The veg plot in November – jobs, sowing and harvests.

Early in November, where I live in the UK, you can still expect to see average temperatures up to 11°C. However from mid November the tables start to turn and you will see the temperatures on the lower side more consistently. For many, the fruit and vegetable garden are slowly going to sleep for the Winter. We may have seen our first frost of the year, Old Man Winter is nipping at our heels if he isn’t already here.

Did you know that in the UK grass will stop growing when the air and soil temperature are consistently below 5°C? Cold weather along can stall grass growth, so you can put the lawnmower away.

November used to be a month where we would see more rain fall, though I do feel that we are seeing changes in the weather patterns. The day light is less due to the clocks going back an hour on the last Sunday in October. Cosy, dark nights by the fire with a bowl of warming stew becomes the order of the day.

We don’t like our garden to go to bed in its entirety. During November, we continue to sow and grow in the vegetable garden. If you don’t try you will never know, so if you are curious, I would give it a go anyway.

Leeks, kale, swede, swiss chard, sprouts, cabbages (red and white), spinach, parsnips (which are actually at their best after a first frost if you have a variety that harvests well at that time), winter salads, radish and some cauliflowers are all plants that you can plan on harvesting through November with a little care and attention.

As well as vegetables, we still get some Autumn fruiting raspberries before it’s time to cut them back.

There are still so many seeds you can sow in Autumn. The weather can obviously fluctuate a fair bit here in the UK, so all my seeds are started undercover in some form. Be it the polytunnel, greenhouse or indoors on a windowsill.

It also stops mice stealing your seeds, leaving you scratching your head as to why they haven’t germinated.

This year I have just sown the following in the first few days of November. Don’t be limited to what I have sown, there are many options which I have not yet tried.

  • Black radish
  • Winter lettuce mix
  • Lettuce cos Vaila
  • Giant winter spinach
  • Spinach rubino
  • Radix mix
  • Broccoli Stromboli F1
  • Sweet peas (Mammoth)
  • Broad Beans Aquadulce Claudia
  • Meteor Peas

Everything germinated on or before 10 days. The sweet peas went in a little earlier and took a while longer but that’s ok too.

As well as sowing seeds you can plant a few things too, before the ground becomes less workable.

  • Garlic
  • Onion sets
  • Bare rooted fruit trees
  • Consider splitting rhubarb now it is dormant

As well as continued sowing, planting and harvesting, there are always jobs to do here, some of which are best done whilst you still have some warmth in the sun.

Clear your beds that are empty, mulch with rotted manure or leaf mould etc and cover. If nothing else, the cover will help the ground to warm up earlier next year, however it also supresses weed growth if you have that problem (we do!) and to stop the rain from leaching the nutrients from your soil.

Crops that will succumb to frost that you may still have outside can be covered with protection, Chinese cabbage, oriental leaves etc.

Weed any remaining areas that need it, clearing around the bottom of your fruit trees too. You can now prune dormant fruit trees except cherry and plum.

Did you know stoned fruit trees such as cherry and plum should not be pruned in winter as it makes them susceptible to disease? They should be lightly pruned in Spring or regularly pruned in early summer.

The debris from your plot can go in to your compost bin unless too big an bulky. We have bins for horse muck which we use when rotted as mulch plus a kitchen waste bin that we add leaves, cardboard, garden waste and other compostable materials too.

You can make leaf mould by collecting leaves, which my lovely friend Louise does.

Catch up with any other outstanding jobs, fixing leaky taps, covering the hole in the shed to stop the mice getting in, fixing broken gates, putting out solar pathway lights so you can see in the dark, prepare your bird feed areas for when the ground freezes. There’s plenty 😉

Check over any plants you have out, removing yellowing leaves and look for signs of disease and net if bird’s start to munch on them as their food source becomes harder to find. Make sure you offer them am alternative though!

Most importantly, plan next year’s vegetable plot. What will you need, what one thing would you like to be self sufficient in? What have you never grown before that you are going to try? Please let me know in the comments below, I love to hear other people’s ideas.

A gentle start to January

We are quietly embracing January, welcoming it with open arms and understanding that we are to continue to make use of the darker evenings to reflect and plan. The candles are lit early in the evening, bringing with them a cosiness to welcome whoever visits the kitchen.

Meals are lovingly prepared using pantry staples and canned goods, supplemented with whatever can be harvested from the garden. Something that I am in awe of year on year is the abundance of crops we can still bring to the kitchen table during the colder, darker months. I sometimes reflect on how this pace of life suits me more, there is something to harvest daily should you wish but it doesn’t come in quicker than you can deal with it.

Winter gives more time to meal planning, comforting stews and soups inevitably place highly on the menu plan which I am completing weekly right now. Sitting down with a lists of what needs using, produce available from the garden and items in the freezer and pantry, I’ll ask the family if there are any meals they would like to see feature that week and I start pulling it all together. Every week I will write out on the board what meals we are having to save everyone asking. They still do though 😉

I still have the luxury of working from home, so I am enjoying that whilst it lasts. So far, the back to basics theme that we started out with is working out very well. The pace will up, I have no doubt, but January and February should be used to “plug in” and recharge, take care of yourself, reflect and plan. In our house anyway.

2022 – Back to basics

Back to basics is the theme I realised was a perfect fit for our 2022. As I lay there, unable to sleep, pondering lots of different topics that inevitably pop in to your head when you’re trying to sleep, it dawned on me that after everything we have all been through over the last 2 years or so, we have all been tried and tested and we WILL come out the other side. Our mental and physical health may have been tested, maybe even suffered a little so we need to take extra good care of ourselves in the coming months and year. For me, that means not putting too much on myself or my family, nourishing what we have and trying to live a more simple life.

Steven and I have had our own challenges in 2021, as I am sure you can relate to in your own lives and no doubt 2022 will throw a few curveballs in too. For me personally, I want to take control again and really start mindful, slow living, getting back to basics. Find the simpler way of doing things and that goes for how I think about things too, not just how we go about it.

Only growing what we will use, not setting ourselves up to fail, managing our animals and raising our food, using the whole bird and appreciating the little things. Conscious, intentional spending and not a penny on wasted commercial items is the order of the day.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be spending on things, it simply means only getting what we will make use of and add value (not monetary). I would love for you to join me to see what the year brings and tell me about your adventures too.

I would like to cook from the smallholding as much as possible whilst also educating myself on ingredients I might not have used before.

If you are more of a visual person or would just like to see the video diaries we have, you can find us on YouTube too.

Take care and all the best for a bountiful 2022

Tracy x

Post covid reality check – back to it meal plan

The 4 of us have have recently recovered from the dreaded covid. Timely, as after 18 months of working from home I am expected back in to the office 4 days a week from tomorrow. The last week or so has been a combination of shaking off the last symptoms of covid and getting ready for the next chapter.

I’ve put together a meal plan for the coming week which revolves around the slow cooker as we are also in the middle of getting the kitchen done! I literally have no counter tops other than the island in the middle of the kitchen. The garden beckons and I have the seasonal garlic and onions to be planting which I will probably do next weekend (mid October). In the meantime, I’ll check in with some short and sweet blog posts which help me stay organised. Something I cannot claim to have been over the last 18 months as I haven’t really needed to be which explains the quietness 🙂

Recipes, smallholding updates and kitchen shenanigans to follow. Take care all and it’s good to be back 🙂

The fear of frost

If you have done any gardening, I don’t need to explain this one do I? You know exactly where I am coming from….or is it just me that has to dash outside in her nightwear to cover up plants as it suddenly “feels cold”?

Well, I got caught out. The fear of frost is real. I have lovingly tended to my first early potatoes which were planted in the greenhouse mid February and have happily romped away, growing strongly and steadily showing fresh, green foliage.

First earlies planted Feb 18th. Bags hold 2 seed potatoes, tubs 3 and the bin 4. Left to right, swift * 2, arran pilot * 4 and swift in the bin.

So when the weekend rolled round and temperatures were rising, I was too side tracked by my tomato and pepper plants surviving the cooler weather, that I distractedly followed my plan and placed the potato tubs outside, neatly along my onion bed (the one that survived the chickens getting in to the plot), gave them a water, topped them up (mounding) with rotted horse manure and went about my day.

When I woke up during the night, cold because Steven had stolen the covers, I thought about the tomato and pepper plants and happily turned over to go back to sleep, safe in the knowledge that they had an oil fired radiator and heated underpot heaters keeping them warm.

Meanwhile the poor potatoes were nithered and by the next day when I realised my mistake, they seemed want to give up the ghost. They were drooping, soft to touch, so soft, not nice soft. They actually looked like they’d dried out if you’ve ever seen a dehydrated plant that’s dropped over?

Anyway, by day 2 they were turning black on the tips which is a common symptom of being nipped by the frost.

Black on the end indicates nipped by Jack Frost

The good news is that they should recover, as long as I keep them covered if any more frosts are due that is! I’ve actually bought some heavy duty garden fleece to replace the cheaper stuff I bought. This is it if you are looking for some – I highly recommend it. Although it’s a little more expensive, it’s worth it and it can easily be made shorter with scissors but is thick enough that it won’t tear easily, which the fleece I’ve bought previously has done. I am trying to invest in longer lasting items now we are “going big” in the garden.

Every year, things will go right and things will go wrong. Some you will have been able to avoid but didn’t and some you will have tried to avoid but can’t. Don’t less it dishearten you, there will be plenty of other things that will go right 🙂

Take care, Tracy x

The Kitchen Garden is born

The Kitchen Garden vegetable bed, as I have lovingly named it, has had some overdue attention this weekend.

Our Kitchen Garden

The idea of this 6 by 4 metre bed is to grow as much veg as I can in the limited space. The idea is, if this was the entirety of my growing space, ie my house’s Kitchen Garden, would I be able to produce enough food to sustain my family for a season? Longer? Partially? I want to find out.

The idea fascinates me and along with a couple of other challenges I’ve set myself this year, I’ll be seeing how well I get on with this one.

Right now, we have broad beans inter sown with Charlotte potatoes. A further 16 supermarket potatoes that I purchased from our local greengrocer and a few stragglers in there too.

Broad beans are starting to flower

This past weekend I have planted out a few different varieties of spinach and beetroot that I had sown in modules which will hopefully survive the (yet more!) frosts that are coming.

I’ve also re sown carrots and parsnips, which I was a little too early with back in late February and early March, and they didn’t germinate. On another year, they might have germinated, so it won’t put me off trying again. It’s been a very cold Spring here in North East England this year and it feels as though a few things are behind.

There’s a few brassicas in this bed too. I took a gamble and popped them out early and they’ve shrugged the -4°c off like it was nothing. Cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage if I recall well.

I picked up some shallots in Wilko and every one of them is coming up which I am thrilled about. Alongside those babies I’ll be trying my onions that I grew from seed and also some yummy leeks.

As part of the Kitchen Garden bed, I’d like to build in a bit of a plan b, something we can rely on to provide us with our nutrients, if other things fail and so far that comes in the form of perennial kale (Taunton Dean variety) and walking tree cabbage. Both of these guys, in theory, should help me out most of the year round with greens. When I have too many greens to know what to do with, they’ll feed the chickens and ducks and when they’re sick of them, they can add green matter to the compost bin. Of course I missed out giving to family, friends and selling from the gate or to the greengrocer but you get the idea.

One other new to me plant, is the Welsh onion. This is another perennial, so another fall back plan, that should keep coming back year after year. I don’t know much about this as it’s new to me as I say, so I’ll report back.

Finally, I’ll be adding lots of herbs along the borders and including many more annual veg plants, but it’s not time just yet. We’re still due yet more frosts so I’m taking it easy, to a degree 😉

Take care, Tracy x