November in the Vegie Patch

beanshelter1The great gamble is upon us. Do we plant our summer crops or don’t we? As I write this I’m in woolly socks and a thick hoody – thinking even of getting the fire going, but the truth is tomorrow could be blue skies and back into shorts. It’s anybody’s guess and up to us all to get to know our own particular microclimate. If you have summer crop fever and just cannot wait then at least go forth gently, plant out one tomato plant a fortnight perhaps. That way if we get hammered by some cold nasty weather all will not be lost.

Give your seedlings the best chance at making a go of it

  • Take the time to build a cosy wee house around those heat loving plants you plant in the cold. Use an old window, some clear plastic stapled to stakes, or a clear bucket with its bottom cut out.
  • Grow your seedlings on so they have a good size root system – one that fills their container out; and atleast 5 or 6 leaves.
  • Gradually get them used to being outside, this is called hardening off. Leave them outside during the day, then back inside at night. Do this for a couple of days. Then give them a couple of nights outside in their pots before planting out.

If your tomato seedlings are bursting out of their pots, but you think it’s still a bit cold out; pot them up into the next size container and keep them under cover a bit longer.

Outside in the garden I’ve been sowing lots of green things like rocket, coriander, mesclun and spinach; root crops of beetroot, radish and carrot. The soil has reached 15 degrees so the first lot of climbing beans are direct sown inside cut off pots for a bit of extra warmth (not to mention bird protection). A new lot of parsley and silverbeet have been planted, as have lots of lettuces (which seem to get eaten as fast as they get planted!)

As well as all of the above plant kumara and yams, direct sow pumpkins; and your first lot of corn, cucumbers and zucchini. If it’s still a bit cold at your place just cover them with a cut off bottle or cloche. Get summer companion flowers going too – like zinnias, sunfowers, marigolds and cleome.

Maincrop potatoes can go in now. After last summers experience with psyllids I’m going to invest in crop covers. Redpath in Palmerston North have a product called biomesh, which you drape over susceptible crops using a cloche frame (or homemade equivalent). You can buy it by the metre. As well as psyllids it also works for carrot fly, aphids and white fly. Don’t waste your money buying cheap crop covers.Spend the money on something robust that’s going to last. Cheap ones tear easily and one hole undoes the whole thing. To me it’s a worthwhile investment as it means a good crop without all the expense (and time) of managing wily pests.  I’m dreaming of encasing my whole veggie patch in it!