November in the Vegie Patch

peasEvery garden has it’s own microclimate, and the better you understand yours, the better your garden be. My bid to slow down the summer-crop-planting-rush, is to get you pondering these two things – your micro climate, and the needs of your crops. At some point these two things will meet – the climate and the needs. This point is the sweet spot of abundance.

Novembers weather is all over the place in my corner of the world. In the 8 years we’ve been here we’ve experienced a November drought, November snow and everything between! It can be hot enough for sunhats and shorts one day, the next day jerseys and socks. I’ve stepped out of the summer-crop-planting-rush and learnt to take it slow. Summer crops flourish in – well, summery weather; so I wait for that. I wait till the nights are warm and the outlook is rosy. While I wait I move seedlings into bigger pots and keep them under cover.

If you have summer crop fever and just cannot wait, then at least go forth gently. Plant out one tomato/ cucumber/ pepper a fortnight perhaps. That way if you get hammered by a cold snap all will not be lost.

oldwindowgreenhouseHow to give your seedlings the best chance

  • Planting a puny two leaf seedling in the garden is like kicking your 4 year old out of home – too vulnerable! Leave seedlings in their pots until they have at least 5 or 6 leaves and their roots fill the container out. Now plant them out. Grown up and ready to handle it.
  • Make the transition from the cosseted world of the pot to being planted in the garden a gradual one. Leave them outside in their pots for a few days and nights to get acclimatised.
  • Build a shelter around summer crops if the weather is still up and down at your place at planting time. Use an old window, some clear plastic stapled to stakes, or a clear bucket with its bottom cut out.

What I’m Sowing and Planting this November

I’m direct sowing little patches of greenery like rocket, coriander and mesclun, and root crops of beetroot, radish and carrot. Because the soil is steadily sitting at 15 degrees the first lot of climbing beans can be direct sown. Fresh plantings of parsley, perpetual beet, kale and loads of saladings complete the picture.

Pumpkins, cucumbers, melons and my first lot of corn and zucchini seedlings are growing well in the greenhouse. I want them to get a bit bigger before planting out (bigger=slug survival). If the weather hasn’t settled at planting, I’ll be covering them up.

I’m tray sowing another lot of summer companion flowers like zinnias, sunflowers, marigolds, calendula and cleome. Feel free to direct sow these, just protect them from the birds if you do.

If you’re planting maincrop potatoes this month perhaps splash out on some wondermesh to protect them from psyllids. I’m following the path of least resistance and planting earlies and lates – it’s not always necessary to face problems head on, avoid them where you can!

You could also plant out kumara slips (I’m doing melons instead this year), and yams.

buckwheat and butterflyGreencrops for November

  • Buckwheat (pictured) and Phacelia are the stars of the summer garden. Not only are they giving your hard-working soils a rest between heavy feeders, they’re feeding up the beneficial insect community. I highly recommend finding a spot for one or both.
  • Mustard is a fabulous soil cleanser and another vice of the beneficial insects – they love it! I use it through my greenhouse to keep the soil clean and encourage the insects in. It is a brassica, so take care to rotate.
  • Lupins sown now will pave the way for autumn brassicas. What? Autumn?! Yes my friends, autumn. Lupins need three months to do their thing – November, December, January; et voila – time to plant our autumn foods.