As we head towards the dark, cold and damp year-end, we continue our series of blog posts about how to keep on top of your vegetable garden.
The light levels are dropping and the days are chilly but there are still a few vegetables and salad crops to sow.
What to sow
Spinach, Mizuna and mustard as well as herbs like basil, dill, chives and parsley are easily grown in pots on the windowsill for a winter crop.
Spring onions can be sown in modules in a cold frame or under a cloche as can Pak choi, corn salad and tough varieties of lettuce like ‘Winter Gem’.
A final sowing of broad beans such as ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ can be made.
Onion sets and garlic bulbs can still be planted in a sunny, well drained spot. Garlic in particular needs a cold period early on so planting this late is fine. Try the very large elephant garlic which is very easy and reliable to grow, milder in taste but very delicious.
Jobs for November
Winter digging of the vegetable patch needs to be completed this month to allow the ground to settle and the frosts to break up any large clods into a workable fine tilth. I would make next year’s brassica bed the first area to be completed as these like the ground really firm.
Raised beds, if now empty, are not to be dug over. Instead sow a green manure or mulch with cardboard and grass cuttings as this will suppress any weeds and will also keep the soil underneath warm enough for the worms in the soil to be busy for longer. As the cardboard disintegrates its adds carbon to the soil and then the worms will bring down the grass cuttings to eat which improves the soil tremendously and the more tunnels they make the more oxygen in the soil. In 2 or 3 years your worm population will have increased greatly and you will see a difference in the quality of your soil -it will be rich and deeper in colour.
Green manures are fast-growing plants which suppress weeds and draw nutrients out of the soil which they then store in their cells and roots. Sown over Winter, they prevent the loss of nutrients from the soil which are so easily washed away by rain. In early Spring, the plants are then dug into the soil while still green. They rot down, slowly releasing these stored nutrients back into the soil for the new crop to take up in an easily available form. Regular use also improves the soil structure.
Staking brussels sprouts is really important as the can grow quite tall and are prone to falling over.
Secure covers over compost bins or compost heaps as the winter rain is too much wet and the whole decomposing process will be slowed down.