November in the Garden Smallholding

The mild weather continued this month, right up until last weekend when we saw the first real hard frost. Leaves of beautiful autumn colours are blowing around the garden, swirling in circles and settling in corners by the fences. Now is a good time to start the process of making leafmould. It’s brilliant for improving soils or for use as a mulch and it’s easy to make too. Apparently, the best quality leafmould is made from Oak, Beech and Hornbeam leaves. Seeing as my garden is surrounded by magnificent Oak trees and a few Beech I should be making lovely stuff for my soil. I collect leaves this time of year and put them into a hand-made leafmould bin made from four sturdy posts and chicken wire, then I pretty much ignore it for a year or two. It takes a long time for the leaves to rot down but it’s worth putting a bin somewhere in the garden or allotment, this method of leaf collection certainly cuts down the need for a bonfire and risks of harming wildlife.You could use sacks or pierced bin liners to make your leafmould or add some to the compost bin if you wish, just to address the balance.

So what has been happening in the garden smallholding this month? Well, I’ve been planting garlic using home-grown bulbs (Cristo) rather than buying seed garlic as I usually do, hopefully I’ll get a good crop and save a few quid too.The raspberries were still going great guns although they look a little sorry for themselves now, since the frost hit. Fresh raspberries late in the year has been wonderful and I will miss popping outside to pick them. For me, the most noticeable difference of having a mild autumn has been the strawberry patch. The plants are still green. They’re usually displaying their wonderful autumn tones of red, orange and golden-yellow leaves by now. 

The hens are all in moult and laying has dropped considerably, only one hen is still laying every now and then so we have resorted to buying eggs again – free range of course! Touch wood, all seems well at the moment considering that moult can weaken their immune systems. One hen did become ill a few weeks back but a course of antibiotic and feather supplement soon cheered her up and helped to speed up her frantic feather growing.

Now is a great time to place a bug box in your garden, this will provide insects with shelter and a place to hide away from the winter chill. I have some boxes in my garden including one that I made, it was very easy to do and I will post details about that soon. Ladybirds in particular seem to like using the bug boxes, being an organic gardener I welcome their presence and voracious appetite for aphids. If you’re still doing your autumnal garden tidy, spare a thought for hibernating creatures and try not to be too tidy. Try to leave a dense pile of twigs or a few logs somewhere out-of-the-way, scattering leaves on top or nearby might help to encourage creatures to use this as a safe haven to hibernate. 

Enjoy your November garden!

Harvesting Jerusalem Artichokes

I was kindly sent Jerusalem artichoke tubers at the beginning of the year and promptly planted them near the wildlife pond. I knew they would eventually produce tall and dense foliage and I hoped this type of planting would serve as a screen, creating some shade for the various pond wildlife. The plants did the job well, producing small pretty yellow flowers during late summer as an extra visual and wildlife treat.Towering at least 12 ft above my head it was obvious to see how these plants were related to the sunflower.

This is the first time I’ve grown Jerusalem artichokes and I found them pretty straight forward, producing a good yield for their first year. I began digging tubers in September but they were too small to cook so I popped them back in the ground and decided to leave the other plants for at least another month. I tried again a few days ago and this time the tubers were a nice size. I cooked some tubers to go with a Sunday lunch, I’ll admit to liking the taste but not the flatulence for which they are known – I cannot complain that I wasn’t warned!

I will leave most of the tubers to grow back again next year and plant a handful at my allotment, perhaps giving a few to plot neighbours if they’re brave enough!

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