Veg growing November ’15 3


Growth continues! Even though days are as short as February, the southerly winds are bringing warmth to grow leaves and swell roots – the mean temperature this past week, night and day, has been 11.5C (53F).

However in this warmth, root vegetables don’t store so well. I am leaving celeriac, beetroot and some carrots in the ground until later in November or even December. Just watch for pests if you do this, for example slugs eating carrots is reason to pull them.

For leaves, the quality of new growth is affected by the lack of light – outdoor salad for example, especially lettuce. Whereas endive, chicory, salad rocket and spinach are growing healthily

New beds

Over the last three years at Homeacres I have tried many shapes, widths and heights of beds and feel happier with those I have raised by adding a little soil in their base. This can be either imported from elsewhere or from scraping a thin layer of topsoil off what becomes the pathway, putting this soil onto what becomes a slightly raised bed. This gives a clearer definition of where beds and paths are, compared to when you make beds with compost/organic matter only, which condenses to a much thinner layer, volume wise, as it is absorbed into the soil.

Last week I was fortunate to receive a knock on the door from a couple in the village who are remaking their garden, and wanted to empty two raised beds full of topsoil. They delivered it too, and I am using this soil for raising the base of some new beds as you can see. It is where I had mulched since December 2014 with compost and polythene, growing squash and potatoes.

No dig success

I receive fabulous feedback from gardens adopting a no dig approach and its nice to have the chance to explain it more as in November’s issues of Gardeners World and Gardens Illustrated magazines, also Steph is in Permaculture this month, on crop protection. No dig saves so much time and effort to achieve wonderful results.

Homeacres this season has seen abundant harvests and the dig/no dig experiments are again showing how the extra work of digging and cultivating is not rewarded with increase of crops or quality of growth, sometimes the opposite in fact. 

Less weeding, more picking

Once your plot is clear of perennial weeds, you can easily sow, plant and replant into the surface, which stays clearer of weeds then if soil is cultivated. In my garden of three quarters of an acre, I do most of the basic maintenance, with weeding as one of the least time-consuming jobs. I need extra help for other jobs especially making all the harvests which is much more exciting than weeding.

And we eat well here, there is so much choice of vegetables, Steph turns a great range of then into food  for course lunches. Why not give a course voucher to a gardening friend for Christmas?

Propagation

Its almost finished for the year although you can sow garlic and broad beans in modules or small pots for transplanting, say if the ground is not ready for direct sowing, or if you think mice may eat the broad (fava) bean seeds. 

For garlic I find it simplest to sow direct and sometimes I pop cloves into dibbed holes between salads or other vegetables which are to finish soon. In the greenhouse I have sown garlic in a line up the middle bed, to grow between my winter salad plants, this worked well last year.

In the UK, sow broad beans asap if you are in the north, by early December in the south; plants want to be just a small size by Christmas, not too tall which would make them vulnerable to wind and frost. Likewise its good to have just medium rather than large overwintering cabbage and onion plants, see the photo.

Autumn beauties

If you have been following my tips here, I hope you have some of these wonderful vegetables. Having said that, I am in Somerset and its milder than other areas, in fact we have had only a slight frost so far, not enough to damage the heads of calabrese or Florence fennel for example. Whereas many vegetables survive frost such as kale, leeks, cabbages that are not tight hearted and chicories.

Clearing then cropping again

No dig means you can ignore many supposed rules, such as “you should not walk on beds”. So in the polytunnel, after pulling the substantial tomato plants on October 14th, we found it good to walk on the surface compost both to level and break up any lumps, before watering and planting salads for winter.

Using compost as surface mulch saves time because it holds food over a long period, until plants need it. So in the polytunnel I add compost just once a year, in May before planting summer vegetables. I do not feed or fertilise at all, saving time and money. And I add nor more compost or other food before planting salads in October, which grow healthily until flowering in April. The biggest time saver is that that weeds are few and far between, mostly needing just an occasional tweak of the odd small weed seedling while picking.

Deciding what to grow

Its fun to try new things, but they don’t always work! To be sure of having a worthwhile harvest, its good to grow enough of the reliable staples. For example I find that Uchiki Kuri squash gives lots of ripe fruits every year, compared to the later ripening Butternut – but if I was in a warmer area I would grow some of the latter. Sweet potatoes do not thrive outdoors in this climate, but yacon does.

Visit

We had a great visit from photographer Walter Lewis who is creating an exhibition and book on Regenerative Growing and Farming. He came to Homeacres after finding that “every visit I make in the past seven months entails mention of you and your thinking”. Here is a sample of some photos he took on a wet morning in September.

Last chance for over-wintering salad

There is still just time to plant a container for salad leaves to pick from February to April. I suggest buying plants rather than sowing, although you can sow some fast-growing ones now such as leaf radish, mizuna and peas for shoots. I planted the boxes below on October 1st, from sowings on September 9th, and am taking them to the RHS show in London on November 1st. They are filled with multipurpose compost after lining with newspaper, and have been in the greenhouse.


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3 thoughts on “Veg growing November ’15

  • Rhys

    Had great success with no-dig autumn carrots (Berlicum and Autumn King) – harvested mid-October with very little fly damage (the odd one in 200 roots) – sown 1st July after garlic.

    Leeks unfortunately succumbed to the grub – that’s two years in a row at exactly the same time – all looked well to the end of September, then down they went in October. I suspect we may need to harvest by end of September and blanche/freeze. Not what was planned.

    Swede has been very successful in a no-dig bed – they will start being harvested next month.

    Turnip I found was better after beetroot/chard (i.e. no recent feeding), whereas after 2nd early potatoes, the leaves were more abundant than the roots.

    First attempt at parsnip no-dig will be successful (some large roots visible after rubbing away soil from the base of the stalks) , even in a slightly shady place. First harvest planned for Christmas!

    Landini cabbage are now hearting up after a summer where they didn’t really seem to do too well. Not optimal, but a first success at growing hearing cabbage no dig.

    First success too at harvesting rocket and pak choi – the former more success than the latter, perhaps as I sowed the former in modules and the latter straight into the soil. Live and learn! Kale seems unusually susceptible to slugs so I suspect I will have to cloche young plants in future – they are always the first things to go.

    Heartily in agreement about little weeding required using no-dig. In fact, the most work has to be done on the paths, which is a bit of a pain to be honest. The biggest requirement will be when the asparagus trees are chopped off, as there, for some reason, the previous mulch of horse manure must have had weed seeds still present.

    All areas to be leaf mulched have been covered with leaves collected from the street and the nearby golf course and the annual drives to the stables have produced a nice pile of horse manure to rot down for 12 months before preparing a bed for potatoes in 2017. One or two more trips to go when the asparagus has been cut back and the comfrey has died back.

    The yield from a garden in second year of no dig with compromised light due to surrounding trees will be 10 – 11lb/sqm, once the swede, rocket and lettuce have been finished and a few parsnips for Christmas taken. Due to a monster apple crop and the usual glut of tomatoes on the patio, the total yield from the garden this year (50sqm inc. fruit cage) plus apples/tomatoes will be 750 – 800lb. There were some total failures like broad beans, so hopefully there is still some upside to come, what with better successional planning etc.

    • mrJ

      Also in our first year of hybrid no-dig/minimal-dig at our allotment (we don’t have access to or produce enough surface mulch to go fully no dig at the moment, plus still working on some stubborn clay and perennial weeds.)

      All going swimmingly so far, Charle’s advice has proved invaluable. But I concur with the above, my biggest failing this season was my weedy pathways!

      I’ve also been keenly following the no dig experiences of Clementsfarm.co.uk which I think is somewhere down your way Charles. I suspect he may have also learnt much from you when I see the similarities in gardening style.

  • charles Post author

    Thanks for this comment MrJ and yes pathways are important! Interesting about Clements Farm and I don’t think I know them, I see they are switching from rotovator to no dig, a good move!
    And Rhys its good to have those yield figures, its an impressive amount of food.