Forum home Problem solving

Gardening in Shetland

I have just moved (three months ago) to a wonderful house in Shetland and am at a complete loss as to what I can grow here. I am also a novice gardener and have been gardening in the mild and fertile Shropshire hills where I discovered I could grow most things (and sometime got to see them before the snails and slugs ate them!). The soil is peaty (I think this means acidic?) and the area is very windy and close to the sea. The garden has trees growing on three sides - 4 big, healthy magnolias (about 15-20 feet tall), flowering current, lungwort, daffodils, tulips, lupins and other plants that I'm not sure what they are.  I also have a small greenhouse.

My problem is that I have no idea what plants I can grow here that won't be killed off by the wind, the coolish climate and the salty air.  I did see a tamaris (I think that's what it is!) tree growing by the sea when I lived on the Kent coast, but I think the weather was a lot kinder then.  

Please help me with some suggestions for flowers and edibles I can grow here.

Thanks :)


  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 24,889
    I think the first thing to do is get out and about and meet the neighbours and see what others are growing in their gardens and where they source them.   Find out if there is a gardening club of some sort where you can chat to people about how, what and when because your growing season will be short in weeks but with long hours of light, if not sun, in summer.

    Peat soil will be acidic, moist and low in fertility so you'll need to chat up some friendly Shetland pony owners about manure and find out if you're allowed to take seaweed from the shore to rinse and put in your compost heap and planting holes. 
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 15,016
    I suggest that instead of a small greenhouse, you look at a double skinned large growhouse such as the  Keder greenhouse range.  They claim to have some on the windiest islands.
    You don't stop doing new things because you get old, you get old because you stop doing new things. <3
  • Chris-P-BaconChris-P-Bacon Posts: 134
    edited 4 May


    My wife and I considered a move to Shetland. It was the lack of sunlight that made us conclude it wasn't for us. Beautiful place tho..
  • steephillsteephill Posts: 1,789
    Beechgrove visited Lea Gardens in Tresta a few years ago. There is a factsheet downloadable from the Beechgrove website which lists some of the plants they saw growing from that episode.
    The specialist greenhouses are called polycrubs and there was a recent post from a fellow Shetlander about fruit trees inside one which would be worth searching for.

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 18,145
    My OH used to run an organisation with a branch in Shetland. He used to fly up for meetings from time to time.  One day, there was a spare seat going on the little seven seater plane and I was invited to take it.

    In those days (1970s) there wasn’t a tree to be seen on the main island of Shetland. It was May and the daffodils were just beginning to think that it was safe to poke their heads out of the ground. The house where we were staying was in a row of five or six. The lady of the house (originally from the south of England) told me that she had sown carrot seeds the first year that she lived there and all the carrots had germinated three doors downwind of her garden.😊
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 4,242
    That sounds like an exciting venture  :)

    Read up on windbreaks - including hedges - and how to use them to best effect. I would guess it's often cold, usually wet but rarely hard frozen? So if you can create shelter, you may find you can grow more than you might imagine.

    Acidic soil is good for growing fruit, harder for veg, so maybe look at pots and raised beds for your veg and put your fruit bushes in the ground. Quite a lot of edibles are happy in cool climates - beet, brassicas, most root veg, runner beans, salads, oriental greens. But they'll all need protection from the wind, so figure that out for a start.
    “It's not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren't doing it.” ― Terry Pratchett
  • Native58Native58 Posts: 29
    Thank you for all your replies - so quick

    Fidgetbones - we can't afford a new greenhouse at the moment, but are thinking about applying for planning permission for a polytunnel.  At the moment all our money is going on renovations to the house

    Steephill - I think I remember Gardeners Question Time visiting the Island a few years ago as well - you jogged my memory on that one.

    Obelixx - it won't be difficult talking to neighbours, etc - people are so friendly here they talk to you even if they don't know you, a lovely change from Telford.  once we're able to get together again I'll be going to the garden club I found last week

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 24,889
    Good.  Let us know how you get on and don't forget photos.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 8,703
    edited 5 May
    I spent a good deal of time up in Shetland and Orkney and dearly loved it. I think of it often. I know it's not close to you, but you could check out the Orkney Garden Festival. I imagine you would find many like minds, facing similar challenges.

    Interesting vid on beachcombing, water harvesting, shelter and re-use.
Sign In or Register to comment.