Guide to eating and growing all year round in Scotland
A Guide To Year Round Growing & Eating in Scotland
One of the things that Scottish gardeners love to complain about is our short growing season. But though it may seem a little surprising, you can grow and eat food from a Scottish garden all year round. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your garden, prolong your growing season and eat well all year round from your permaculture paradise:
Covered Growing Spaces:
While some parts of Scotland do offer the chance to grow food outside and unprotected over the winter months, in most of the country, extra protection will be needed. A polytunnel or greenhouse is a fantastic addition to a permaculture garden and you may even be able to find one second hand – or even to built one yourself using household rubbish or reclaimed materials.
There are a wide range of ways to create covered growing spaces, from large polytunnels to tiny pot-sized cloches. If you do not have space for a large polytunnel or greenhouse, you can still create smaller growing areas by covering containers with small row-covers, or even creating a winter-protected vertical garden by covering some shelves with plastic or glass screening.
Even inside a polytunnel or unheated greenhouse, some crops may still need extra protection in Scotland when the winter is a cold one. Permaculture practise is all about making the most of resources at hand and renewable resources such as garden leaves that fall in autumn are perfect for laying as mulches around overwintering crops, such as onion sets that are overwintering in a polytunnel or outside. Horticultural fleece (or even old fabrics from your home) can also be used to keep frosts from leaves.
Winter protection is also about choosing the right location for your growing efforts. Try to choose a location that is somewhat sheltered, and protected from the worst of the winter weather. Make sure it is not in a frost pocket, and gets enough sunshine each day.
While traditionally, gardeners tend to do almost all of their sowing in the spring, year round growing and eating means thinking beyond the late summer and autumn harvests. In permaculture growing systems, gardeners make the most not only of the space they have in the garden but also the time.This may involve planting a fast growing crop between slower growing plants, so that it can be harvested before the slow-growing crop needs the space and resources. It can also involve successional planting – second and even third sowings of certain crops throughout the year to prolong the season when it can be eaten and enjoyed.
With the right cover, winter protection and planting plan (and with a little luck and judgement) you should be able to harvest something from your garden every month of the year – even in a climate such as ours. The 'hungry gap' which usually occurs in spring should not be a problem. If spring is a bit of a lean time – remember that there are wild additions to your diet that could plug the gap perfectly. In many Scottish gardens you will be able to find weeds such as nettles, ground elder, chick weed, fat hen and dandelions, all of which can be used in a range of recipes. Wild foods will also help us to eat well year round in Scotland.