I'm just planning my garden, and the prevailing wisdom regarding beets seems to be that you can start them in the garden up to 4 weeks before last frost, but germination may be spotty and slow. Also, you shouldn't start them indoors as they don't transplant well.
However, there's also a few (not many) reports of people doing just that - starting a flat of beet seedlings, planting them out, and having great success.
Has anyone in the permies community attempted starting beets early indoors?
What kind of volume are you talking? If you just want a dozen or so, I'd use a tall paper pot (3 inch finished out of 4 inch newsprint). The pot will decompose quickly once you transplant, and the plants don't get transplant shock. If you're talking a whole field, I'd suggest that the flat you use is at least 3 inches deep and quite light material. Beets, like Swiss chard, have a noticeable tap root and if that doesn't form, you'll have to give the plants much more care.
To increase the likelihood of germination success outside, can you cover the bed with row cover to increase its warmth?
I struggle with direct sowing them and have tried transplanting them. Neither has become a slam dunk for me. If I had consistent water on the seed bed, I think I'd have good enough germination in the ground.
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