November in the Vegie Patch

beanshelter1How grateful are you for your cloches? Extra shelter is essential through September and October in order to get those warmer crops growing well – its like having a big handicap in a race. (Not that we are racing – cruising we are people, smelling the flowers!) Without my cloches I would only just be beginning my zuchinni, summer squash, cucumbers and dwarf beans. Instead they have been steadily growing in their cosy house through crazy October.

You can create mini shelters out of anything you have lying around. They are only temporary so don’t need to be fancy or expensive, but they do need to be robust. Here’s my little shelters round my beans (sown late october). The soil had hit a steady 15 degrees but the air temp I knew would be all over the place so a cut off black plastic pot held with sticks is just the ticket to provide a bit of shelter as the beans sprout. The wind can huff and puff but it won’t blow their house down. Even though the shelter seems small and insignificant the extra layer makes a big difference – just like putting a sweatshirt on!

greenhousetomThe greenhouse toms are growing well, and now it’s time to be getting the outside tomatoes in. This year I am growing an exciting collection of orange heritage tomatoes, another Mark Christensen inquiry into nutrient dense crops. Orange is the original tomato colour and turns out to be the most nourishing, so I’m very excited to be growing on this seed for Mark and learning all about them.

To be on the safe side you’ll also spy a few reds in my beds – the tried and true Island Bay Italian as well as Bloody Butcher. Both are cold tolerant and bomb proof, so no matter the season throws I know I will have tomatoes. (Although, once I’ve trialled the orange toms it may be the end of reds in my beds.) As each season suits each tomato differently, it’s very smart gardening not to put all your eggs in one basket.

My usual advice at this time of year “Don’t be in a hurry, take your time and do a good job.” Plant a few tomatoes this month, and perhaps a few more in December to spread your harvest.

We’ll be learning how to grow organic tomatoes (as well as kumara and squash and carrots) in the Summer in the Vegie Patch workshop on December 7th.

To grow tomatoes organically is a bit of effort. Preferably all your effort goes into your soil in the preceeding months (that’s the secret to abundant crops.) Its important to remember that our bioregion is not the favourite growing climate of this South American fruit – so we need to put in extra energy to make them feel happy and at home.

Seed to sow this month

Seed sowing starts to slow up from now on in, just in time to free your energies up to care for your crops.

  • Another lot of salad greens and basil, either tray or direct sow.
  • Another direct sowing of rocket and coriander. If you are fans of these herbs (as I am) you must keep regular sowings going in as they are fast turn around crops in the heat.
  • Another lot of beans (direct sown) I sow a few new beans each month till December to extend the harvest till autumn. Try growing a few shellout beans this season. Perhaps you are put off, not knowing what to do with them. Drying is one option (to use in the winter), but my favourite is to pod them fresh, then saute with olive oil, garlic and herbs and serve salad and good bread.
  • Stagger sow your corn up to December to spread the harvest.
  • Another lot of carrots, radishes and beetroot (all direct sown)
  • You can sow another cucumber and zuchinni if you didn’t get your successional one sown last month.
  • Remember to sow as many pockets of greencrops as you can – any gap will do!sunsetcosmos
  • Summer flowers can be scattered round now – cosmos, cleome, marigolds, calendula, alyssum, love lies bleeding, sunflowers. Don’t miss out on summer colours for you and the insects.
  • Sunflowers are hungry beasts, but totally gorgeous and I would say a must have for every summer garden. I prefer to plant them outside the vegie patch as they guzzle nutrients. Direct sow them for best results. Bird and slug protection is essential!

Planting out this month

I’ll be planting out salads, kumara, parsley, tomatoes, zinnias, cleome, a couple of zucchini and a couple of cucumbers (to carry on from the ones in the cloches)

When planting out use the weather to your advantage – a baking hot day will stress out your newly planted seedlings, so plant on an evening if its hot; or choose a cool overcast day (or even better a drizzly one!) Nothing waters like rain – it’s positive ions really bring the garden to life.

Don’t forget about your compost piles – do they need a water? If so, uncover them on a rainy day. We’ll be making compost in the Abundant Vegie patch workshop. Compost can be so mystifying, but once you get your confidence it’s addictive!

Smart gardening begins with Permaculture! This coming January, our local permaculture gurus, Gary and Emily Williams are running a 2 week residential Permaculture Design Course on their 50 hectare permaculture paradise. For those of you wanting to design your own patch in a smart and efficient way, I highly recommend attending.