Planting a Garden From Scratch

Planting a Garden From Scratch -  An Island Family By Grace

Having just moved to our new home in February, we have had just about enough time to get settled in before spring! The weather for the first month we were here was very stormy (and wet!), and of course it was still getting dark early when we first moved in. For the last couple of weeks, we have had much nicer days- a fair bit of sunshine, and no midges (yet!), and light until about 9pm. However, we have definitely not had the heat that there has reportedly been in England- 25 degrees centigrade a few days ago! On that day here… we had snow and hail!

Nonetheless, things are beginning to grow a bit in the garden. Our daffodils have flowered this week and the buds on the trees are beginning to open. For the last 10 years or so, we have learned how to grow vegetables in the gardens of the various houses we have lived in. We are definitely still on that learning curve, but now with the biggest garden we have ever had (half an acre), we would like to be able to grow more.

Our new house was part of a croft (Scottish smallholding), which was broken up into smaller parts prior to us buying it. So, although the larger area of land here has been used for crofting (mainly livestock but also vegetables), for nearly 100 years, the garden land that we now own has a few flowers and trees, but is laid mainly to grass. Hence we are in the position of planting a vegetable garden from scratch for our new home.

I was therefore really pleased to hear about the Home Grown Food Summit that was held online last week. There were audio and video presentations from 4 or 5 speakers each day, on a variety of subjects from growing your own veg to rearing chickens or rabbits for meat, to permaculture, food forests, and even which insects are good to eat (no, I didn’t listen to that one…)

The summit was very timely for me, and has got me all enthusiastic about planting our garden, and also getting some chickens, which we had already hoped to do. You can still get access to the  Home Grown Food Summit, but unfortunately not for free now- you can pay to download or buy a flash drive of the presentations.

In terms of planting, so far we have got seed potatoes from the Grow Your Own Potatoes Project in a potato bag, and I have started out seeds in trays indoors (our dining room which needs a new roof is acting as the perfect cold frame at the moment!)- broccoli, cabbage, beetroot, peas, broad beans, pak choi, perpetual spinach, and courgettes (zuccini), and my dad kindly had a whole box of snowdrop bulbs sent out to me from a Scottish country house that sells their snowdrop stock off at the end of the growing season.

On Saturday I was able to move 4 runner bean plants outdoors, and some peas, although I’m not convinced about how long they’ll last, given the snow earlier last week! The soil is not deep, with bedrock not far below, and of course with this being the west highlands of Scotland, it is damp, and we are going to be making full use of a system of ditches for drainage 😉

Planitng a garden from scratch

Baby pea plant with attractive milk bottle cloches in the background!


Planting a garden from scratch

New veggie plots with my lonely bean plants at the ends!











I had some very exciting news this week, in that my parents have offered to buy me a polytunnel greenhouse for my birthday! I don’t know what that says about me that they knew I would like that, and that I’m very excited about it, but there you go. It will mean that for the first time I will be able to grow tomatoes that actually turn red (although we have enjoyed green tomato chutney for the past two years!), and hopefully some other things that it is otherwise too cold to grow here.

I have also been pinning lots of things to my Crofting and Homesteading board on Pinterest, which you can see here if you like, and reading lots of articles and blog posts on growing useful plants, such as Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth’s current herbal blog hop on Calendula. Through following a link from one of the Grow Your Own Food Summit speakers, I have been taking a free online course on Chicken Behaviour and Welfare through Edinburgh University. Today my lovely husband and son have been sawing and hammering away to build our first chicken coop, and we are looking forward to picking up our first hens and a couple of cockerels next week. I will let you know how it goes!

Our son hopes to start his own business selling eggs from our front gate, so he is going for pure breed chickens, but our elder daughter and I are starting off with four Rhode Rocks, which are a hybrid from Rhode Island Reds and Black Rocks. We gave our son a series of challenges last summer in the run up to his 13th birthday, (an idea we got from the book Suddenly They’re 13), one of which was to read the book Starting a Micro Business for Teens, {affiliate links} which he really enjoyed, and it gave him the idea of an egg-selling business to look forward to when we moved. Maybe I will write a full post about the challenges he completed at a later date.

In the long term, I would like to plant fruit trees, and more perennial vegetables and fruit bushes. We don’t have a lot of spare cash for these just now, with our roof about to be fixed, so I have used my most recent Amazon voucher (from doing online surveys), to order an elder tree sapling, so we can look forward to more of the elderflower and elderberry cordial our 11 year old daughter made last year. In the mean time, I will be sowing some more seeds- lettuce, purple sprouting broccoli, carrots (I have never succeeded with carrots so far), and doing a bit of research on polytunnels.

Which plants would you recommend for planting a garden from scratch? Are there any ‘must have’ plants in your garden, or plants you would like to have, but don’t yet? Please let me know in a comment.

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21 Comments on “Planting a Garden From Scratch

  1. We found that white malt vinegar applied by cotton wool to the skin helped deter the midges on one of our trips to the Islands. Avon’s Skin so Soft also helped.

    • Hi Moira 🙂 Thank you so much for the anti-midge ideas! I am interested to see if vinegar will keep them away! We already have Skin So Soft and one other midge repellent but it would certainly be nice to have a natural alternative. Thanks for your comment.

  2. It’s a challenge to start a new garden. The must have plants for me, would be a few edibles but I see you have that covered already. 🙂

    • Thank you 🙂 Yes, I had saved a few seeds from our previous garden, and I just bought a few more varieties. I am really keen to grow more plants that will come up every year, such as fruit trees and bushes.

  3. If you know anyone with blackcurrant bushes, you can grow your own bushes from slips taken in the autumn.

    One thing that we asked one of our children to do was to work out the cost effectiveness of growing various veg/fruit/herbs. Herbs are extremely cost effective and so, I suspect, are salad laves.. We love home grown potatoes and odd, our carrots seem to have failed too.

    • Ah, that is really good to know about the blackcurrant bushes, and will save me from buying some- thank you! Good idea about getting the children to work out the cost effectiveness. Yes, I think growing salad leaves is very cost effective and I hope to do that as soon as we find the box which has our lettuce seeds!

  4. We have a very mini garden here in Australia and struggle with the opposite problem of excessive heat in Summer. I’ve just planted our Autum garden and hope that the Lettuce that bolted uin the hot weather and went to seed will fair beter in the cooler weather. I was so suprised how easy it was to grow lettuce from seed, I just shook the head of seeds over the garden and they all germinated even in the gravel (although I think I’ll sow them in pots next year) I am wanted to plant perpeptual spinach next season whic is related to chard/silverbeet which are so easy to grow. I don’t know if Chilis will grow in your climate but my husband is still enjoying the bounty of our habonero bush and this year I plan to plant 2 miniture lemon tres in pots. I feel that lemons are like gold. Here we pay $2 a lemon which is rediculous because they grow so prolithically. Anyway your property sounds delightful and I hope you enjoy planting out your new garden.

    • Thank you Therese 🙂 Yes, definitely the opposite problem! I think it might be possible to grow chillis in the polytunnel when I get it, although they might need to be brought indoors in winter. I would like to grow sweet peppers/ capsicums too, but I think they would need similar conditions. Hope your lettuce works well!

  5. My husband only just started seeds {inside} this past weekend. The weather has been too chilly to start them outside yet. Every year he tries to keeping things “small” and every year it gets way out of control! It’s always fun, the kids love it, and we learn a bit more every time about what works and what doesn’t.

    • That’s funny Jessica! Yes, our children love growing stuff too, which is great. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  6. Hi Gwen, I really enjoyed your post. We are also in Australia, and while we are in the cooler southern districts of the country, 25 degrees celsius is NOT hot for us:):) Feeling like I’m cold all the time now that we are coming into Winter.
    We are currently making efforts to plant our winter garden here… on new dirt so similar project as yourself. Here are can grow many things all year round, just not frost sensitive stuff like the peppers, tomatoes pumpkins etc.
    Looking forward to following your progress!
    Blessings and glad to ‘meet’ you!

    • Hi Adelaide 🙂 Wow, I confess I was feeling like it was quite hot here the other day at 14 degrees C!! Anywhere near 20 is getting towards my limit 🙁 Hope your winter garden goes well and thanks so much for your comment.

  7. What an exciting time this is for you all! And what a wonderful gift from your parents! My husband would drool at the thought! Thank you for sharing with us on the Art of Home-Making Mondays and for sharing our calendula link. It is such a fun and useful herb. I hope it does well for you! 🙂

    • Thank you JES, I appreciate you sharing all the information on calendula. I am looking forward to putting it into practice!

  8. I just love reading about your life and your journey. Scotland has always been fascinating to me and I am so pleased that you take the time to share this with us at Good Morning Mondays. I think spinach or silverbeet is almost necessity in the garden. It can be added to soups and stews with added health benefits. A poly tunnel is a wonderful present and I understand why you are excited. Here is southern Victoria, Australia we find it hard to ripen tomatoes too and we are putting up a mobile one this year to grow our tomatoes. River Cottage garden (the earlier ones) are great to watch for good ideas on what to plant and how to go about it. Blessings to you and your lovely family.

    • Thank you Terri, that is really helpful, I will have a look at the River Cottage series for some ideas. I will also have to look up silverbeet and find out about it, as I have not heard of it! Thank you for your comment 🙂

      • Ahh, now I see it is also known as chard (which I have heard of!)- good idea 🙂

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