooler soil. Plant fall beets 10-12 weeks before you expect the fall frost. Beets grow best in nutritious soil with a pH between 6.2-7.0.
Beets are wind pollinated, so growers interested in saving seed need to be conscious of isolation distances in order to preserve seed integrity. A half mile of isolation between varieties is necessary (beets and chard are the same species and will cross readily if not separated). If sufficient space is not available beets can be bagged to prevent cross-pollination. Beets will not self-pollinate, so if bagging beets, make sure that at least 10 plants are housed under the same bag, to ensure that they are able to pollinate each other. Bags need to be wind-proof to avoid pollination from outside. Shake plants together within bag frequently to insure pollination.
Beets are biennial, so only produce seed in the second year after sowing. This poses a challenge for seed savers in cold climates. Beets should be able to survive the winter in climates with average annual minimum temperatures of -10 degrees F or warmer. If you live in a colder climate, we recommend storing the beets through the winter and replanting in the spring.
Sources: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/vegetables/growing-beets-zm0z12fmzkon.aspx?PageId=2 ; http://www.gardenguides.com/100375-save-beet-seeds.html
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