I realise I haven’t done a monthly ‘What’s Growing On’ post for such a long time. Here we are in November, the kitchen garden a very different scene to my post back in March.
Apart from the winter veg, most of the veg beds are tired. Gone are the fresh greens and flower buds of summer, crispy brown foliage and weedy soil greets me now. Our pallet bins produced dark and crumbly compost over many months, I still find this a joyous thing! This fresh compost will soon top each bed as it becomes empty and weed-free, making a nutritious winter blanket.
The summer and tender crops may be over but there’s still plenty of food available in our veg garden.
We’re currently harvesting the following:
Carrot ‘Autumn King’
Kale ‘Nero di Toscana’
Brussels sprouts ‘Seven Hills’
Beetroot ‘Boltardy’ and ‘Sanguina’
Tomato ‘Ruby’ (greenhouse, mostly green fruits now)
Chillies ‘Hot Orange Wonder’, ‘Cayenne’ and ‘Razzamatazz’ (greenhouse)
Runner bean ‘The Czar’, planted late July (A recent frost has now stopped the plants)
Nasturtium flowers and leaves for salads (the frost survivors!)
We’re planning to plant the following:
Garlic ‘Red Duke’
Broad bean ‘Claudia Aquadulce’
We’re patiently waiting to eat the following:
Sprouting broccoli ‘ Early Purple’
Fruit bushes such as blackcurrants will be pruned now by removing old wood leaving the younger shoots for fruiting next year. I plan to move a couple of young bushes to a permanent position this month.
November is a month of tidying finished crops, weeding, composting and feeding the soil.
Earlier this year we planted our first blueberry bushes in lovely old bath tubs. I wasn’t expecting much from their first growing year to be honest, but was happily proved wrong.
Two blueberry bushes provided steady pickings throughout summer right through to autumn, enough to keep the blueberry fans of the family satisfied. It’s now November and we’re still picking berries.
I spotted this vintage mini trug recently from one of my favourite online garden shops, with berry picking in mind it’s perfect for the job.
The temperature has really dropped during the day and nights are chilly, the bushes are just starting to display their beautiful autumnal colour in patches. I’m so pleased we introduced blueberries to our kitchen garden, if you’re interested in growing them too take a look at our growing guide post https://thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/blueberries-in-tubs/ for helpful information to keep them happy.
One of my garden jobs this month has been picking beans and bringing them in to shell. We grew 6 different climbing bean varieties this year, each were chosen for their interesting looks, cropping times and versatility. Us Brits usually pick our beans young and small eating them pod and all while tender, but older tough pods can be shelled when the beans inside have actually grown. Used in this way there’s no waste and they can be cooked fresh or dried for storing.
Three of the varieties grown were runner beans; Polestar, The Czar and Greek Gigantes. Runners are usually prolific croppers and so I realise this seems rather a lot for the average size family to keep up with, but we’re after lots of beans for shelling and storing. Once the inevitable happens and the beans become large and stringy, simply open them up and cook the fat beans without their jackets on. Left to dry the shelled beans can be stored for many months and used in hearty autumn and winter dishes. Don’t forget to save some seed for sowing the following year. Scarlet-flowering runners have the most amazing pink and deep purple splashed beans, they almost seem unreal. Such a shame they turn brown when cooked. White-flowering varieties produce white beans, such as The Czar which produces large beans with a butter bean flavour.
A little tip for growing runners, they are vigorous and heavy, particularly so towards the end of the season when laden with all those beans. Growing them on sturdy A-frames will help to avoid toppling over during blustery weather. Cut them all down and bring them inside before the first frosts arrive.
Our old favourite Borlotti made the list again this year, the pink splashed pods glow in the summer sun and the beans inside are just as beautiful. We always allow the beans to dry for storing, they have a slightly sweet yet buttery flavour. I find soaking them in cold water overnight speeds up the cooking process.
Two varieties we’ve never grown before, Cherokee Trail of Tears (small black bean, very striking and looks great in the garden) and Coco Sophie (round white bean) did rather well too. Not quite as heavy cropping as the other beans but plenty for winter use.
Beans are fully dry when the pods turn brown and are dry and crispy to the touch. Bring your beans inside to dry out if the weather is wet and damp for a prolonged period. Store dried beans in jars and containers with airtight lids, somewhere cool and dry such as a larder cupboard.
In early summer just after my last blog post I ended up in hospital having surgery I wasn’t fully expecting. For some time I haven’t been well enough to tend to my beloved vegetable garden, after the surgery I wasn’t physically able to and then came horrid medication that upset my body, mind and mood, and well, I fell into some kind of depression.
The chickens were cared for but the garden had to pretty much fend for itself. Rich did his best but he’d be the first to admit he isn’t the gardener around here. The greenhouse contents and outside pots were watered and the grass cut. And so the courgettes turned to marrows, strawberries and blackcurrants pretty much fed the birds and fat pea pods withered and wilted in the summer heat. But all was not lost, my haphazard planting style as well as using ground covering edible flowers kept the weeds at bay, our pumpkins and squashes finally got going after many failed attempts and quickly swamped the ground (and eventually the lawn), drowning out light to weeds in their path. Some varieties didn’t show up to the party at all, such as the butternuts which is a real shame because they’re used so much in our kitchen.
In fact, there were many successes this year such as beans. So many beans. I’m positively beaming about that. It has to be the best year ever for beans. We have some pumpkins and squash to show for our efforts and autumn raspberries have been amazing this year, doubling in size over the plot. We grew the best carrots to date, absolute whoppers with no damage thanks to companion planting with onions. Our sunflowers grew so tall they toppled over, at least there’s plenty of food for the birds. Again.
Despite being neglected for half the year the veg garden has been very forgiving, and most generous. I have a long road ahead of me with my diagnosis of severe endometriosis. There’s no cure, even hysterectomy isn’t a guarantee of living pain-free at this stage of the disease. It’s a very common but still very misunderstood condition, the time taken for diagnosis is sadly too long for many women. I’ll leave this post on a positive…. I’m off to see a specialist next week, fingers crossed I can get this under some sort of control.