Veg growing mid Nov 15

As so often, unusual weather means unusual growth. Here the first half of November has been exceptionally mild, around 3C (5F) above average and no frost yet. We are picking better quality salad leaves outdoors than in October, and new plantings undercover are now picking too. However their leaves are thin, because of the lack of light.

Outdoors I have pickable leaves on a speculative planting of mustards made in mid October, and lambs lettuce planted 14th October (sown greenhouse early September) is also coming ready. See the forum post on lambs lettuce, it never grows as large as lettuce.

November is harvest time here 

All the vegetables in these pictures were sown in modules undercover, and are second crops after summer harvests. I add no more compost when planting in summer.

Spreading compost

Feed your soil, when you have any clear space after finishing harvests. I find that spreading enough compost to cover the surface is good for growth throughout the year to come, including second crops in summer and autumn. Its about two inches (5cm) in  depth. On infertile soils where growth has been poor this year, I would double that, perhaps using less decomposed materials as a lower layer, then finer compost on top to plant into. This greater depth will also smother weeds whereas a two inch layer does not, unless they are tiny – therefore I weed before spreading compost, and its a quick job because undug soil grows less weeds than dug soil, which I notice every year on my experiment.

You can also spread compost underneath autumn and winter veg, for example the calabrese in this picture, also kale and broccoli.

Frosts imminent

It could be -2 to -4C by Sunday morning 22nd, especially in the north of Britain. Perhaps cold enough to damage above-ground beetroot, though not celeriac or parsnip. So I plan to harvest most beetroot by Saturday, then put them in crates or sacks in the house lean-to, with some soil left on. Carrots are going to be borderline for frost, but at this time of year there is little benefit to leaving them in the ground, where slugs may be nibbling them.

Also this week I shall harvest remaining Czar beans to pod out, and Chinese cabbage and chicory hearts (not the more open plants), again to store in boxes undercover. I use them for salad leaves until Christmas, and they are also delicious roasted which is one of Steph’s favourite recipes.

Comparing harvests

We harvested the first oca, and they are still smaller than I hope for. Its a balance between letting them grow, and harvesting before the mice eat them! Until the first proper frost, the tubers are still swelling, as with dahlias and mashua which I look forward to tasting. Most reports on mashua’s flavour are not encouraging but the little red flowers are delicious. Sadly my plant blew down and all its little flowers got eaten by something on the ground.

Yacon harvests have been good and soon I want to harvest dahlia tubers. I have not eaten them before and Sarah Coates, who gave me the seed, posted a promising recipe.

For serious quantities of food, its hard to beat the staples and I just harvested over 60kg celeriac from eight square metres of bed and path, equals 30 tonnes per acre.

Even better than that, vegetable leaves give huge numbers of meals because of repeat picking – the Medania spinach pictured should continue cropping until next June, and it was sown August 8th.

Clearing ground of weeds

Some questions arose out of a recent course, about clearing ground of difficult weeds and what you can grow while couch grass, bindweed etc are dying off. In the area photographed I laid a sheet of polythene on top of compost (manure is compost when decomposed):

Q1. How much manure did you use under the sheet? 

I spread average between 2-6 in(5-15cm) and growth was good for all depths but the 6in application left a thicker, darker surface residue. I spread it in December, then by March there were weeds (buttercup etc) growing through so I decided to lay polythene over the top.

Q2. Did you sow direct in manure or did you plant out?  If the latter, how deep did you plant? 

We planted squash and courgettes late May, through holes in the polythene and into the compost, normal depth.

Q3. Similar to squash, I think I read somewhere on your blog that you also did something similar for potatoes.  I’m assuming you ‘earthed’ them up with compost, then applied the sheet, then cut the sheet to make room for the sprouting spud? 

I sowed potato tubers in April through small holes in the polythene, under the compost and on top of the ground: there was no more to do until harvest because the combination of compost and polythene is enough to keep light off almost all the tubers.

Out and about, in Ireland

I gave two day-courses at the Organic Centre in Leitrim, north east of Sligo. It has great facilities and a lot of good growing, with many more vegetables than at Ryton, and they have eight polytunnels to alleviate the windy Atlantic climate. Hans and Gaby Wieland run things in a productive way and also have the community involved, for example people can use beds for growing in return for raising plants that the Centre sell locally, to raise funds. They are finding that Klassman organic compost gives good results.

Before returning home, Steph and I visited Galway, a beautiful city, then on the way to Knock airport we called in at Oisin Kenny’s. His parents and aunt are farmers so Oisin helps with the livestock, while his main passion is growing, and he had a 7x30m polytunnel erected in the field near his parent’s house. He does not live on site but a builder friend PJ helped him to convert a container into office and storage/washing facilities, also a Ford Transit into a mobile shop; its ingenious.

Oisin came on a course here in 2013 and has put the knowledge to good use, mulching with different composts for excellent growth and few weeds. He said they rarely bother weeding now, just removing any they see while planting, picking and clearing. No dig with a compost mulch is working so well on his sticky soil and his mobile shop gives him great options for selling to restaurants in Galway. With the help of one employee Wayne and some wwoofers, he also makes up little bags of flowers to sell. Next phase is erection of a large greenhouse, it will be huge.

Out and about, in London

We met many enthusiastic gardeners at the RHS “Secret Sunday” show on November 1st. Many had come especially for my talk and although the acoustics left something to be desired, it was good to be there and chat about growing.

Next year this event is not running and sadly we have decided that its replacement show, a whole weekend just before Christmas, is not viable for what we do and sell. I expect that some other London events will crop up.

No dig veg and books at the RHS London show, November 1st 2015
No dig veg and books at the RHS London show, November 1st 2015

Tomato side-shoots

There is still time to strike cuttings from side-shoots about 2in long. Keep them frost free all winter, and they will grow quite fast once rooted. I remove flowering trusses and if plants grow thin and tall, you can cut off at least the top half of their stems so they make a new growing point from a side-shoot, and this gives you a sturdier plant.

It all takes time and its probably cheaper to buy seed, but this is a way of propagating hybrid tomato varieties, and having slightly earlier crops in June.

5 thoughts on “Veg growing mid Nov 15

  1. Yes I have some, mostly Convolvulus arvensis (field bindweed, pink flowers), and some Calystegia sepium (hedge bindweed with fatter roots & white flowers). They are getting weaker thanks to mulching and removal of new regrowth with a trowel.
    Hugelbeets sound a lot of work. Altogether you have plenty of organic matter and sources of plant food for a few years I would say! Do keep pulling, removing new shoots of bindweed in summer.

  2. HI Charles,

    Deborah from Idaho here!

    So you do have bindweed. Isn’t that the same as morning glory?

    I have built a hugelkultur mound (6’x30′) to start and hope to have three more built in the coming year. I’m getting the manure spread on the half of the garden that is not a mound and will cover it up again with the black plastic sheets to keep the morning glory down. I’m planning in that one half of the garden to have all my brassicas and squash as the morning glory can’t kill them. I will also put manure on the mound and top it off with grass clippings and maybe straw to keep it warm. All the wood and branches underground will give off carbon, so I put all my green plant waste and leaves into it as well. Any other suggestions for adding nitrogen from free sources?

    Many thanks.

  3. Finally finished the outdoor lettuce harvest on November 13th (Passion de Brune)! The rockets have grown huge this year and we are half way through the harvest – may pull them all before the potential frosts at the end of the week.

    Swede harvest is going well and the tastes are good. They look like yielding similar amounts to your celeriac in terms of tonnes/acre, which is also pretty similar to what I got for potatoes this year. I only planted 1.5sqm for Swede, though!

    The parsnips are ready to pull as the leaves have died back, but we are keeping them back for the winter as there will be little else to pull then.

    As for the plantings, the Senshyu onions seem to have taken a battering when windy rain comes along. No idea why, but falling leaves/twigs being blown may do damage. The Elephant Garlics are finally coming through almost 2 months after planting (no idea why there either!) and the traditional garlic and broad beans are now in. The mild autumn has made the spring cabbages much larger than expected – the vagaries of planting dates!

    The rest of the garden is now set up in ‘winter mode’ with either manure (for potatoes), leaf mulch (for parsnip, carrot and onion sowing) or field been green manure (where salads will be sown in the spring). The compost bins are pretty much set up so all I have left to do is to loot the enormous pile of leaves one of our neighbours has swept up around their house and turn it into a huge pile for leaf mould.

    So I guess between now and Christmas is time for planning 2016, buying/ordering seeds and letting nature do its thing on the beds……

  4. Great post! I successfully planted garlic last year in mid November and it was great when I sowed it in the spring. I find that using a good vegetable topsoil improved my harvest last year & so I’m sticking with what worked.

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