Gardening Diary NOVEMBER: week 3
IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN
Jerusalem artichokes are one of the root vegetables which are best left in the ground until required for use. As a matter of fact, it is inadvisable to start lifting them before about this date, for, unlike, they make their chief growth in autumn. Frost will kill off the foliage, which can now be cut down, but will do no harm to the tubers. The flavour is better if they are taken straight from the garden to the kitchen.
Jerusalem artichokes are most often boiled and served like potatoes, for which they are a useful substitute when potatoes are scarce and dear. A more appetizing method of cooking is to boil first, then mash and serve with a white sauce. That way they are really delicious, provided you like artichokes; the smoky flavour is not to everyone’s taste.
Some gardeners treat their artichokes as perennials, leaving them in the ground year after year, but they tend to die out after a time. I always dig up a few, store in sand during the winter and plant in early spring.
Globe artichokes can also benefit from a little attention now. Left alone, a plant will probably survive and produce crops of flower-buds for five or six years, but it is better to scrap the old plants after three or four years. Propagation is by means of sideshoots or rooted suckers, which can now be removed. Plant them in pottingand keep in a greenhouse or frost-free frame through-out the winter. Transfer them to a new bed in spring. An alternative is to leave the old plants in the ground all the winter and to split off the suckers in mid-spring, but there is the chance that a very hard winter will destroy them.
It is a good idea to follow this routine with globe artichokes every November, so as to have a fresh crop of young plants coming on each year.
After the suckers have been removed, the old plants can be scrapped. Younger plants, aged two and three years, should have their stems cut back to about 45 cm (18”) and the outer leaves removed. Then earth-up as far as possible and give further protection with a layer of straw or bracken (which may need renewal during the winter). Do not completely cover the crown, or it may start to rot.
The old stems of asparagus should have been removed weeks ago, but if this task has been neglected cut them down, almost to ground level, without delay, and cover the beds with a thick mulch of well-rotted farmyard manure, after firstthem. Even better than farmyard manure is a generous dressing of seaweed. Old-time gardeners used to say that to grow good asparagus it was necessary to supply plenty of salt, sand and seaweed, but today fresh seaweed is likely to be available only to gardeners living near the coast.
Rhubarb is another crop, which will benefit from a generous mulch of farmyard manure at this season, but weed with care and do not fork over thearound the roots before adding the mulch. Rhubarb roots hate to be disturbed. Secondly, unintentional damage to the roots from deep forking or hoeing will make it easier for diseases, such as crown rot or honey fungus, to enter. Once this happens, all you can do is dig up and burn infected crowns.
Now is the time to liftfor forcing. Select a few good, strong crowns, lift carefully and leave outdoors for a fortnight or so, exposed to cold weather. Then pack into a large box with sufficient peat or leafmould to keep them moist. The soil, however, should not be allowed to cover the crown. Store under a bench in a shed or some similar frost-free place. Keep them well away from direct heat, such as greenhouse pipes.
IN THE FRUIT GARDEN
With the long cold nights, weak sunlight by day and increased dampness all around, fruit in store will sweat and encourage the spread of rot through minute injuries, unless stores are well ventilated. Keep looking them over, and remove any with the telltale brown patches.
Now that most of the leaves have fallen, these can be cleared up and composted, but any leaves from trees that were badly infected with mildew or scab in summer are best burnt. Although, in theory,generates sufficient heat to kill , in practice the outside surfaces of heaps do not become so hot, and diseased material remains viable to spread the infection.
Shallow digging, away from roots, will ensure a quick clean up of the ground, and birds will devour many pests.
If you are using straw or other mulches spread permanently all over the ground around soft fruit,- it will need renewing now, if not already done, and will have the added advantage of making a drier surface to work on when pruning the trees.
When the supply of hedgerow berries and fruits are exhausted, birds and other wild animals will attack your fruit trees and bushes. Wall-trained trees such as cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, pears and apples, can be protected from bud-eating bullfinches by draping plastic or wire mesh over them. Bush fruits and gooseberries in particular, should be similarly protected. Free-standing top fruit, especially plums and pears, can have their potential crop ruined by birds removing the fruit buds. Repellant, non-poisonous sprays will have good effects if applied several times, very thoroughly, and especially after rain or snow. Rayon webbing, stretched over the smaller trees, is also effective.
Plastic or wire netting collars, placed around newly planted fruit trees, will discourage hares and rabbits from stripping off the bark. The collars should extend almost to the top of the young tree, certainly to the lowest shoots as these animals will stand on their hind legs and reach up to get at the bark. In very hard winters, prunings, if left on the ground, will divert the attention of furry foes from your trees. Sprays merely to discourage rabbits, hares and other rodents from trees have been used, but the results have been variable, perhaps because applications have not been sufficiently thorough, or not repeated.
If you have fruit growing under glass, such as grapes and peaches, they should be given plenty of ventilation. Coddling encourages pest and disease attacks, and the trees or vines may not become fully dormant, which they must, if they are to thrive the following summer. Pruning of both fruit can also be started, as soon as the leaves have completely fallen.
IN THE GREENHOUSE
Rhubarb for forcing may also be placed under the benches of a greenhouse, with a covering of black polythene or some other opaque material to exclude the light. Growth is most rapid, naturally, in a heated greenhouse, where the ideal temperature is around 10-13°C (50-55°F). You should get a crop of succulent rhubarb stems in the. Dead of winter, but the crowns treated in this way are likely to be too exhausted for further use.
Seakale may also be lifted for forcing at any time from this date onwards, but not before, because the old foliage must be allowed to die right down before forcing begins. If rhubarb needs only a little heat for forcing,needs less and is best treated in a cool greenhouse or in a frost-free shed. The advantage of a greenhouse is that it is convenient there, with probably some vacant space under the staging. Stand the roots upright in boxes, with light soil packed between them and with their crowns just showing above the surface. Cover with black polythene or some other opaque material, to exclude light and keep moist. If any light reaches the shoots, they will become bitter. Forced seakale should be ready in five weeks.