Growing Soup Vegetables
Homemade soup made from home grown vegetables is both nourishing and nurturing.
Start now by sowing or planting out soup vegetables, including parsnip, carrot, swede, turnip and leek. In 12 weeks you’ll be picking your first soup pot harvest.
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Root crops like turnip, carrot and swede prefer soil that was manured the previous season. That makes them a good follow-up crop to tomatoes or cucumbers. (Rotating crops around your vegetable patch after each season will prevent pests and diseases, such as rot, from destroying roots).
Root crops can be sown straight into the ground. Prepare a seed bed of finely tilled earth. Fine soil particles reduce the possibility of root vegetables forking and distorting. Use your finger to draw a drill line into the bed about 1cm deep and about 15-20cm apart. Cover with a shallow layer of fine, sandy and water them gently.
By choosing different varieties of carrots and parsnip and by sowing a little and often, every 3-4 weeks through autumn, your harvest will continue from winter into spring.
Carrots are fussy and prefer light friable soil to clay. We love growing carrots from mixed colour seed packs so there is always a surprise when you pull one up! Carrots prefer a moist seedbed so daily watering at seed stage is important.
Parsnip seeds are cold-tender and must be planted before winter. Parsnip seeds are large enough to place into the drill one at a time, but you might like to add some sand to the carrot seeds to space them out and reduce the numbers of seedlings to be pulled out as ‘thinnings’.
Turnip and swede seeds are cold-hardy and can be planted every 3-4 weeks throughout the cold weather for continual harvest. Roots will need to be thinned out a little as they grow: leave a strong one every 5cm.
Leeks are best planted from seedlings. Newly purchased seedling cells usually have a cluster of microscopic leek seedlings, which should be separated before planting. For a good soup stock you will need fat leeks so plant each individual leek 15cm apart. Plant either along the bottom of a 20cm-deep trench or in individual 20cm deep holes. Plant at the base of the hole and gradually fill it as they grow. If you want nice tasty white shanks, pull the earth up around the stems as they grow taller. This is called ‘earthing up’ or ‘blanching’.
Liquid feed root vegetables every weekend for best results with one of the following magic organic liquids: seaweed; worm juice from your worm farm; and Harvest or Powerfeed. Alternate with one of these each week to provide essential nutrients and trace elements.
Roots are ready to harvest two months from planting. Left longer the roots will simply get bigger. Check by brushing away the surface soil to reveal a full-grown root. Pick all roots before they go to flower, which will turn them hard, tough, and either tasteless (carrots) or overpowering (turnips and swedes) ...unless you want to save the seeds for your next planting! A harvest of forked roots will let you know that your soil was too lumpy, while poor root development can occur if you have used too much nitrogen fertiliser.
In 12 weeks your soup vegetables will be ready for the pot - see link for our best-ever vegetable stock recipe!
Text: Linda Ross