Goodbye November, hello Jack Frost!

Can you believe November has been and gone? I can’t. December is a busy ole’ month here, I’m sure it is for you too. It’s actually my 40th birthday coming up and I’ve been so lucky to have been gifted a Mulberry bush. It’s in my greenhouse where I hope it stays safe over the winter. Any tips welcome? I know Tricia from Tarragon and Thyme said she lost hers, I hope the same doesn’t happen to this one. I love the idea of it growing with me, something to look back on and say I received it for my 40th, I’m soft like that!

This one is from Victoriana nurseries – I’ll keep you posted on how it fairs.

This weekend saw our first proper frost of the Autumn. It was beautiful, the air was so still and calming. It was a great start to the day until I went to check on the quail and found we’d lost yet another to predators. The perils of smallholding life, a constant battle to protect your young from predators, be it quail or cabbages! We won’t be beaten!

As is customary, we went to check on the animal’s water and the field water had frozen over. As is also customary, Jack enjoyed breaking it up to ensure the sheep could get a drink.

We had a little check on the mint that we moved to the garden in a big pot and it seems to be doing very well. I’m wanting to start making my own mint tea and dehydrating some. I’m not sure it’s the best time of year to do it, or if it even matters for mint. I’ll do a bit of research and give it a go.

Steven is working alternate Saturday’s now, so we are settling in to that new routine. He’s home mid afternoon so it’s not too bad although it obviously means he has less time for jobs around the smallholding. Not an issue at this time of the year and who knows what next year will bring, so we will watch this space! It does mean the kids and I are doing more together on the Saturday which I love. This weekend we made some paperchains and homemade Christmas decorations. Never too early in our house.

Annie was a little underwhelmed by it all and slept through 😉

So, goodbye November, it was a short one! Here’s to mince pies and bailey’s coffee December. Take care everyone!

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.