Gardening Diary (NOVEMBER: week 4)
IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN
If you have not yet pulled up the pea-sticks and bean-rods now is the time to do this. Pea-sticks are not really worth storing for use next year; they become brittle very quickly. Bean-rods, however, should last two years, with care. If you use bamboo canes they may well be more expensive to start with, but should serve much longer. Canes may be stored outdoors satisfactorily, preferably laid flat on a frame to raise them above the ground, but storing indoors is better. Rods cut from hedges or trees (hazel is best) should be stored indoors. Gardeners with a large enough shed can lodge them on the crossbeams of the roof. Before storing canes or rods for the winter, strip off all the dead plant tendrils or foliage entwined around them, and also the ties. These can harbour pests and carry infections to attack next year’s crops.
You should now have a wide variety of brassicas available for harvesting. Brussels sprouts, winter, autumn , and the several varieties of should all be ready. Kale is probably best left until the New Year, but if you want to make a cutting now, the procedure should be exactly the opposite to that adopted for picking Brussels sprouts. With the latter you start with the lowest sprouts on the stem and work upwards, leaving the crown till last. With kale, cut out the head first, and the plant will then begin to produce a mass of shoots up the stem.
If while sampling cabbages, Savoys and kale, yourbecome fully open and in need of cutting, you can, as with summer cauliflowers, pull them up and hang them in a cool dark shed, where they should keep for several weeks. Autumn and winter cauliflower (heading ) have inner leaves which are much more tightly packed around the curd than the summer varieties, which helps to protect them against frost. During a sharp cold spell, half break the midribs of the leaves of any which are showing a good deal of curd, ana bend the leaves over the curd. If the heads are facing south, half-pull them from the
Ground and lay them with their heads to the north, so that the rays of the sun do not strike the curd while it is still frozen. If you bunch the outer leaves around the curd and tie them with twine or a rubber band, this will also give some protection.
Wintershould now be lifted and stored in trays or boxes of dry sand, as for carrots. The treatment is quite different from that of summer radishes, which, indeed, winter radishes do not closely resemble. Winter radishes grow much larger, sometimes to the size and shape of a small turnip, or up to 23 cm (9”) long. The flesh is white and solid, although the skin of some varieties is black. Winter radishes can be taken from store and used in salads.
Wintershould continue to yield pickings as required throughout the winter if adequately protected with cloches.
Another rather unusual winter crop, of which I generally try to grow a row, is Hamburg. It is not usually grown for its foliage, but for its root, which resembles a small parsnip, although the leaves can be used for flavouring, like ordinary parsley. It is hardy and may be left in the ground, for lifting when required at any time during the winter. Like the winter radish, it can be shredded or grated for use in a winter salad, but in our house it is more often cooked with carrots, as a second vegetable or in a casserole. It is especially appetizing when fried in butter after boiling, like salsify or scorzonera, which incidentally, may also be lifted any time they are needed.
IN THE FRUIT GARDEN
In a month’s time, the days will begin to get longer and there will also be many-new tasks to be carried out. Begin by preparing for them now.
Gaunt, bare branches of fruit trees will require attention before long. The winter pruning of apples and pears is not difficult once the principles are grasped. Pruning is necessary to regulate new growth, to increase the amount of fruiting wood, to let in light and air and to contain the tree of bush to a reasonable size. Hard pruning results in vigorous growth, while light cutting and light growth go together. The aim is to strike a balance.
Spur pruning, the shortening of all new growth to the main stem or branches, is largely reserved for restricted fruit trees, such as cordons, fans or espaliers. Renewal pruning consists of shortening one-third to one-half the number of new shoots. Because not all the new growth is cut back, this method suits varieties which only fruit at the branch tips, the so-called tip-bearers, such as Worcester Pearmain apples.
The wounds left after large branches are removed should be smoothed over with a sharp knife, and then painted over with a tree-sealing compound or a lead-based paint. This protective coating helps to prevent the entry of disease organisms into the wound, and enables the wound to heal more quickly.
Besides pruning top fruit, the cane fruits, blackcurrants and blueberries can be treated now. Blueberries are an easily grown fruit given the right kind of acid, heath-type, and their pruning requirements are not great. Indeed, they need not even be pruned regularly every year, but it is a good idea to clear out the oldest shoots, and to thin the rest, otherwise the plants become a terrible jungle, which will only produce undersized fruit.
IN THE GREENHOUSE
November frosts are seldom prolonged; countrymen reckon on three successive frosts and then rain. However, some frosts now may be quite severe, so consider which greenhouse crops, if any, may need extra warmth. One, if you are growing it, is indoor cucumber, an expensive crop to grow if it is to be adequately protected. Temperature at night should never drop below 16°C (60°F) and during the day it should be higher. In really cold conditions, the expense may be prohibitive, but the use of clear polythene sheet, to line the greenhouse walls and roof and act as an inner skin, will help to cut heat costs.
Parsley will also benefit from a little gentle warmth, if it is being grown in the greenhouse. Although it will not be killed by frost, it will cease to grow, and you may find that you have used all the leaves and there are no new ones to replace them. A few of the young plants may profitably be transferred to pots and grown on in the home.