The Scottish spring and summer have always been unpredictable but climate change is making things much worse. So what can gardeners do to grow the crops we have just now?

As summer progresses, the temperature rises significantly in much of this country but nothing like as much as in the south of this island. Down there, English gardening writers focus their advice on growing Mediterranean-style.

Like many of us, plants hate sudden change: they settle into one growing routine and can’t easily adapt to sudden swings in temperature and moisture. So when is it best to sow seed? I’ve found during a cold snap that very early sowings of sugar peas and broad beans make slow progress and a second sowing often catches up and harvests at much the same time rather than giving me a steady succession.

I wait empty-plated for this veg only to have a glut two or three weeks later.

Warming the soil two or three weeks before planting helps. Put a clear plastic cloche over the patch that’s earmarked for first sowings.

Be sure to keep the plastic above the soil to allow for good air circulation. Fleece protects growing plants but does not increase soil temperature.

Mid-spring sowing may give you a better harvest than later ones. Plants will grow steadily, whereas a later sown crop will struggle to develop in high temperatures, and race to set seed prematurely by bolting.

A sudden switch to wet weather has the same effect.

Shade is becoming important to protect crops from too much sun and heat and that cast by slatted fences, house or shed walls can help.

The shade cast by trees, shrubs and hedges, can be useful too but their roots will spread into a bed and soak up more than their fair share of water and nutrients.

Veg crops also hate a prolonged wet spell. When you simply dig over a patch, possibly adding a little compost, you do break up the soil, but will also disrupt the organisms that could be improving its structure.

This thin soil readily becomes soggy, rots roots and denies them the oxygen needed for sustained growth.

On the other hand, “no dig” retains structure and an additional top dressing improves the ground’s composition. This lets it absorb enough moisture, with surplus water draining away.

Aim to cover as much ground as possible with organic mulch. None of us ever has enough home compost and buying material is very expensive.

Cardboard or thick layers of newspaper covered with last year’s spent compost or grass clippings are a free alternative.

This mulching stops precious water evaporating and is critical during prolonged dry spells. Prepare for dry weather by installing whatever water butts you can to downpipes.

Even my small potting shed roof fills the butt that’s close to my outside tables.

Admittedly these butts will eventually run dry, but they do help capture any available water.

Plant of the week

NARCISSUS ‘CRAGFORD’ is a multi-headed narcissus with creamy white petals and a bright orange cup. It is scented, tough and flowers for a long time so can be grown in grass, pots or borders. Planted in big groups, the scent of narcissus is an intoxicating pleasure on a warm spring day.