There’s nothing to match the taste of food that you’ve grown yourself and now is the time to get started, sowing the seeds that will provide you with fresh and tasty fruit and vegetables in the months ahead.

But what do you do if you don’t have a vegetable patch, your garden is on the shady side, it is smaller than a picnic rug or amounts to just a balcony?

Don’t be put off. There are still ways to raise delicious edibles even in the most unlikely of spaces. By looking afresh at your garden and choosing the right foods to grow, then you’ll be able to pick your own produce and enjoy eating it moments later.

Scottish Gardener:

At first glance a courtyard may seem an unlikely spot to raise vegetables, but it does have advantages. High walls or fences can provide protection from drying winds and they can also provide extra growing space.

If the courtyard is paved then all growing will have to take place in containers but there are many varieties that have been bred for exactly these conditions.

Plastic window boxes fixed to the walls are ideal for growing salads and herbs while strawberries will thrive in hanging baskets, untroubled by slugs and without the risk of being spoiled by mud.

Containers, especially shallow ones, will need careful watering if they are not to dry out and crops will need weekly feeding. But do this and most veg grow just as well as it would in the ground.

Crops for Courtyards
Cauliflower ‘Igloo’ is one of a number of vegetables that have been bred to mature while still small, others include Carrot “Amini’ and Sweetcorn ‘Minipop’. Courgettes will give a good crop in a small space and pea sprouts and beetroot can be grown for their leaves.

You can grow potatoes in large pots, but if space is really limited then stick to salads, peas and beans, which will give you a much better return.

Scottish Gardener:

Most produce grows best in full sun, but there are crops that will thrive in shadier spots, so even if your garden faces north or is hidden from the sun by surrounding trees or buildings, then there are things that will grow.

First establish where the brightest spots are and use these to grow fruit and veg that needs most light, then plan where you’ll put the rest.

Fruit bushes are a great choice for a shaded garden because currants and gooseberries will grow happily without full sun. Rhubarb too will thrive and many oriental vegetables, such as Pak choi will grow better where there is less chance of sunshine causing them to bolt.

Mint is a shade-lover and beetroot, mini carrots, chard and spinach will all  grow well in partial shade.

Scottish Gardener:

If you have spent time turning your garden into a floral paradise then you may not want to dig up part of it for veg. You don’t have to. Growing flowers and produce together in the one place is an effective way of getting the best of both worlds and the bonus is that those flowers will attract the pollinators that your vegetables need and pests and diseases will spread less rapidly than they would if you grew your veg in conventional rows.

To do it properly you need to plan ahead and have young veg plants ready to replace those that you remove, otherwise you’ll end up with bare patches.

If you are going to grow food mixed in with flowers, then choose decorative varieties such as colourful chard, Amaranth ‘Red Army’ or Perilla, which is a Japanese herb with purple leaves. Lettuces with coloured or frilly leaves are a good choice and edible flowers, such as nasturtium, the leaves of which have a peppery taste, will help to brighten up the garden and your plate.

The flower border is also the place to grow artichokes in either green or purple varieties. This handsome perennial vegetable is as beautiful as any flower.

Scottish Gardener:

Of all the places to grow produce, balconies are amongst the toughest, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t also be productive. There are a couple of issues to sort out before you start growing and the first is shelter. You need to protect your plants from desiccating winds and, if the balcony is south facing, from the sun. Covering railings with netting will slow the breezes and tall, tough plants such as phormiums can be used to shade crops growing beneath them, without taking up too much valuable growing space.

Lightweight containers and compost are needed in order to keep weight down and frequent watering is essential - at least twice a day in summer.

Use large containers where possible as these will dry out less quickly and growing peas and beans up canes will provide shelter for radishes and beetroot leaves growing beneath them. If the balcony is sunny then tumbler tomatoes can be grown in hanging baskets, while many kind of herbs including thyme and rosemary will positively thrive. Lettuce can become tough where conditions are windy, so pea shoots are a better choice as a salad crop.