By Hannah Zwartz, Green Gardener
In November, even non-gardeners feel a stirring urge to get outside. Evenings are longer, mornings lighter, and with growth at its fastest between now and the December solstice, everything looks fresh and lush.
Little and often is a good habit for gardeners. Take your cup of tea outside and notice what needs doing; even ten minutes a day in the garden adds up to an hour a week.
If you want to be harvesting veges this summer, now is the time to set up. November is the main planting month for beans, tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers. Lots of compost helps feed plants and also holds moisture, meaning less watering will be needed over the dry months
Mulch, mulch mulch
If I had just one word for gardeners, it would be, mulch. It keeps weeds away, feeds soil life and stops plants from drying out.
At this time of year I make my way round the garden with three receptacles (which could be buckets, bags or barrows). One is for compostables – prunings, spent veges, weeds without seeds, leaves etc, all of which rapidly build up the compost heap. One is for bad weeds - oxalis and grass with seeds – which I don’t want in the compost. These go to the chickens or the drowning barrel. The last is a barrow of mulch - as each area is weeded, I try to mulch right away to stop weed seeds re-sprouting. I don’t get as much time in the garden as it ideally needs, but at least this way each part that’s weeded, however small, will stay weed free over the summer.
Jobs for November
• Keep planting summer vegetables a few at a time, for a steady supply.
• Stake tomatoes, beans and peas at planting time to prevent root damage later. Tomatoes need 2m ish tall, strong stakes. For cherry tomatoes, which have a more sprawling habit, try cage-type support such as a ring of netting or tripod of canes.
• Cut the bottoms off 2-litre bottles, take off the lids and bury them upside down next to tomatoes, zucchini or pumpkin at the time of planting. Or use ollas (unglazed terracotta pots: See this link). These encourage deep rooted plants that won’t wilt when things get hot
• Weed and mulch fruit trees and berries. Plant comfrey from root cuttings (pieces of root) around the base of deciduous fruit trees.
• Compost- It’s great rotting weather and there are lots of weeds and grass clippings at hand. Pile up new heaps, and turn older ones to find the black gold at the base.
• As you weed an area, follow up with mulch straight away to prevent weeds and keep the ground moist over summer.
Salad greens, beans, peas, beetroot, tomatoes, basil, zucchini, kamokamo, pumpkin, cucumber, leeks, red onions, carrots, rocket, coriander, parsley, sunflower.
Beans, tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkin, peas, spinach, lettuce, potatoes, all sorts of herbs.
Plant of the month: Echium
Name: Tree Echium, Pride of Madeira, Echium candicans (syn E. fastuosum)
Family: Related to borage and other echiums (eg annual E. vulgare or Vipers Bugloss). Blue Bedder’ is a garden variety, flowering early then dying off in January.
Size: Quickly grows to 2m high and wide.
Likes: Sunny, hot, dry spots, great for coastal planting.
Habits: Only lives a few years, but self seeds readily into sandy soil. Naturalises in some parts of NZ, but not a listed pest plant. Loved by bees. If you like this…Look out for E. wildprettii with one tall reddish spire, and E. pininana. (tall blue spire) There are also natural crosses and bred hybrids between E. pininana and E. candicans, eg Cobalt Tower’.
Broad bean delicious dip:
1. Shell beans and blanch for 2-3 mins until tender. Run under cold water then pop the inner beans out of their grey skins by making a small tear and squeezing gently (this isn’t essential for small young beans, but for larger beans it makes the dish a brighter green as well as improving the taste and texture).
2. Place beans with 2 cloves garlic, 2t cumin, 2T lemon juice, 2-3T olive oil and a handful of coriander in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine, but keep the texture slightly chunky (use a potato masher if you prefer.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn out onto a serving plate, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika or sumac.