Now that the weather has improved slightly, the allotments in Edinburgh are beginning to show a little more life! In turn, it’s meant that I’ve been busy pulling up weeds, building protective fences, and worrying if the green house could be too hot or too cold! But I do know that it’s all still a very steep learning curve…

Last year I was lucky enough to be invited to share an allotment space in Edinburgh with a good friend of mine. After being on the waiting list for around 8 years, she had been given an apprentice bed at Inverleith Park – a hugely coveted space. Knowing that I had also been in the list for some years – she very kindly offered to share.

I have to be honest that despite both having parents who had grown food – neither of us can remotely be deemed experts. For the first year our method could definitely be summed up by the phrase ‘plant it and pray!’ Although we are continuing to learn, we have picked up a lot about growing plants in Edinburgh – so I thought I’d share 8 easy to grow fruits and vegetables.

We’ve always got the kids involved so all of these options are perfect for beginner gardeners or for growing with kids. I have no idea if these are the things the ‘experts’ would advise or whether our methods are sensible but these are the things we’ve found to work!

Spinach

This is the single thing I grew last year that provided several meals each week. I bought a variety called Spinach Perpetual Seeds from Homebase in Craigleith and just sprinkled them in a line before covering with a little bit of soil. My friend and I called it a ‘cut and come again’ plant as no matter how much we hacked at it, it just seemed to grow again within a couple of days. If abandoned for too long, the leaves became the kind you’d want to stew rather than have in salads – so at that point we generally would just dig up and replant. This would also work well in a pot on a patio or balcony!

When to plant – late Spring and all through summer (although we’ve stuck some in late March this year to see what will happen!)

Potatoes

We successfully produced a nice crop of new potatoes last year but admittedly would’ve liked to produce a few more! After nosing around other allotments at Inverleith we thing that we really needed to pile up the soil a lot higher. Some people grew theirs in a barrel with a flap at the side for harvesting – so these are totally possible even in a small patio garden.

When to plant – late March or early April. Last year we were also quite late in getting them out which may have also attributed to the small crop.

Strawberries

Although we had to be careful to fence and put nets over our strawberries – these were an unmitigated success. Strawberries really do seem to look after themselves and apparently regrow for at least 3 years. We have a wide variety in one of our beds, but I’ve also grown them for about 4 years at home in a pot. I thought my crop was rather lacking last year before noticing that Thomas was eating them straight off the plant!

When to plant – mid Spring for fruit to appear through summer.

Rhubarb

I absolutely adore Rhubarb crumble, Rhubarb and custard, or even just Rhubarb compote mixed with yoghurt. But it is expensive – Sainsburies at Craighleith had very spindly specimens for a £2.70 a bunch. Contrast this with the fat stalks I pulled from a pot in my garden and I was feeling smug. We had been worried that rhubarb would be something that spreads – but after a spying mission at Inverleith we’ve braved putting some in one of our beds. Whilst I’d be ok with tons of rhubarb – it is nice to have a wider variety!

When to plant – Autumn is fine for decent stalks to start appearing in Early Spring.

Courgettes

One of the other things that grew well in Edinburgh last year was courgettes. I was surprised as imagined they would need more heat – but what they did need was space. One of the other allotment owners explained that by digging a wee pit for the courgette plants, you can then give them a decent amount of water. This obviously in turn means they’re quite happy! Last year we got a decent crop throughout the summer, before abandoning it for a bit to see if we’d then get any marrow type things. The answer is yes – and they are delicious stuffed with bacon. This year I’m going to also try growing one in a very large pot – that once held a Christmas tree – on our patio. But right now, I’ve got two little seedling currently cultivating on my kitchen window sill – plant and pray and all that!

When to plant – mid to late May.

Radishes

Finally, one of the things we grew with success last year were radishes. We found the only thing we could do wrong was to allow them to be too close together. That just resulted in a few being a little small so not the worst thing in the world! They are delicious raw in a salad but also pretty epic fried in butter and garlic. This year, both my friend and I are growing them in pots on our patios at home. This way we can resew some seeds every 3-4 weeks and have a more continuous crop – at least that’s the plan!

When to plant: early April through to end of summer.

If you are an allotment pro or keen gardener – please do share your tips! Or if you have any questions about owning an allotment in Edinburgh – ask away in the comments below!

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