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Growing your own Vegetables and Fruit

Enjoy growing and eating fresh veg and fruit when you want it.

Here, help is at hand month by month so you can see what you should be doing on your plot when growing your own vegetables and your own fruit. The weather and where you live make a huge difference to what grows, or not, but doing anything is better than nothing. Use the links above if you want specific information on a fruit or veg, or to see what you should have done last month.

sunflowers

November 2014

We’ve had regular snow in November here in Yorkshire – sometimes it only lasts a few hours, but everything tender gets killed off and the plot and garden start to look neglected and run down. So, if your pumpkins are still out, cut them off and gather them in!

On 7 November 2009 I had to work hard to scrape a very thick layer of ice off my car windscreen, and it continued for the next three nights. It signalled the end of the bedding plants, courgettes and nasturtiums. By the end of the month it was recorded as the wettest November in England since 1914! November 27 2010 brought thick heavy snow from 3pm, and Harrogate and the surrounding areas slowed to a standstill. The snow returned frequently all winter, and as many remember, it was the coldest winter for many years, with -20c recorded here, before the thermometer broke! Hardy plants are only so to about -12c. In 2012 it snowed lightly on 26 October as the new 007 film went on general release, but otherwise stayed really mild for autumn.

Why don’t you plant a few pansies, cyclamen and polyanthus to brighten things up, and if you’ve got room for a winter scented shrub plant one to cheer you up in the winter, or keep it in a pot near the plot so you get a lovely waft everytime you pass. (Try Sarcococca, Hammamelis, Daphne, Viburnum, Honeysuckle.)

If you have the space, now is the time to plant raspberry canes. I have four summer fruiting canes acting as a screen to a raised bed. Raspberries grow well in Scotland, so remember this when you decide where to site them in your plot. They like moisture, shelter and have shallow roots so need a weed free/well mulched area. They like a good deep soil, but actually grow very close to the surface, so do not plant them deeply.

Plant bare rooted trees now. Hopefully the tree will come with planting instructions, but remember, it’s going to be there for a while, so prepare the hole and soil properly. Staking is also a good idea for the first few years.

If you have not planted any garlic, do so now. It’s very little effort, and apart from a bit of weeding you can leave the area alone until July when you lift the bulbs.

Similarly plant some of your onion sets now, but check the variety as some onion sets do not like to be planted until spring. Ones called Japanese overwintering onions can be planted now.

Most green manures will not germinate now, so if you’ve got bare soil for the winter, tip any home made compost on the soil to rot down over the winter. Anywhere in the plot will benefit from compost trenches. This is when you dig out a trench, say a spade’s width wide and just fill it with shredded newspaper and your kitchen scraps. When full, pull the soil over and start again. These trenches are great to grow peas, beans, potatoes and courgettes into, but there’s really nothing that won’t like it.

Leaves will be everywhere in your plot and garden. If you can, buy the biggest, widest plastic leaf rake you can find and afford and store. Like many jobs, the right tool makes things a lot easier. The leaves can be put in a chicken wire store to rot down  if you have the space, or put them into black bin bags. Make sure there are some air holes, and let the leaves get wet, and then just hide them around the place, behind the shed, under a tree. Go back in a year or so and you’ll have a leafmould to put around shrubs, on the plot, or over mulching fabric to keep weeds at bay (the longer you let them rot, the finer the leaf  mould will be). Putting dry leaves into the compost bin slows things down, and you can go back after a year and nothing’s changed! So wet is best, with a bit of grass mowings to get things warmed up.

Clear any dead leaves, rotting stalks and other debris from your veg plot and near your favourite plants. This will get rid of pests and diseases, but you can leave fallen leaves elsewhere for wildlife to hide under and use.

What other jobs need doing then?
If you want raised beds, now’s the time to do it. Try and use old wood, or reuse wood from another source (like a collapsed picnic table, or a broken pallet) and then fill the area with soil, compost, leaf mould, manure to make a lovely area for growing veg. Raised beds are not supposed to be walked on, so they can’t be wider than 1.5m)
Are you fed up with grass paths that need mowing? Well consider putting down a breathable membrane and covering it with wood chip to make maintenance free paths.
How’s the compost bin looking? Do you need to turn it, or maybe you need another one? Four pallets roped together makes a big strong bin, so look out for unwanted pallets by building sites and in skips (and ask permission before removing).
Did your fruit get eaten before you could harvest it? Birds and wildlife is lovely but if you need to control it, start planning now how you could put up netting. Cloches made from fleece, netting or glass are very useful in the veg plot. Look at catalogues and see if you could make something yourself from items you or friends have to hand. (You can buy fleece by the metre at garden centres, and mulching fabric).
Were weeds, particularly big fat perennial ones, the bane of your life this year? You need to smother them, either with thick cardboard (flattened removals boxes are the job), or with a permeable fabric (cheap when bought in 50m rolls). It’s not a miracle cure but it will help if you do it now, and every year. For perennial weeds and new plots, cover now, lift and dig out weeds at your leisure, then re-cover till you plant the area with crops. Repeat each autumn!

And then, sit down, read the catalogues and make lots of lovely lists and plans for your Christmas wish list and for next year.

Plant this month:
Outside  - (winter) Broad beans, (spring) Peas, Garlic, (Autumn) onions sets. Make sure you have some winter flowering heathers so insects have winter flowers if they need them. Fruit trees and bushes can be planted.
Under cover –  peas, broad beans
Leek, Lettuce, Spinach can be sown all year round and planted out, depending on the variety.
Harvest:  Brussels sprouts, (winter) Cabbage, Carrot, Celery, Jerusalem Artichokes, Kale, Leeks, Turnip.

At the plot in 2007 the winter brassica were all huge, and edible. The leeks were lovely and the beetroot, parsnip, spinach and chard just kept growing. The potatoes and carrots were storing well.

In 2008 things were a bit depleted, but the leeks were plentiful and delicious, the orange leaf beet looked lovely, the carrots were lifted and eaten, beetroot and turnip were still available, and rocket. The odd healthy potato kept coming to the surface, and Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, and the odd sprout of calabrese were still being picked.

2009 saw a still sunny and warm start to November in the day, but with cold frosty nights. Then the heavy rains came and everywhere was sodden, and according to the Met Office web site it was the wettest since  1914, but the warmest November since 2003! Weeds germinated in abundance around the newly planted brassica seedlings, and high winds rocked these plants so they had to be earthed up. There were so many uneaten runner beans, but lots had perfectly formed seed pods to be kept for next year. The courgette plants turned to a sickly mush and were removed to make way for a garlic bed. The Kale still stands majestic, and the chickens have been allowed in to peck away at the wildflower patch and other bare earth before they move to their new home in a field next door. The globe artichokes had flowered a beautiful purple, and the phacelia is still in flower looking lovely at the end of a bed. At home it’s just lettuce and rocket to nibble at.

2010 saw rainbow chard being the star of the show. The beautiful pink and yellow stems shone out in the frost, and were easy to cook with lovely leeks, and steamed with Kale. There is something very satisfying about eating a meal from produce you have grown. Even the raspberries are keeping going. The bright yellow (late) sunflowers kept going until gales and frost felled them. The creeping buttercup has taken over in some areas, so it’s back to permealay on the beds again, to try and contain it. Then, heavy snow on 27 and 28 November flattened everything that had made it through so far. Temperatures went to -15c in the Brecon area of Wales, and were -12c here in Yorkshire. It’s weird to see yellow leaves still on trees but with a covering of snow.

2011 had me lifting beetroot and leeks everytime I went to the plot. Plus there were lettuces and rocket at home, and still lots of raspberries to pick and eat. The chicory grown for the first time was big and healthy, but I really didn’t like it, and fennel grown for the first time was wonderful and plump, and the foliage worth having alone to look at. The spring brassicas are all looking good, but have mealy bug on them. This month was warm, a bit wet, and perfect for veg growing if only it wasn’t so late. The grass is still growing, and the nettles are only slowly dying back.

2012 was not a very fruitful place in the veg patch. The carrots and beetroot were finished, the lettuces gone, and the rocket ropey. But I did see nice sweetcorn, leeks and lettuces in other people’s plots. Raspberries were the kings though this year, and kept fruiting till the end of November. The cabbages I planted in the summer look to be the same size, still, but maybe a mild winter will help them. And it was wet!

2013 saw just a few stalks of rocket left, but the fruit trees look healthy and full of buds ready for 2014. Herbs like parsley and rosemary are all very plentiful. The veg patch has been well manured for the winter.



 


 

 


box of veg


Pink chard all winter


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