RESOURCES: Sowing and growing Getting started growing your own food can be a daunting thing - where do you start? What should you grow, and when. There are so many books and websites out there with a huge depth of knowledge, so what we have produced is a very simple guide to the basics.
The gardener’s year Written and illustrated by Elly Kinross
s the year turns and the seasons progress there are the significant times for sowing, growing and eating growing food…
February, the weather outside might be frightful but on a warm window sill you can have the first glimpse of spring.
“Look deep into Nature and then you will understand everything better” - Albert Einstein
This is usually April for milder parts of Scotland although the last few years have been a bit unpredictable. Now we can begin to plant out and sow frost tender plants into the garden. Fruit trees will begin to send out their first leaves so this is the end of the pruning and planting season for them.
The wheel of the year
The longer days are telling the plants to reach their climax, to send out flowers and make seeds. Avoid sowing seeds around this time especially greens as they will tend to bolt and go to seed and miss out the tasty leafy stage. The following months are our abundant months, spend time harvesting summer food and nurturing and protecting your plants.
Clever people who will have vegetables to eat at the leaner times of year are sowing seeds in late summer. Broad beans, salads, spring cabbages, peas, garlic and onions all can be sown now for early crop next year or a crop through the autumn.
Sowing and germinating
Lots of plants will like to be sown indoors then moved outside when the weather is better and they are a bit bigger (courgettes, pumpkins, cabbages). Others are happy to go straight into where they will grow (carrots, beetroot, salad), but the fussiest of all will want to be inside all summer (tomatoes, French beans). • •
September and October is the time when the most of your large produce like potatoes, pumpkins, squash, courgette, cucumbers, tomatoes are ready to harvest. Store, preserve, celebrate and eat.
From now on any frost tender plants that are growing outside will begin to die off and stop producing. Time to calm down, tidy up and prepare your remaining plants and the soil for the coming winter.
Nurture and protect (and eat) those wonderful plants that can handle (mostly) whatever the Scottish winter throws at them.
Choosing what to grow
Love growing what you love to eat. Most annual fruit and veg really need sunlight everyday to grow. If your garden or growing space is not sunny there are still things that you can grow. Spinach, salads, blackcurrants, gooseberries and leafy herbs like mint will all still thrive in shady gardens.
Sow your seeds about as deep as the seed is big. Some seeds germinate best in a constantly warm place. Can you find somewhere with underfloor heating, it is great for germinating seeds! After your seeds have germinated some will need to moved to a bigger pot, this is called pricking out. Seeds in rows are easier to weed and to protect but broadcast sowing is fun and works really well for some plants especially salad leaf mixes.
Different plants like different soil. Feed the soil before putting in courgettes, pumpkins, potatoes, cabbages. Rake the soil hard before putting in parsnips carrots and beetroot. Some plants need some support, canes and netting are really handy for this. Before you plant anything weed your growing space, really try to get as much of the roots of the weeds out as you can. Hoe between your plants on a sunny day and watch the weed seedling shrivel into nothing. Plants that are indoors will need watering at least every couple of days when it is warm. When a plant is producing fruit it helps to give it some extra feed. Here is how to make your own tomato feed:
Collect up some helpful weeds like comfrey and nettles, put them in a bucket with some water and put a lid on. Wait until they turn into back sludgy liquid (about 3 weeks). Mix the liquid with water to make something that looks about the colour of tea and then feed it to your tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, courgettes •
Mulching (covering the soil around the plants) really reduces the need to water and weed. It also protects the soils nutrients and structure. Big cardboard boxes are brilliant, so are
grass clippings and leaf mould or straw use whatever is around. Every garden has its own special pests. The best defence against all of them is healthy plants so keep feeding and watering. Gardeners have great stories about successfully protecting plants from pests Use netting with stakes to protect your plants from big pests like rabbits, pigeons, chickens, cats and also for the cabbage white butterfly.
Further reading Fruit and Vegetables in Scotland by Kenneth Cox and Caroline Beaton The Permaculture Garden by Graham Bell. The Allotment Book by Andy Cleavely www.gardenorganic.org.uk www.realseeds.co.uk
Find out more about the Seed Truck: www.fifediet.co.uk/seedtruck
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