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Can anyone advise what to grow in these conditions?  RSS feed

 
Katy Whitby-last
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Location: North East Scotland
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I've managed to track down the averages for the climate around here and was wondering if anyone can advise what I might manage to grow.

I'm in the north east of Scotland at about 750 feet high on an exposed windy hillside.

The average sumer temperature is 53 F with 400 hours of sunshine.
The average winter temperature is 37 F with lows of -2 F.
The annual average days of ground frost are 160 with 50 days of lying snow.
The annual average rainfall is about 900mm per year .

Our soil is a very heavy clay that is often saturated and is quite acidic.

I've got loads of books on different fruit, nuts and vegetables but I'm struggling to find stuff that will survive in these conditions. Can anyone help?
 
                                      
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Hi there,

I am assuming most land is used as pasture in that region?
But are there others growing plants for food in your region? If so, visiting them would probably give you a decent idea of what can and cannot grow there.

Of course permaculture can widen these possibilities, by creating microclimates you can push the conditions more towards the desires of crops you want to grow.

By; using hedgerows as windbreaks, using the slope in the right way, creating ponds in the right place, and using rocks/boulders, can create warmer microclimates.

I have found that using the plants for a future database can give more insight in plants and their desired conditions.

I have probably stated the obvious here, maybe you can narrow down your question, it will make it easier for people who do not live in same conditions to envision answers.

grts
 
Katy Whitby-last
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Location: North East Scotland
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Most of the people who are growing stuff nearby aren't as high up as us so aren't as cold and exposed. I was hoping that maybe there might be someone else in the same position who could perhaps advise me. I am doing what I can to create microclimates but I think the biggest problem is probably the really short growing season and lack of sunshine.

I saw in the sepp holzer book that he had advised on a project somewhere in the highlands but I can't find out where it is as that would be a really useful one to give me a start.
 
Jordan Lowery
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usually in situations like this, it helps to look for plants that can handle tougher situations. at first they may not be the eatable and useful plants that you want. but there is a chance you can use livestock to convert that uneatable food to food you can eat, i.e meat.

if you can create sheltered spots from wind and cold you should be able to grow a lot of what we consider winter crops here.
 
Robert Ray
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Blueberries or huckle berries grow well in my high alpine desert area other than your heavy clay soil that might be an option. There are varieties locally that don't mind geting their feet wet since they grow right along the lake shore here.
Ligonberries thrive in my rock gardens.
Forunately I don't have the lack of sunshine that you appear to have.
 
Terri Matthews
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Location: Eastern Kansas
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What kind of weeds do well in your area? Once you identify what plant family they are from, then try vegetables from the same family. For example, in my area the pioneers were amazed that grass grew as tall as "The whithers of a horse". Do you know what crop the farmers raise profitably here in Kansas? CORN is profitable, and corn is a member of the grass family.

Another method would be to look at what your ancestors raised and ate. Roads were poor and their common diet was probably what did well in your area. Since you are so high up you might have to provide a windbreak: wind can do terrible things to seedlings, even those that do well in your area!

Lastly, would wood ash tend to make your land less acid? I THINK that it would. 500 years ago people heated their home by starting a fire, and the ashes would have to go SOMEWHERE! Might they have been putting them in the fields and gardens, to make the soil less acid? I do not know but it might be possible for you to find out.

Lastly, here in America acid soil is good for rasberries and blueberries, though I THINK that both resent too much wind. Neither plant does all that well in my area and so I am not certain!

Personally, I think that the reason the folks at lower altitudes have better gardens than you do is that they get less wind. My area is NOTED for wind, and wind increases the damage done by cold and sets back seedlings!
 
Katy Whitby-last
Posts: 280
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Terri McCoy wrote:What kind of weeds do well in your area?


Broad leaved dock - we've got tons of the stuff! All around us is very poor pasture with lots of marsh grass in the wetter bits and just above us going up to the top of the hill is a coniferous forest.
 
Katy Whitby-last
Posts: 280
Location: North East Scotland
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hubert cumberdale wrote:usually in situations like this, it helps to look for plants that can handle tougher situations. at first they may not be the eatable and useful plants that you want. but there is a chance you can use livestock to convert that uneatable food to food you can eat, i.e meat.

if you can create sheltered spots from wind and cold you should be able to grow a lot of what we consider winter crops here.


We have got chickens, ducks and sheep so we are doing okay on the meat front.

What would be winter crops you would grow?
 
Terri Matthews
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Buckwheat might be a relative. Buckwheat also has a hard hull. Still, you might see if you can use it: my chickens eat it hull and all!

In America, winter vegetables are mostly members of the cabbage family. Radishes are also common.

Rasberries in my yard survives my clay soil and I have volenteers under my evergreen trees. The yield is not that good but I do enjoy having them!
 
                        
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Since my climate is so different from the one you live in I won't even try to recommend specific plants so I don't steer you in the wrong direction, but I do know that Sepp Holtzer has done work in Scotland with some success. The information that he puts out there tends to be well tested and reliable so it might be worthwhile to check out what he has done. I remember seeing something about his Scotland project on the web, but off hand I don't quite remember where. Hope you find what you are looking for, Cheers
 
William James
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Sepp's Scottish Highlands project

-was with the Langes-Swarovsky family.
-100m-350m above sea level.
-PH between 4 and 5.
-Advisor/project leader for the project was Mag. Christian Koidl.

They planted a cereal mix and vegetables. Used straw it seems.

Hopefully some of that is useful.
William
 
Jesus Martinez
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You're probably going to want to grow a ton of brassica's. Broccoli, Kale, Collards, Napa Cabbage, Bok Choi, Cauliflower, etc should all do really well there. Apple trees probably will grow there too, especially crab apples. If I were you though I would be looking for some land more inhabitable to humans...
 
Katy Whitby-last
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raindog Hatfield wrote: If I were you though I would be looking for some land more inhabitable to humans...


I guess that's why the highlanders were so tough. Unfortunately I couldn't afford land somewhere more habitable so I'll have to do my best here.
 
John Polk
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I guess that's why the highlanders were so tough.


No. That's why they developed Whisky!

If you want to see Sepp's Scotland project, go here:

https://www.google.com/search?q=sepp+holzer+langes-swarovski&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-USfficial&client=firefox-a

This should take you to a U.S. page, where the first listing is "Scotland".
On the next line (where the URL is), you should see "Translate this page"...click it and wait a minute or so.
Very little of his work is readily available directly in English.

Good luck!


 
Alison Thomas
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Geeez Kate, that's tough! We used to live in Scotland until 3 years ago but didn't have heavy clay soil, just free-draining sand - a challenge all the same. What about oats? Highlanders had them as a MAJOR staple for hundreds of years and you can do a lot with them, not just porridge! In terms of veg I guess it needs to be fast and furious. If docks do well then probably other roots will be fine too. Swedes (neeps) are very hardy. Potatoes. Carrots. Parsnips might be a challenge as I guess the thaw comes late and they need a long growing season. But the hardier Japanese salad things should do well - mizuna, mibuna, mustard (green-in-sow). I think that brassicas need a more alkaline soil (isn't that why folk add lime before they do a season of brassicas?) and you said that yours was quite acidic (so was ours - here in France however we can grow all the brassicas we like!). Folk are right when they suggest making a micro-climate with trees - they are almost magic in what situations they can change.
 
Cj Sloane
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Katy Whitby-last wrote:I saw in the Sepp Holzer book that he had advised on a project somewhere in the highlands but I can't find out where it is as that would be a really useful one to give me a start.


Google is your friend. Try here: The Roundhouse
 
Paulo Bessa
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Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Hi Katy, you are in a situation like me!

I am even north than you in Iceland. Much colder winters, colder summers, and frosts until June and from August onwards. And yes, humid and acid soils, shallow and poor. And windy.

I have been here 3 years: what has happened?
Potatoes grow very well. Make sure your soil is not compacted to increase production.

Also carrots (add sand). All other roots, but turnips and radish often bolt due to long summer daylight. Also brassicas bolt. But you can still cook them or eat in salad. Pak choi and orientals grow very well here. Do this: first grow them indoors, then transplant plants when 3-5 cm outdoors.

You can grow squash outside if you transplant it outside when it is already big.
Celery is easy (start first indoors). Barley. Swedes. At least turnip tops is easy.
Seems impossible to grow tomatoes or beans outdoors. Peas grow well if soil is a bit warm, and richer soil.

Add plenty compost to balance soil.
Here a must is to choose a sheltered location. I don't receive much east and north winds, its a southwest faced slope, so that is good.


Fruits: here in Iceland they are very difficult; we cannot get even apples or pears, even after trying different cold resistant varieties. But berries are very easy, you might want plant a lot of wild strawberries, currants and blueberries (which grow wild here). You can try sea buckthorn, elaeagnus, amelanchier aronia, cornus fruits.

Perennials: rhubarb, lovage grow wild here. Also jerusalem artichokes. I am still trying a lot of new ones, you can find them in other recent comments I have writting over the permaculture forum. Please let me know of what you are also doing and which works and which does not
 
Katy Whitby-last
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Location: North East Scotland
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Thanks Paulo that is really useful. I have put a load of potatoes in so hopefully I should get a decent crop. I have a hugel bed and have got broad beans that seem to be doing okay but the radishes have all bolted. Funnily I hadn't even though about the really long hours of daylight being the reason for this. There are lots of gooseberry and currant bushes growing in the old garden from the croft that was abandoned 50 years ago so they should do well but I would love to get some apples. I have a couple of very old hawthorns so I was wondering if maybe grafting some apples onto these might work.
 
Paulo Bessa
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As far as I know, vegetables can bolt for several reasons:
- plants too crowded
- water stress
- warm weather
- long hours of daylight

Brassicas and beet family are the vegetables that tend to do this more often.

Other species like mung beans or oca need nights longer than days to be able to flower or set tubers, so they also dislike to grow this far north (even inside greenhouses).



Katy Whitby-last wrote:Thanks Paulo that is really useful. I have put a load of potatoes in so hopefully I should get a decent crop. I have a hugel bed and have got broad beans that seem to be doing okay but the radishes have all bolted. Funnily I hadn't even though about the really long hours of daylight being the reason for this. There are lots of gooseberry and currant bushes growing in the old garden from the croft that was abandoned 50 years ago so they should do well but I would love to get some apples. I have a couple of very old hawthorns so I was wondering if maybe grafting some apples onto these might work.
 
Brenda Groth
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Other than elevation I have some similar situations to you. I am in zones 4/5 and have clay and damp conditions on the lowlands and mostly flat but the higher areas can be droughty in the summer if we go for more than a week without rain.

I have a blog (see signature) and there is a list on there of what I attempt to grow here. I'm in american (Michigan)..but most of my ancestry is N europe and they brought most of the food plants here that we grow.

It is fairly easy to grow root crops here on the higher soil, and greens grow well on the wetter areas. I do use a small greenhouse for more tenders like tomato and peppers and keep greens going in the greenhouse over winter (lettuces, chards etc)..

here we can keep a lot of root crops in the ground and dig as needed, but we can have hard frozen soil for 6 months or more..our last frost was June 13..so I prefer to store most storables in cans, jars, freezer or cold storage inside...or dried.
 
Paulo Bessa
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Hi Brenda, except for the summer time, we do live in VERY similar conditions!
The summer here is likely colder than yours, but the worse it that is can be often windy. Its almost the same to grow, except we can´t grow most fruit trees, while you probably can.

I live in a valley, and the soil is similar to yours. Down the valley, it is clay but rich and damp. Plants grow better there. But up the hill the soil is shallow and sandy. I am growing my main project (near my house) where soil is already sandy and shallow. But because of low yields I am now also growing further down the valley, where growth is more lush. It is also more sheltered from wind there.


I am growing plenty potatoes and sunchokes (easy), carrots and scorzonorera (a perennial), celery and a lot of alliums.
Greens like pak choi and beets also grow easy but thrive better if the soil is improved. Bigger brassicas have more problems (soil is also acidic).
Tomatoes, beans, eggplants and peppers: I grow them indoors very easily. And squash can be attempted outside, but grows much better inside.
With warmth, peas grow well outside. I want to invest now in both perennial greens and perennial fruits (I already have some berries)




Brenda Groth wrote:Other than elevation I have some similar situations to you. I am in zones 4/5 and have clay and damp conditions on the lowlands and mostly flat but the higher areas can be droughty in the summer if we go for more than a week without rain.

I have a blog (see signature) and there is a list on there of what I attempt to grow here. I'm in american (Michigan)..but most of my ancestry is N europe and they brought most of the food plants here that we grow.

It is fairly easy to grow root crops here on the higher soil, and greens grow well on the wetter areas. I do use a small greenhouse for more tenders like tomato and peppers and keep greens going in the greenhouse over winter (lettuces, chards etc)..

here we can keep a lot of root crops in the ground and dig as needed, but we can have hard frozen soil for 6 months or more..our last frost was June 13..so I prefer to store most storables in cans, jars, freezer or cold storage inside...or dried.
 
Paulo Bessa
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Hi, I also checked my climate data for south Iceland, where I live. Our climate is similar to yours in Scotland, very windy and rainy, but ours has probably a more violent winter, more frosty transition seasons, and a more sunnier but short summer.

You have 5-6 months of ground frost. We have 8-9 months (September to April or May). Much shorter growing season. Its a frosty spring and autumn here.
You have an average summer temp of 53ºF (12ºC). We have an average summer of 58ºF (14ºC). Our summer seems slighty warmer than yours, but it is still fresh like yours.
You have an average winter of 37ºC (+3ºC) with lows of -2ºF (-18ºC). Our average winter is 28ºF (-2ºC) with same kind of lows, but only very occasionally.
I probably have a much less continuous snow cover than you. The freeze/thaw here repeats itself every few days or even every day. Our winter seems more erratic than yours. We can have a lot of snow cover, but also very mild rainy winter months. But always very windy. The snow days can happen anywhere from September to June.

What do I grow? I am transplanting now outdoors, under a cold frame, broad beans, peas and spring onions. Later I will be transplanting all brassicas, celery, turnips and sowing carrots, oats and potatoes. I also have overwintering rye. In summer, squash, sunflowers and beans in sheltered locations (beans in raised beds to warm soil temperature). I will be trying buckwheat this summer. Blueberries, currants, strawberries and raspberries. Perennials like chives, lovage, rhubarb, walking onions, mulberries, skirret. I will be trying siberian watermelon, siberian tomato, cold hardy peppers, corn and quinoa, outdoors, they grow perfectly indoors. Some people grow apple and cherry trees in very sheltered south oriented walls, or with removable plastic covers.

Use every possibly way to create a microclimate: wind barriers, south oriented walls, plastic covers, thick mulch (like peatmoss) to protect from hard freezes (but remove it in warmer days to heat the soil faster), inverted plastic cups as tiny greenhouses, larger cold frames.

Add lots of organic matter to the soil: dead leaves, branches, to create a light structured soil. And add plenty of compost.
Also add limestone to correct the pH. Consider mixing some sand or gravel to the the top part of the soil (to make it warm faster).
 
Rosalind Riley
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Hi Kate

Am in bed with a cold today so old-posts-on-permies are my friends! I remember seeing a feature on the TV a while ago about lighthouse keepers somewhere on the wild coast of Scotland (not sure which side) growing fabulous carrots - their soil was quite sandy.

But I dropped in to say: try Red Russian kale. Kale is very hardy of course, but I am recommending this for sheer flavour - it is wonderful, far more tender than most types, cooks up to a miraculous dark green with a really unusual taste all of its own. I grow it in my garden, which admittedly is in the SE of England, but it stands hard frosts and overwinters well. Truly delicious - just steamed, or sometimes I fry some onions brown and then throw in the wet kale to cook, add salt and pepper - truly delicious. It make a change from the usual winter veg. Found a couple of links: http://www.redrussiankale.co.uk/ and http://www.organiccatalogue.com/Seeds-Vegetables-Vegetables-D-L-Kale-Borecole/c21_22_46_79/p148/KALE-Red-Winter/product_info.html for buying.

Cheers

R
 
David Livingston
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Kale is king try goodseed co also. Beetroot ,have you thought about cloudberry? Or the latest honey Berry?
Asparagrass? If you lots of animal bii product
Blue Berry
Potato types from shetland
Just some thoughts

David
 
S Carreg
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Katy Whitby-last wrote:I've managed to track down the averages for the climate around here and was wondering if anyone can advise what I might manage to grow.

I'm in the north east of Scotland at about 750 feet high on an exposed windy hillside.

The average sumer temperature is 53 F with 400 hours of sunshine.
The average winter temperature is 37 F with lows of -2 F.
The annual average days of ground frost are 160 with 50 days of lying snow.
The annual average rainfall is about 900mm per year .

Our soil is a very heavy clay that is often saturated and is quite acidic.

I've got loads of books on different fruit, nuts and vegetables but I'm struggling to find stuff that will survive in these conditions. Can anyone help?


Hello! I am in west Wales and not disimilar conditions to you - 800 ft above sea level on a very exposed and windy mountain with a lot of rain. Our soil is poor, most of it very compacted, rocky, and poor draining. What grows best out here, by far, is sheep We have only been on our land since Septmeber so are just starting. There are a lot of native productive hedgerow trees that do well here - we have some and are planting more - hawthorn, blackthorn, guelder rose, hazel, briar rose, sea buckthorn also blackberries. For non-food trees I am planting a ton of Alder and downy birch. We have also got some Welsh varieties of dwarf fruit trees that do well in this area - damson, plum, and apple. Currants do well with a little bit of shelter. Rhubarb does well too. We have bilberries growing wild, and I'm experimenting with adding cranberries.
My probably-won't-work-but-going-to-try-anyway experiments with trees include korean and siberian pine (for nuts) and siberian pea shrub (for seeds for the chickens) - they all are very tolerant of cold and wind, I'm a bit worried about the wet factor but we'll see.
For vegetables people do ok with potatoes though blight's been bad, we've put in sarpo mira maincrop as local permies said these did best the last few years.This year I'm focussing on improving soil drainage and fertility, and planning to do mostly quick crops like mustard greens, etc, with a few hardy chard and spinach type things as well. Everyone we know out here who is at all serious about growing food has a polytunnel, we are thinking about building an earth-sheltered semi-glazed roundhouse to increase our versatility.
One thing I'm quickly realising is that it's definitely an environment to make use of raising animals, if you want to go down this route it makes a lot of sense here - as I said, sheep grow well! As do hardier ducks, chickens, geese, etc.
So, my personal experience is very limited but I've talked a lot with people in this environment and I'm thinking the best bet is to focus on native productive hedgerow trees as much as possible - once well established they aren't going anywhere and can give you a lot!
 
Duncan Hamra
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If you have trouble growing things in clay then here's a article i found about fixing clay if you still need help! you may find it useful.
How to Fix Clay Soil
 
Xisca Nicolas
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My way to search might be useful to you (but not what I grow!)

I have looked for the places in the world with a similar climate.
Then I look for their wild edibles.
Some seed vendors do sell wild edibles and medicinals from all over the world.
Some plants come from Siberia, Mongolia, Tibet, and you might introduce them successfully.
Some places in south Chile/Argentina are tough as well!
Especially the ones in the Andes.

And this kind of search is soooo enjoyable! Like following a treasure map.
 
S Bengi
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Look for things rated for zone 3 (-30F) or similar and shade tolerant, ones that dont get too sweet(less sun needed).

Currants, gooseberry, juneberry, strawberry, artic raspberry (maybe others in the blackberry family), onion family, honeyberry, seaberry(maybe), Flydragon/bitter orange. cornellian cherry
 
Brenda Groth
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a bit similar to our growing conditions but a bit cooler in the summer than here..we will reach the 90's here...but not for long. You can check out the growing list on my blog..I'm zone 4/5..in Michigan USA
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