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.
The year is rolling along so quickly, it’s hard to believe Christmas will be upon us next month. It’s been a strange year (for me) as far as gardening goes, with the kitchen garden being so new there hasn’t been much going on in the way of planting. Soft fruit bushes, rhubarb and herbs have been the main stars up until this point, but now I’m preparing to plant the very first vegetable seeds in our new kitchen garden. Autumn sow broad beans and garlic.
I’ve spent a good deal of time improving and clearing the soil in order to have areas ready for autumn sowing. Digging and sifting out large rocks and stones along with other debris such as rusty old nails, pieces of broken glass and other odd items is not my idea of fun, but a necessary and strangely satisfying job just the same. By adding plenty of nutrient-rich compost from the compost bins and vegetable-growing compost, I now have beds ready to plant. The chickens helped of course, their scratching action (and regular dust bathing) really helps to improve soil structure.
I’m looking forward to seeing the first green shoots appearing through the soil in the brand new veg beds.
Exciting stuff, I wonder if they’ll appear Christmas morning?
Fading light conditions can make time for the garden almost impossible if you’re busy, now is the time to get motivated to put the garden to bed for the winter. However, there are planting possibilities for milder areas of the UK to be getting on with. It’s well worth removing weeds and spreading manure or organic compost if you can. Being productive now should save time come spring – and your soil will love you for it.
Some jobs for November:
Make a leaf bin and start collecting fallen leaves to make leaf mould
Plant autumn garlic and winter onion sets
Prune apple and pear trees
Prune soft fruit bushes
Cover frost tender plants at night with horticultural fleece, don’t forget greenhouse plants!
Plant new bare-root fruit trees, bushes and canes
Make a note of what your grew and where, include successes and failures – it will help you plan crop rotation for next year
Continue tidying and harvesting the last crops
Rhubarb is now dormant, propagate established plants or plant new sets
Sow hardy broad beans (Aquadulce Claudia) and peas (Meteor) for an early crop late spring
Make or buy bug boxes or ‘hotels’ to help beneficial insects survive the winter
Check water butts/barrels and drain if necessary
Remove fallen leaves from the surface of wildlife ponds
Plant spring bulbs for a splash of colour
Order seed catalogues
Don’t forget to bring frost tender potted plants inside before the first frost arrives!
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.