FRUSTRATED shoppers are struggling to get hold of their favourite fruit and veg with shelves empty and supermarkets rationing sales.
Extreme weather overseas and a dispute between farmers and stores have been blamed for the shortages.
Chains like Tesco and Aldi limiting purchases on items like tomatoes and peppers.
But planting expert 79-year-old John Stoa — who has been working in the garden since he was 15 – says you don’t need to head to the shops for your favourite staples – you can grow your own.
The green-fingered guru, who has won the best allotment in Dundee award for the last six years, said: “Home-grown produce is chemical free and we can harvest straight from the land to the kitchen with no time delay.
“We never go short of produce and give surplus to fellow plot-holders, as well as the passing public as we have a basket on our allotment gates for spare fruit and vegetables.”
John, also a proficient artist, gave his top tips for planting produce that’s scarce from the shelves.
EVERY year I draw up a plan for growing crops and flowers on my allotment and compile a sowing schedule applicable to the local climate.
My plans include a rotation of crops to allow for pest and disease control and adding compost where it is best needed for hungry crops, such as pumpkins, sweet corn and broad beans.
THE best varieties in my opinion are Alicante then two good cherry types, Supersweet 100 (red) and Sungold (yellow).
Sow in seed trays or pots in mid March on a south facing windowsill which should be ready to put into small pots four to five weeks later.
A month later move into bigger pots before transferring into the greenhouse to plant into growbags, large pots or in a greenhouse border prepared with compost and fertiliser.
They will need a cane or polypropylene binder twine to grow up.
SOW Lollo Rossa in shallow pots or trays in early March and keep on a windowsill.
Once germination takes place, transfer to a greenhouse then, after a few weeks, transplant individually into cellular trays. Grow on then harden off in April before planting out in the soil in rows a foot apart spacing them six inches apart.
Other varieties can be sown outdoors from April onwards to give fresh lettuce all year round. My last sowing is in August to give small plants for the greenhouse after removing the old tomato plants at the end of their season. This will give fresh lettuce leaves up till April.
THESE need a warm greenhouse but can be started off indoors on a windowsill.
Sow Carnival Mixed or Gypsy in mid March in pots on a windowsill in a warm room.
After germination, pot up and grow on but wait until the danger of chilly winter frosts go away before putting into the greenhouse.
Pot up into large pots and give a weekly feed of tomato fertiliser as they like plenty feeding and warmth.
SOW Carmen, Swing or Burpless Tasty Green in pots in early April in the warmth of a sunny windowsill.
After germination, pot up and grow on for a few weeks then transfer to a greenhouse.
Pot up into large pots with rich compost. They will need weekly high potash feeds and a cane for support.
Keep well watered as they like a warm moist atmosphere.
PLANT Green Magic or early Purple Sprouting seeds in the greenhouse or warm room in March in shallow seed trays then prick out into individual pots or cellular trays in good potting compost.
Transfer to the greenhouse for a few weeks before hardening off.
Plant out in late April in rows 18 inches apart with plants at same spacing into soil that has been limed in late winter.
They can suffer from damage from pigeons and cabbage white butterfly so must be netted.
WHILE it’s great getting outdoors to plant, not everyone has the luxury of a garden.
But you can still go potty for growing in the comfort of your home.
Claire Bishop, from Dobbies garden centres, says: “More people than ever are looking to grow their own fruit and veg and there’s no better time than now to start growing fresh produce.”
The Senior Houseplant Buyer says the centres are just about to start selling potted veg plants that can bloom indoors.
She said: “In the run up to spring, we are launching Pick ‘N Joy cherry tomato, plum tomato, sweet pepper, as well as more unusual varieties like indoor aubergine and cucumber plants.
“With the ability to be grown on a sunny windowsill, these innovative plants allow everyone the chance to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
“Plus, your plants will see continuous growth throughout the year, meaning you can continually enjoy fresh ingredients.”
THIS fruit crop has been in decline for years due to root rot disease on summer fruiting crops, so grow autumn fruiting varieties which are resistant such as Polka or Autumn Treasure.
Scientists at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee have this year bred and released a new resistant variety called Glen Mor.
Plant out on fertile soil, that has never had raspberries previously, spacing plants 18 inches apart in rows six feet apart.
Summer fruiting varieties bear fruit on canes grown the previous year, but autumn fruiting varieties fruit on canes grown the same year so they get all canes cut back to ground level in winter.