Ben Vanheems shares some essential tasks to carry out in your garden and allotment for November.
Make the most of leaves
Collect leaves from paths, patios and regularly used areas of lawn, but leave a few out-of-the-way piles as homes for wildlife, including hibernating hedgehogs. One of the simplest ways to put leaves to use is to spread them out on to beds and borders, where over winter they can rot down or be drawn down by worms. Wet the leaves if it’s dry to stop them blowing away or lay a mesh of canes over the top.
The best results come from making leafmould. The simplest way to make it is to stuff moistened leaves into bin bags. Tie bags shut then stab all over with a fork to ensure adequate air exchange. Stash them away for at least a year then spread the crumbly textured end result on to your soil. Even better, make a leafmould bin by stapling chicken wire mesh to sturdy corner posts. Fill with leaves as it slumps down.
The final product is gardener’s gold!
Take off netting
We try so hard to stop birds eating our precious fruits but now they can lend a helping beak by pecking up overwintering insect pests. Remove fruit cage netting to let them in.
Harvest root crops like beetroot as needed. Most should sit just fine for much of the winter, while parsnips will actually improve in flavour as it turns colder.
Once autumn-fruiting raspberries have finished fruiting, prune all the canes down to the ground. New canes will sprout in spring to carry next year’s fruit.
Globe artichokes are hardy but if you get especially hard frosts where you live, play it safe by laying a mulch of straw over the dormant crowns to keep them snug.
Sow broad beans
STEP 1: With so much clearing away and composting, it’s great to be sowing something too! Broad beans are super hardy and the perfect vegetable to get on and plant in autumn. Sow the chunky beans about 3-5cm (1-2in) deep into cleared, weed-free soil by mid-month.
STEP 2: The seedlings should poke through before growth slows to a crawl in winter. If birds show an interest, cover the seedlings with some sort of mesh to keep them off. Once growth takes off again in spring the plants will need supporting to stop them flopping over.
STEP 3: If the ground is still occupied or your soil gets very sodden in winter, try sowing beans into pots or large modules instead. Do this later in November, setting the seeds at a similar depth, one per pot/module. Plant the young beans out from February.
Feed your soil
Autumn is the best time of year to spread compost and manure on to your soil in a bid to nourish it in time for next season’s crops. Put in place now, it will have all winter to begin merging with the soil below. It also means you can get away with using lumpier material, as upcoming frosts should help to break it down into a finer texture.
Garden compost is great stuff, as is manure that has properly rotted down to a dark and crumbly consistency. Bulk bags of green waste compost are another option if you haven’t got enough compost or can’t get hold of manure. Spread your chosen organic matter about 3cm (1in) deep and just leave it be. This no-dig approach preserves your soil’s structure, encouraging healthy soil that’s full of life.
Pests & Problems
■ ROTTEN PRODUCE: If you’ve stored produce to enjoy over the colder months – well done! Check your stashed fruits and vegetables regularly for any signs of rot. Promptly remove any suspect or soft produce to stop it spoiling the remainder.
■ MICE: Fresher temperatures stir the mice from their summer retreats. Watch out for disappearing seeds and sets: onions and shallots, peas and broad beans are all vulnerable. You can avoid these rodents by starting your seeds off under cover, raised above ground.
■ PIGEONS: Pigeons are the prime pests of winter in my garden! Get on and protect brassicas with netting if you haven’t already done so. Drape netting over supports and secure it at the edges to stop birds walking in at ground level. Check for holes regularly.
Prepare for winter
If we haven’t already had one, November is when most of us can expect our first ground frost, signalling that the seasons have finally changed.
Finish clearing the greenhouse of the last of the summer crops. If you plan on overwintering tender plants then have your heater on standby, ready to fire up on those frosty nights. Make the effort to wash down the glazing so as much light as possible can penetrate.
Heating is expensive, especially given recent price hikes. One way to conserve energy is to insulate the greenhouse with bubble wrap. Measure the internal dimensions of the greenhouse then buy a big enough roll. Fix the bubble wrap into place using drawing pins, staples or clips. Start with the walls then run the wrap from the ridge of the roof down. Make sure the windows and vents can still open. Consider insulating a box frame if you only have a few plants in need of extra warmth.
Did you know peppers and chillies are perennials, capable of producing year after year? Normal practice is to compost them at the end of the season, but with care you can overwinter plants to enjoy a head start next year.
Begin by reducing the top growth by about a third, cutting branches just above a bud. Move containers to somewhere comfortably frost-free, such as a conservatory or unheated room. Reduce watering to a bare minimum. The foliage is likely to die back, which is fine. Wipe or spray off any aphids that appear then re-pot into fresh compost in spring. Gradually pick up watering and feeding to stir plants back into life.
STEP 1: Garlic needs a period of chilling to produce its bulbs, and the longer the cold spell it endures, the bigger the bulbs. Plant from mid-October to the end of November for best results. Plant the separated cloves so that 2.5cm (1in) of soil lies above the tips of the cloves.
STEP 3: Plant your cloves out into their final positions towards the end of winter, or whenever the soil becomes workable. Choose a sunny, well-drained site for best results. This trouble-free crop should be ready to ease up from the ground sometime in June or July.
STEP 2: Rust is an increasing problem these days, while very wet winter soil is a definite no-no. Help avoid these problems by starting your cloves off under cover in an unheated greenhouse. Plant individual cloves into pots or large modules of multipurpose compost.
Take hardwood cuttings
Hardwood cuttings are an almost bomb-proof way to propagate softwood fruits such as gooseberries, currants and blueberries. Take them soon after leaf drop, using growth put on over the past season. Currant cuttings should be around pencil thickness and 30cm (12in) long. Cut just below a bud then trim the top of the cutting on a slant just above a bud. Root them in deep pots of compost to which a little perlite or grit has been added to improve drainage. Push them two-thirds down into the compost, water them, then grow on in a greenhouse or cold frame. Separate and plant a year from now.
Key Jobs for November
■ PROTECT SALADS
Winter salads and end-of-season stragglers like celery and chard will perform better with some form of cold protection. Cover plants with cloches or polythene-covered hoops to keep off the worst of the weather. You may find you need to water a lot less but watch out for slugs.
■ BRING HERBS INDOORS
Bring a few containers of leafy herbs inside to enjoy fresh pickings over winter. Herbs like mint, parsley, chives and oregano can be dug up or portioned off then planted into pots of well-drained compost. Pop them on to a sunny windowsill for best results.
■ SOW WINDOWSILL ROCKET
Other windowsill contenders include salad leaf mixes and rocket. Fill trays such as old fruit punnets with compost then scatter the seeds very thinly over the surface. Cover over the seeds with a little more compost then keep consistently moist to speed germination.
■ TIDY UP
With summer crops cleared, seize the opportunity to scrub any staging, benches and work surfaces before washing down with disinfectant. As well as helping keep things tidy, this reduces the risk of overwintering pests and diseases.Enjoy more Kitchen Garden reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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