The growing season in Scotland is all too short so I like to keep the veg beds as full as possible as much as I can. If you use the potager style of gardening, you’ll be used to filling any space as it becomes available, but many of us sometimes have to rethink how to use larger beds. Why let a leek bed stay empty till the end of June or the space for early tatties be vacant after the middle of July?

Bear in mind that sowing and planting times for all crops depend on weather conditions and the strength of the sun. As we all know, the vagaries of weather are beyond our control, but the higher temperatures of recent years greatly affect timings.

We do have fewer late spring frosts and milder autumns than a few years ago: I plant my tatties a fortnight earlier than 20 years ago and my runners last till late October, not the middle of September.

But these changes don’t affect the strength of the sun and plants need light every bit as much as warmth to grow well. When planning any late summer sowing or planting, remember the growing season in Scotland is much shorter than in England.


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Recent hot summers have led to a profusion of rhododendrons

Although plants continue to grow, they slow down towards the end of August/ early September. So it doesn’t work in this country when English mail order companies, like Thompson & Morgan happily send out small sprout plants in mid July expecting them to be fully grown by winter. If I took any of these, I could rely on getting a half decent sprout top and pea-sized sprouts.

So what catch crops could be grown and where are we likely to find the gaps? Plants such as leafy herbs and cut and come again lettuces are a high priority, and small roots, like radishes, beetroot, stump carrots and white turnips are also possible. As are dwarf sugar peas.

The frost tender crops like courgettes, French and runner beans and sweetcorn can’t face the great outdoors until late May or early June so you could fit in some leafy herbs like rocket, dill or coriander to provide a few cuts.

Apart from next year’s spring cabbages, leeks are usually the last for planting, probably late June, so you’ve time for an early catch crop. There are several possibilities. Like me, you could squeeze in a row of sugar peas, like Norli, before planting out the leeks. And once you’ve enjoyed your early tatties, why not line out any surplus leek seedlings in a corner of the tattie bed? Plant ‘em close and treat as baby leeks for stir fries.

You can also use some space in a kale or broccoli bed for a catch crop. It takes several weeks for a brassica to grow large, so you could easily interplant salad leaves between the places earmarked for broccoli. They will be ready to come out before being shaded out by the brassicas. And there’s virtually no nutrient robbery.

The Herald: GeumGeum (Image: free)

Plant of the week Geum

‘Pink Petticoats’ is an early flowering geum with frilly petalled deep pink flowers held above the neat clump of foliage. Only growing to a height of 25cm it is great for the front of a border as even when the petals fall the developing seed heads are attractive.

Geums are hardy but prefer reasonably drained soil. If putting new plants in to still wet ground add some horticultural grit to the planting hole.