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How to grow vegetables in Scotland

Updated April 17, 2017

The success of your vegetable growing in Scotland depends in part on your location in the country. Northern Scottish regions often only reach averages of around 15.6C in July. This makes it hard for some species to get established and produce crops. However, some hardier varieties will survive in these conditions. Southern and eastern Scottish regions offer more favourable conditions, with summer maximum temperatures of around 22.2C. Scottish gardeners frequently use the added protection of greenhouses as part of their vegetable growing process.

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  1. Buy a selection of hardy vegetables. Commercially grown vegetables include potato, carrot, calabrese, swedes, peas and beans, according to the Scottish Agricultural College. Buy seed packs for each type.

  2. Fill seed trays with fine potting soil and sow seeds according to individual pack instructions. Start your vegetables off indoors in a bright, warm spot or in a greenhouse, in late March or April, depending on the species. Some will tolerate direct planting in spring, but many stand a better chance of survival indoors.

  3. Dig a spot in the garden that gets sun for most of the day to a depth of around 0.5 metres. Rip out weed roots and rocks as you go. Avoid areas shaded by large trees or fences as temperatures can plummet in the shade. However, do look for some shelter from shrubs or buildings, and avoid exposed slopes.

  4. Feel the consistency of the soil. Soil types vary across Scotland. The Western Isles and northern regions may have boggy, peaty soil, according to the Scotland Natural Heritage site. Consider using raised beds in these conditions or add lots of sand and loam. Eastern Scotland tends to have better drainage but more acidic soil. Mix in a large amount of manure or rotted compost to boost nutrients and improve drainage.

  5. Test the soil pH. Low pH means the soil is acidic. Most vegetables do best in soil from 6.0 to 6.8. For acidic soil, raise the pH by adding some lime in amounts directed on the lime packet.

  6. Leave the pots outside for two weeks to harden off your vegetables before planting. Bring the pots inside each night for the first week, then leave the pots out overnight for the second week. Plant in the ground when the last frost has gone. This can be very late in Scotland, usually at the end of May. Space vegetable seedlings as directed on the seed pack. For example, plant beans 15 cm apart with about 1 metre between rows.

  7. Place protective cloches over sensitive plants for the first few weeks of growth. These are plastic or glass covers that allow sunlight through, but keep the plant warm.

  8. Water enough to keep the ground damp. Scotland receives lots of rainfall, so drought and drying don't tend to be big problems. However, crops such as potatoes require lots of water. Harvest vegetables before the temperatures drop too far in early autumn.

  9. Tip

    Pick crops that have a slow growing season, such as radish.

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Things You'll Need

  • Spade
  • Manure
  • pH soil tester
  • Agricultural lime
  • Seed trays
  • Fine soil
  • Cloches
  • Watering can

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