November 2019 clear asparagus, many hearts to harvest, sow broad beans, salads growing, make a bed

October was wet and November could be cold. I hope that frost won’t hurt some late harvests of fennel, which I want to cover with fleece. Most other autumn veg can stand light freezing, including cauliflower, cabbage hearts and many salads. However if you hear mention of -2C or lower, I would take the harvest and store, or cover. Use thicker fleece, 30gsm.

From now until year’s end is a top time to feed soil organisms with a compost mulch, using enough to cover the surface of beds, after removing crop residues and weeds. I just received a report on Homeacres soil biology from Microliv in Norway, and it’s interesting to see a description of the organisms in my soil.

Using compost for making beds easily

It’s worth buying some compost for new beds say half tonne for a bed of 1.2x2m/4x7ft, when spreading at 15cm depth. The compost can be lumpy animal manure as base layer. Or if starting no dig with clean soil, just do a light weeding of all you see, then spread 4-5cm/up to 2in compost of any kind.

If weeds are many, place thick cardboard directly on them first, with 7cm/3in of compost on the cardboard. By spring the cardboard is soft, even decomposed, so perennial weeds may appear and need pulling out, while you can also sow and plant, because new roots will travel down and into the undisturbed soil.

3-5cm/1-2in compost is a maintenance ration for feeding soil life through next year. It’s the only thing I add to my beds, no feeds or fertilisers, although I am looking to use some rockdust, more on that in my next post.. All beds receive the same dose, whatever they are going to grow next year.

Last call fo harvests of squash and pumpkin

These are damaged by frost, so gather them today if you have not already. We have been eating Crown Prince already, and the flavour always impresses me so much. These squashes weigh 3-4kg/6-9lb and came from four plants, which required no maintenance: I do not prune them, nor place anything under swelling fruits.

  • Store in dry warmth, then the skin stays hard and they can keep until spring.

Sow broad beans

Aquadulce Claudia is my top variety, and I save seed every July-August to ensure excellent germination and top quality growth.

I find it best to sow under cover in modules, with a mousetrap nearby. Do not multisow, these plants make many stems from one seed.

Shallow modules are fine because the tap root can coil around and it grows fine after transplanting. I sow under cover because direct sowings here often get eaten by rodents, or pulled out by rooks when just appearing.

After sowing, wait about four weeks before planting. Then give the seedlings plenty of space, because they will tiller as the days grow longer in spring, often finishing with four or five strong stems from every seed.

Even in October, new growth

Every year we set out small plug plants or modules in the polytunnel and greenhouse (plus a few outside, to see), in October’s second or third week.

Every year I am amazed how much they grow, after spending the first week doing nothing except to settle in. Some call it “transplant shock” and during this time, I often need to fill holes of eaten plants (slugs and leatherjackets) with spare module plants – it’s good to have leftover plants.

Then suddenly at about this time, I can see the new growth every day, and I feel reassured for the winter ahead.

Chicories = radicchio feast

An easy to grow vegetable, although needing protection from deer. See my video for how to grow these lovely heads.

You need reliable seeds, check out Palla Rossa 506TT from Bingenheim Seeds Germany, and 206TT Treviso also. 

Eat raw in salad, or baked in the oven with a little butter or oil: the sweetness of self-blanched hearts balance their inherent bitterness, which is a great tonic for the liver.

Cabbage and cauliflower harvests in autumn

Filderkraut cabbages are incredible. This year they are making hearts of 2-5kg, up to 11lb after trimming. Plus they are second crop after broad beans, which gave a last harvest on 13th June, then we planted the cabbage straightaway, from a sowing of 9th May.

I sowed the Romanesco on 9th June and planted after final harvests of spring-planted kohlrabi, with mesh over for 6-8 weeks for protection from insects. The heads resist some frost, and if I see a one developed when nights below -2C are expected, I cut an older leaf to drape over the centre of each plant.

More brassicas

The two Brussels sprouts varieties are an early cropper, Marte F1, and a late cropper Doric F1. I love Brussels and this means up to six months harvests from one sowing and planting. They were even planted between carrots so they are a third crop of this year in that bed, because radish were first to crop in May, sown with the carrot seed in March.

The Chinese cabbage are so, so difficult to keep pest free: Despite mesh and Bacillus thuringiensis, I lose about a third of heads to caterpillars, just one fat on in the middle.

New videos and teaching

I taught two one days at Birr in Ireland recently, and shall be back there mid April for two more days. Back at Homeacres we have been busy making videos for You Tube, such as this one about second cropping, and for my new online course. The first online course is popular, with much information about how to go no dig, and cropping examples.

Asparagus preparation for next year

The ferns are starting to yellow, so there is no more goodness going down to the crowns. You can now cut them off at ground level – we use a scythe, then lay the stems and remaining feathery leaves on the path between each bed. They decompose slowly, and treading them helps.

Plus we spread 3cm/an inch of compost on the narrow beds, and some volcanic rockdust on the further half, to see if it makes a difference. The rockdust may be great food for earthworms, as Homeacres soil is not gritty at all.

24 thoughts on “November 2019 clear asparagus, many hearts to harvest, sow broad beans, salads growing, make a bed

  1. Regarding sowing beans undercover and mousetraps!

    A word of advice to newer gardeners…
    It’s very easy to accidentally catch garden friends – I mean Robins and members of the Tit family if mousetraps are not well covered to prevent birds being attracted to them. And it’s really distressing. My garden birds do a great job on flies etc in my polytunnel and it’s horrid to lose any such helpers.

    1. Why not use a humane mouse trap? I’ve caught loads this way and take them about 1/2 a mile aways, the other side of a stream to release them to take their chances elsewhere.

      1. I’ve tried both sorts of trap- the mouse population here entirely ignores humane type but in one night caught 8 mice in little nipper type (sadly cos I like mice except for their depredations on my peas and carrots) whereas previously absolutely zilch with humane type.

    1. Not a nice pest and sorry you have it.
      Cover leeks with mesh when you plant them out, and keep them covered until about mid September when moths strop flying.

      1. I also have leek moth and have had it for a few years now, living in Derby not far away. What do you mean by mesh? How small a mesh? Would fleece be better?

        1. Andy I use standard guage enviromesh, is less hot than fleece for summer use plus less likely to tear: it needs only one hole.

    1. I find it resists frost, especially when plants are less mature, sometimes the buds might damage but I think you are ok for a week or more

  2. I love seeing your beautiful garden, produce, and finished dish photos. Too often farmers are portrayed as only growers and cooks as only end users. I have been enjoying the movement to popularize chicories in my area. These vegetables have not been very popular Canada/US but in southern B.C. and Washington (similar to your climate) they grow splendidly. Often a farmer and a chef are paired up to jointly grow, experience, cook, serve chicory dishes both at events and in restaurants. Seattle, WA had their first chicory festival in 2017 and Vancouver, BC is going to have their first one this autumn (no I am not affiliated in any way, just excited). Check them out at:
    https://www.chicoryweek.com/
    And
    https://vancouverradicchiofestival.ca/

    1. Lisa thanks for your comment and this is lovely to hear. I wish I had time to organise a chicory festival and well done those people.
      Yes the eating part is so important, certainly my main motivation!

    1. I am always saying, Chinese cabbage are difficult because all pests like them.
      I accept a lot of slug holes in mine, mostly outer leaves.
      Try going out on a dark evening with torch and knife, to reduce numbers.

  3. Hi Charles

    I know it is important not to MANURE carrots, but I am putting my own compost on to Spring 2020’s carrot bed simply to keep up the organic matter content and break up/create good drainage in my relatively heavy clay soil. Can I just check if compost is ok to use before carrots?

    1. Sacha yes.
      Why say “it’s important not to manure carrots”? Makes no sense because gardeners use old manure, which is compost.
      Feed all soil every year, whatever you plan to grow. Spread compost now, your clay will improve.

    2. Sacha

      I have London clay soil and it is only now after three good years of composting that I am harvesting 25cm+ long Autumn King carrots. Each year, the length of the carrots has increased as no dig + compost creates better soil, better structure.

      Because some of my compost is only ready by the spring, in 2019, I laid fresh compost in April before sowing carrots in early May. Charles is right, the best time is now, but even laying it in spring brings huge benefits.

  4. Hi Charles
    I’m having a problem with slugs and millipedes attacking my no-dig spuds. The first year I planted potatoes in the usual way, planting in a trench., and my crop was fine. Then I learnt about no-dig. For two seasons now, I have laid my seed potatoes on the soil, covering well with compost, and keeping the shaws well covered thereafter. But each time I have lost a good half of the crop to slug damage. Last year was very warm and dry, this year wet and cool. No-dig works fine for everything else I plant – just not my spuds! Any advice?

  5. Hello from a very wet Dordogne, where slugs and snails are thriving! My Chinese cabbage looks just like your second photo, Charles.
    A question about planting garlic. I always put a layer of well rotted manure on my beds this time of year, but have read that one should avoid freshly manured soil for garlic. Do you agree? Also, do you put some wood ash on the garlic beds to provide potash?
    Thanks again for such wonderfully informative posts.

    1. Sorry about your molluscs ElleGee, I wonder whether you eat escargots!
      Your question is a bit vague if I may say because you say “freshly manured” – which might mean that fresh manure was spread (bad), or old manure was freshly (recently) spread, which is what I recommend.
      I wonder whether the writer of that advice explained it properly: often readers are left hanging without the understandings they need.
      So old manure above say one year becomes compost, and can be applied for example onto newly planted garlic.
      The virtue of compost feeding soil organisms in no dig, is that nutrients become available which were otherwise not available, through the work of undisturbed fungal networks. I bet your soil has plenty of potash and I never recommend this approach of using fertilisers, whatever their origin.
      As it happens the potash in wood ash is water soluble and will wash away to ground-water, so best add the ash to your compost heap.

      1. I hadn’t thought about the vagueness of the term “freshly manured”! This was in a book by Joy Larkcom.
        I am grateful for your feedback – I am a no-dig convert and liberally apply well rotted manure on all my beds so I’m glad I can continue to do it on my garlic beds. Thanks too for your sensible advice about the wood ash.

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