November 2016, harvests before frost, veg for autumn and winter 4


Winter is nearly here, time for some last and beautiful autumn harvests. The radish below were sown between lettuce which were still cropping.

You can still sow garlic, and November is excellent for sowing broad beans, straightaway in northern Britain, and until month’s end in the south.

Beetroot and other roots

When to harvest depends on upcoming frosts, I leave as long as I dare so the roots stay fresher, but because beetroots are mostly above ground level, they are damaged by temperatures of about -4C or less.

If your area is prone to cold nights, they are worth pulling before next weekend. Carrots and celeriac are alright for now, parsnips will grow sweeter in the cold. Apples and pears want picking if you still have some on the tree; I harvested the Concorde pears on 30th October.

Winter veg

There are a lot of harvests still to come in these photos of Homeacres, October 30th 2016.

1 Savoy cabbage for late winter, purple sprouting broccoli for spring, salads for winter, Chinese cabbage for autumn, Filderkraut cabbage to harvest this week, leeks for winter, chicory hearts for autumn, parsnips for winter, Brussels for winter, beetroot for autumn – then asparagus for spring.

2 salad rocket for autumn & perhaps winter, kohlrabi and beetroot to store, carrots to store from November harvest, spring onions for spring, spinach for picking until June, oriental leaves for autumn salads mostly, leeks, chard for autumn and winter if mild, kale for autumn etc.

Frost tender veg

Fennel needs picking before frost, although calabrese has some resistance, especially for smaller shoots. Kohlrabi also are not killed by frost but risk some damage to their bulbs, which are just so tasty at the moment. And they are tender, unlike large kohlrabi in summer when they turn woody: these bulbs are watery and tender.

Dig, no dig trial

We have had fascinating harvests and comparisons, for example how an east wind (abnormal direction) blew the kale of my dug bed to an angle, while the kale in no dig stayed upright.

Harvests in the last six weeks have been bigger on no dig, I am posting them on this link. Totals for the year are 98kg dug bed and 108kg no dig.

Salad plantings under cover

I sowed a week later this year, partly to see and partly from being busy writing the diary book, and plants are smaller than they should be really. However if autumn were to stay mild, as in the last three years, all would be well…

At least the establishment is good, with almost no slug damage, thanks to no dig, no weeds, and having watered the summer crops very little during the month before clearing them in mid October.

After removing the summer veg with as little soil disturbance as possible, we walk on the beds to consolidate again, break up any lumps of compost, then water a lot before planting. I spread no more compost until May next year.

Autumn salads outside

Growth has been steady in October and the dry weather has helped tatsoi and pak choi, thanks to reduced slug numbers. Red Lace from CN Seeds has impressed me, as did a mid July sowing of Winter Density lettuce which is still healthy.

New raspberry bed

The Joan J I planted in January, into a mulch of soil & compost over weeds, have been cropping superbly. I am so pleased we dug out the bed of Autumn Bliss last autumn, they yielded poorly.

Do consider Joan J if planting raspberries, and Paris looks another good option, it claims to crop in summer too…

Mulching.

Now is time, worms are hungry. A one to two inch layer over all beds is good, even a half inch is good if you are struggling to find enough compost. Check stores such as Lidl who may be selling off ‘old’ compost.

For no dig, is it a good idea to dig before starting?

Steph says there was a lively debate about this on Facebook’s Undug group, triggered partly by comments I have made in books, about how I sometimes started with soil cultivation. That was years ago, and for the record I give these details, to avoid misunderstandings.

When making my first garden of 1.5 acres in 1983, I had not heard of no dig and nobody mentioned it. 

Organic growing was extreme enough!

The only way I knew was to cultivate using a tractor, in order to kill the pasture grass. I started with a borrowed Keminck tool, designed to aerate as well as cultivate. But it did not kill all the grass and one afternoon my father appeared, looked disdainfully at the results and said “you need to rotovate”. Now he was a man of few words, in fact we hardly ever conversed as he worked 99.9% of the time, so I paid attention to those few words!

It was a dry August and I rotovated four times at two week intervals, luckily the dry weather meant less worms near the surface, and all grass and weeds died, except for couch grass in some edge areas. Soil was a loamy brash.

Before the last rotovation, a contractor spread two inches of cow manure. 

Then from October to Christmas, I dug out pathways of two feet wide, shovelling their soil onto what became raised beds.

For areas over an acre, (tractor) cultivation makes life simpler, but is not necessary for smaller areas, certainly not in gardens! See this link.

There is no need to dig/cultivate before starting no dig, unless soil is truly compacted after passage of heavy machinery in wet weather. Even then, you can manage without soil loosening, with beds created from 6in/15cm compost on the surface. Crops grow in that while worms and soil life heal the soil below, over time.


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4 thoughts on “November 2016, harvests before frost, veg for autumn and winter

  • Rhys

    Charles – is the increase in no-dig vs dig in your test beds just within the variables of growing, or is any evidence beginning to emerge that fertility/yields increase year on year with no-dig but remain constant with digging (due to never generating a ‘natural’ ecosystem underground)?

    Obviously, you have proven over the years that there is no advantage to digging in terms of yield, but no-dig would really take off long-term if e.g. you started to see an upward trend toward a higher maximum when not digging (e.g. between years 5 and 15 after starting no-dig gardening).

  • charles Post author

    V good question but I feel its early to say this.
    The longest I gardened in one location was Lower Farm: its fifteenth year of no dig in 2012 saw some of my best crops, though only slightly.
    This year’s 10% decrease from the dug bed is notable, perhaps from the dry weather and more moisture for plants in no dig.

  • graham

    Reading one of your books you say not to use a knive to cut lettuce. Is not possible to use a plastic covered knives, I have just seen them in he supermarket. I have been shopping with my wife as there not to much to do in the allotment as you saw in my picture of Paul’s and my allotment, still odd jobs to do in shed and pollytunnel , the tunnel is not in use as it has not been up long and is a job in progress, working out what’s going where. Thank you for your time

  • charles Post author

    Yes your work looks good Graham.
    I find that lettuce grow back more slowly and live less long after being cut across the top, whether the knife is plastic or steel.
    But you can cut outer leaves. I find it easier to twist them off.
    Good luck with your tunnel.