Coriander Chronicles: From Planting to Harvesting

Guest post by Katrina & Clayton

Coriander, also known as cilantro, is a versatile herb known for its culinary and medicinal uses. While coriander is typically associated with warmer climates, it can thrive in Scotland’s cooler weather with the right care and attention.

Growing Coriander in Scotland

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) can be a bit tricky to grow because it prefers cooler temperatures but doesn’t tolerate frost well. In Scotland, it’s best grown during the cooler parts of the year, such as late spring and early autumn. The plant tends to bolt, or go to seed, in hot weather, so understanding how to manage this is key to a successful harvest.


All parts of the coriander plant are edible and have distinct flavours and uses:

Leaves (Cilantro): Used fresh in salads, salsas, curries, and as a garnish.

Stems: Can be used similarly to the leaves but are more robust and can withstand cooking.

Seeds (Coriander): Dried and used as a spice in baking, cooking, and pickling. They can also be ground into coriander powder.

Roots: Used in Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines for their intense flavour.

Grown in our milk cartons, in pots to plant out, on the windowsill. Coriander.

Grown in our milk cartons, in pots to plant out, on the windowsill

Planting Coriander

Coriander is a compact plant, so makes an ideal gap filler in between veg or even in flower borders. Seeds can be sown outdoors, in the ground or in containers, from spring onwards.

If growing for leaves, look at coriander as a short-term crop and sow small batches every month to provide continual leafy harvests from mid-summer to early autumn.

If growing for seeds, let them flower and go to seed so you can collect them early Winter when they have dried out.

Timing: Sow coriander seeds in late spring (May) after the risk of frost has passed, or in early autumn (August) when the temperatures start to cool down. Succession planting every three weeks can ensure a continuous supply.

Site Selection: Choose a location with partial shade, as full sun can cause coriander to bolt (unless that is your plan to use the seeds as it is ours). Coriander prefers cooler conditions, so an east-facing garden bed that gets morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal.

Soil Preparation: Coriander thrives in well-drained, fertile soil with a pH between 6.2 and 6.8. Enrich the soil with compost such as Caledonian Enhanced Topsoil. Good drainage is crucial to prevent root rot, especially in Scotland’s wetter climate.

Planting Technique: Sow seeds directly into the soil about 1 cm deep and 15 cm apart. Water gently but thoroughly to encourage germination.

Transfering from our milk cartons in the kitchen courtyard to the food forest. Coriander.

Transfering from our milk cartons in the kitchen courtyard to the food forest

Pruning Coriander

Pruning is essential to keep coriander plants bushy and prevent them from bolting prematurely.

Regular Harvesting: Regularly pinch off the top 2-3 cm of the plant once it reaches 10-15 cm tall. This encourages bushier growth and delays bolting.

Flower Bud Removal: If you see flower buds forming, pinch them off immediately. This prolongs leaf production and delays the plant from setting seed, unless that is your goal like us, we just let them flower and bolt so we can collect the seeds for grinding into powder.

Collecting Coriander Seeds

Wait until the flower heads have dried on the plant. This usually occurs about two to three weeks after the flowers bloom, turning brown and brittle.

Choose a dry day for harvesting to prevent mould. Cut the stems with seed heads and place them upside down in a paper or mesh bag. This allows the seeds to continue drying and naturally fall into the bag. Alternatively, you can pick off all the seeds and allow them to dry on a tray on the windowsill, until all are browns and dried out.

Once fully dried, store the seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Label the container with the harvest date for future reference. Properly harvested and stored coriander seeds can last up to a year, providing fresh seeds for planting or a flavourful spice for cooking.

Clayon Collecting the seeds from the plant to add into a grinder for powder for our food all year

Clayon Collecting the seeds from the plant to add into a grinder for powder for our food all year

Caring For Coriander

Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Coriander doesn’t like to dry out, especially during germination and early growth. Mulching can help retain soil moisture, using Caledonian Green Goodness as a mulch, and for enhanced water retention works well.

Companion Planting

Companion planting can enhance the growth and health of coriander. Good companions include:

Basil: Repels aphids and other pests.
Lettuce: Provides shade and keeps the soil cool, which helps prevent bolting.

Avoid planting coriander near fennel, as they can inhibit each other’s growth.

By understanding the plant’s needs and adapting your gardening practices to the Scottish climate, you can enjoy harvests of the leaves or seeds of this versatile and flavourful herb which is perfect for so many dishes.

Katrina & Clayton

Katrina & Clayton live with their family in East Ayrshire in Scotland and share their daily life in the garden on instagram @buildingfoodforest_scotland. They practice permaculture principles, reducing & repurposing waste whenever they can. Katrina shows how home educating in nature has helped Clayton thrive.

Clayton Completed The Grow and Learn Course with the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society in 2022. This year he will be completing Level 2 Nurture Course. Clayton is 16, Autistic, Non Verbal & has been Home Educated for the last 6yrs. Both Katrina and husband Peter have studied the Permaculture Design Course PDC and PDC Pro over the last 5yrs, developing their garden from grass to an ongoing food forest.

They have featured on BBC Beechgrove Gardens, Gardeners World Magazine and write for Scotland Grows Magazine.  Katrina has a series of children’s story books out following the life of Clayton in the garden. Available at Amazon.

See more and follow Katrina & Clayton at the links below:

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