Planning a soup bed

Information sheet

Use this handy guide to plan your soup bed, ready for planting and growing your own soup. Join in the Big Soup Share and turn the crops you grow into soup to share with your community. 

  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): Maths, Geography

Plan

Firstly, use the “Grow a soup bed” activity. Once you have chosen your soup recipe and seeds, you can plan a soup bed by using a 1x1 metre grid like the one below. This will help you plan out the distances required between plants, which can be found on the back of the vegetable and flower seed packets.

This grid will allow you to measure accurately when planting and allow you to scale up the bed easily if you have a larger growing space or scale it down if you are using pots. For example, you can scale it down to a pot with a diameter of 20 or 40cm, however if you have a larger space you could scale up to a 2x2 metre or 4x4 metre bed. 

Each box in the grid above is 1x1 cm. When however, it is scaled to 1 metre each box is 10cm. This allows you plan your seed sowing accurately.
 

Here are two example soup bed plans that we have tried and tested on our allotment:

Minestrone


In our Minestrone soup bed we built an A frame structure for the beans to grow up. This supported them and allowed the beans to climb. We also created a little fenced in area for the potatoes with sticks and string, as they tend to flop over the taller the plant gets especially when they are in flower. This prevented them shading out the garlic and bean plants growing beside them.

Carrot and Coriander



Our Allotment Experince

At the RHS Wisley Garden Allotments, we have been growing our Soup Beds since March. We planned our soup beds out in January, then in February we sourced all our vegetable and flower seeds, potatoes, onion and garlic sets (bulbs). Then once the frost was starting to pass in early to mid-March we started by chitting our potatoes on our windowsills and planting out our onion and garlic sets into our planned grids. By mid to late March we started to sow seeds in trays and pots that need to be germinated indoors and allowed to grow, such as the beans and celery. Then as April came around we started sowing seeds directly into our soup beds, we started sowing carrots and planting out the chitted potatoes. In May we planted out our beans, celery and sowed the coriander all while keeping on top of the weeds and regularly watering the plots. Over June and July, we kept watering our allotment due to the dry weather and had to continue weeding and watching our crops grow, at times it seemed like they were doubling their size in a week.

As August and September came around it was time to start harvesting, drying and storing our beans, onions, garlic and potatoes ready for use in our soup making. Crops like the celery and carrots where left in their beds until a few days before the Big Soup Share week started so they could be washed and prepared ready for being added to our tasty soups. The coriander that we had let go to seed (as it had bolted and flowered early due to the very hot summer sunshine) was left in the bed and we slowly collected the seeds as they dried in an old herb jar.

 

Top tips from our soup beds to yours:

  • Start planning your soup beds in November-January time. If you want to use green manures to add nutrients to the soil then start earlier in late September or October.
  • Look at ordering or sourcing your vegetable, flower and herb seeds, onion and garlic sets and potatoes in February-March. Choose varieties that will be ready to harvest in late September to early October. In the meantime you can prepare your soil by adding manure or just by digging out the worst of the weeds.
  • Start sowing seeds, chitting potatoes and planting out garlic and onion sets in mid-March to mid-April. This will vary depending on the seed and potatoes varieties you have got, so please read your seed packets for more information.
  • Have a supply of bamboo canes, hazel, silver birch or willow sticks to use as supports for your climbing plants. These can be sourced locally from councils that cut down hedging or thin woodland. You can also purchase them at garden centres or DIY stores.
  • Make sure you have a watering and weeding rota, especially for holidays, as this will help keep your plants looking good and stop those pesky weeds taking over. Alternatively, you can set up irrigation that can be checked. Look at our resource "A guide to watering plants" for more helpful solutions.
  • When sowing seeds outdoors using a line (two short sticks, canes or metal pegs conected by string) helps you sow your crops in a straight line. Check out "How to sow seeds outdoors" as a guide.
  • If you don’t start growing until after Easter, you can buy plug plants to grow rather than sow seeds.
  • With plug plants that contain for example 5 chard seedlings in one plug, you can carefully split these up and plant them in a row. They will look wilted for a week or so but as long as they are well watered they will recover and grow very happily. Check out our "How to prick out seedings into modules" resource to help with this technique.

Plant Key:

B = Beans
Cel = Celery
P = Potato
G = Garlic
C = Carrot
Cor = Coriander
O = Onion


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