How to grow vegetables in Scotland

With the right knowledge it's possible to grow all manner of fruit and vegetables in Scotland (Photo: Shutterstock)
With the right knowledge it's possible to grow all manner of fruit and vegetables in Scotland (Photo: Shutterstock)
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Here's how to grow your own fruit and vegetables in Scotland.

"Grow your own."

This was the call from the Great British government to households from across the country to cultivate every inch of land and combat food shortages during the Second World War.

Today we no longer suffer from a dearth of fresh produce, with tomatoes from Egypt and pineapples from Costa Rica freely available at the local supermarket, but the appeal to grow one's own endures to this day.

The idea of nurturing an ingredient from soil to table is one that sounds hugely rewarding. And ask anyone who's already converted to growing their own and they will tell, brag even, about the improved quality of taste on offer to patient growers.

There's also the satisfaction of knowing that you're doing your bit for the planet, reducing food miles and plastic packaging.

Though Scotland might lack the climate of North Africa or Central America it's still the ideal environment to grow a select amount of fruit, vegetables and herbs, be it in your back garden, a local allotment or a window box.

Here are some tips for growing your own in Scotland.

Making your bed

Before planting fruit and vegetables its important to make a soil bed for your plants to grow.

Glendoick Garden Centre founder and author of Fruit and Vegetables for Scotland: What to Grow and How to Grow It, Kenneth Cox recommends using Winter as an opportunity to prepare your garden for sowing.

While plants grow indoors, the Perthshire gardener suggests that hobbyist farmers prepare their garden beds, improving their fertility by spreading them with manure.

Gardeners who are blessed with a garden should opt for the verdant space's sunniest spot to lay their bed.

Once a bedding area has been selected, gardeners should clear the area of any other vegetation and block out sunlight to the area by covering it in newspaper.

Gardeners must then adjust the pH of their soil. pH levels can be decreased by adding compost or sulphur, or increased by adding limestone. A pH between 6.0 and 7.0 is ideal for growing vegetables.

Next gardeners should turn the soil in the bedding area before adding organic material and compost to improve soil composition.

Finally gardeners should rake the soil before planting their garden.

When and what to plant?

Before you start digging up and planting whatever your heart desires, its important to understand Scotland's limitations.

Each season possesses its own limited larder of potential crops, from broad beans in Winter to soft fruits in Summer.

Cox talked us through what grows best when in Scotland.

According to Cox gardeners fruit are best planted in Autumn and early Spring, but vegetables are a lot more variable.

He warns that when following seed packet instructions, growers should be wary that planting months may be aimed at an English audience, rather than Scottish and that crops should often be planted later north of the border.

If you're just getting started in the coming months then the Royal Horticultural Society recommends sowing cauliflower, onions, peas and tomatoes indoors in January and February; Artichokes, aubergine, cabbage, lettuce in February and broad beans, beetroots and broccoli in March.

These will all be ready to harvest in early Summer.

Which fruit and vegetables are best suited to Scotland?

Though Scotland's hardy Winters and iffy Summers may prevent gardeners from growing certain fruit and vegetables, Cox insists that Scotland's soils are perfect for a select number of crops.

According to Cox, soft fruits such as strawberries, potatoes, kale, apples and broad beans are all well suited to Scottish soils.

Amateur Scotland-based gardeners hoping to deliver a successful crop should consider growing herbs, potatoes, strawberries and rocket, according to Cox.

Do I need a garden?

Though a garden or allotment is desirable for gardeners looking to grow their own, some crops can be grown in as something as little as a window box.

Cox notes: "Herbs are best as you can get lots in to a small space. Quick crops like cut and come again salads can also be grown inside, as can garlic and radishes."

Indoor growers must ensure that their crop is situated by a sunny window and should consider investing in artificial lighting if they want their crop to be a successful one.

No matter how small or large a space, all of us are capable of growing our own.

Kenneth Cox's Fruit and Vegetables for Scotland: What to Grow and How to Grow It can be bought on Amazon and at most good bookshops.