Many of our favourite vegetables, like tomatoes and cucumbers, are in short supply just now, at least in Scottish supermarkets.

There are many fewer imports from southern Spain largely because of unusually frosty weather recently, and cripplingly high energy costs have forced a lot of UK growers to abandon their normal winter sowings.

Although these are temporary supply blips, the odds are that food prices will steadily or even rapidly climb. Just when inflation is seriously shrinking our income significantly.

Although we can’t do much about the electricity or oil bills, those of us with gardens can help cut the cost of our fruit and veg. We could even follow my son’s example and dig up half the lawn to supply the family with fruit and veg over the summer.

Growing food cheaply means spending time and thinking ahead. Plan what you want to grow, when to get started, and what materials and equipment you’ll need.

In Scotland, we have to be realistic, so without buying a lot of expensive heating equipment we can’t expect much fresh veg before June at the earliest.

Apart from loose-leaf lettuce, which takes around six weeks to mature, we must wait for 10-12 weeks for “fast-growing” white turnips, chard, stub-root carrots, beetroot and sugar peas.

Since the aim is saving money, propagators, soil-warming cables and other pricey equipment are taboo. Plastic seed trays and pots are outlawed and I’ll only allow a tiny amount of potting compost.

A lot of potting compost is fiendishly expensive so direct sow into the garden if possible.

You may need to wait till next month for the soil to warm up, but so be it. Reduce the need for commercial compost by making some of your own. Get or build a small compost bin and start collecting kitchen and garden waste now. By this time next year you’ll have some perfectly usable compost.

As I’ve said before, growing from seed, especially open-pollinated, not F1 hybrid, seed is the cheapest approach, because a single plant costs pennies not pounds. Leaf and root crops, peas and runner beans can all be direct sown.

You might find it easier to splash out on one or two tomato, cucumber or courgette plants, as they require warmth to germinate and grow on.

Preferably wait until all risk of frost is past so you won’t need to find a safe frost-free haven for them until you can plant directly into the garden. Be sure to choose a warm, sheltered spot.


Plant of the week

Primula denticulata ‘rubin’ is a variety of Drumstick primula with bright cherry pink flowers that are beautifully set off by the grey-green leaves. Like other Drumstick primulas it thrives in moist soil and partial shade. It is not quite as robust as the purple and lilac flowered species which will grow in any soil, including very damp. Cut the faded flower stalks of Drumstick primulas if you do not want them to seed around.