Gardening Diary NOVEMBER: week 5

IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN

This diary has for the past month or so dealt extensively with autumn digging which, with luck, should now be well advanced. Alas, there are Novembers when ‘the rain, it raineth every day’, and weekend gardeners in particular are apt to become exceedingly frustrated. However, in a favourable season, you should now be able to give thought to long-term plans for next year’s crops, especially those which need to be sown or planted in soil that has been thoroughly trenched.

Examples of crops which benefit from planting in well-prepared trenches are runner beans, French beans, peas and leeks, although such treatment does not really harm any crop. Dig a trench about 45 cm (18”) wide and 45 cm (18”) deep. Fork over the subsoil at the bottom and mix with decaying leaves. Then fill almost to the top with well-rotted farmyard manure, and cover with a few inches of soil. The surplus soil can be left in a heap, for earthing-up crops which need it later on or, alternatively, it can be heaped over the trench now to form a ridge. The manure will decay still further and subside during the winter. I usually favour the first alternative for, if the bed is level to start with, the subsidence will result in a shallow depression in which seedlings will be sheltered from cold winds, although it may also be advisable to cover them with cloches, in case you have created a frost pocket.

Mention of decaying leaves is a reminder that gardening books abound in references to leafmould, and good gardeners lose no opportunity of obtaining a supply, even to the extent of making an expedition to the most accessible forest, the boot of the car stacked with sacks to be filled with this precious substance. The best leafmould is generally found under beech trees, although almost any leafmould is worth having.

If you are a novice making your first attempt to collect leafmould, here are a few tips. Remove the top layer of recently fallen leaves, for they are not sufficiently rotten, and delve into the debris of previous years beneath. Here you find yourself digging into a tangle of fibrous roots, lumps of half-decayed leaves and a hotch-potch of vegetable matter apparently very different from the fine potting mould which you want. What you need now is a sieve. Raw leafmould always needs to be sifted. If possible, it is best to take sieve and spade to the woods and do the job there, for all that fibrous leafy debris tend to be bulky. If you take it home, however, you can pile what remains after sifting in a heap to rot down for future years.

Leafmould itself is very rich in organic plant food but needs to be mixed with other materials, such as sand, peat or soil, to form a seed or potting compost. Used alone, quickly loses moisture.

Do you have ambitions to grow prize-winning parsnips? Now is the time to begin if you have a sheltered garden in one of the mildest regions, otherwise wait until mid- or even late winter. Dig a garden plot deeply and thoroughly. Then sink holes in it as deep as possible, using a crowbar. You should be able to get down to at least 1.2 m (4’), perhaps much more. To achieve such a depth, however, you will probably finish with a hole up to 30 cm (1’) in diameter at the top. Make these holes in rows, 37.5-45 cm (15-18”) apart, with the same distance between the rows.

Horseradish is not a very popular garden crop. Apart from the fact that horseradish sauce is one of those commodities which most housewives prefer to buy rather than make, horse-radish, once in the garden, is almost impossible to eradicate. However, the home-grown product will taste better because it is fresher and if you decide you would like a few roots in the garden, now is a good time to plant—any time, in fact, from now to the end of late winter, when the weather is favourable. Propagation is by means of the root cuttings. Choose an odd corner of the garden, where its future nuisance value is likely to be least, and use those roots with dormant buds on them to produce new plants.

IN THE FRUIT GARDEN

During mild spells some of the winter moths will be on the move, crawling up the trees to lay their eggs in cracks and on the bark. Grease bands should be checked for tackiness and grease renewed if necessary.

Examine the supports, wires and ties of raspberries, blackberries and loganberries and make them secure if necessary. Winter gales will test supports severely, and any plants that break loose can be badly damaged.

Start pruning apples and pears now, or as soon as possible, if not already started, as you never know what the weather may be like later in the winter. It may be impossible in mid-or late winter when the buds have already started to sprout. Blackcurrants, too, can be pruned, either completing what was started in the summer, or doing the whole job now, making sure that the centre is well cleaned out, and the tallest shoots always cut back, or removed altogether. Otherwise, a bush becomes too tall and crops poorly.

The pruning of vines, both indoor and outdoor kinds, should be well under way by now, and you should try to finish it in any case by the end of early winter. The pruning of vines from mid-winter onwards, when the sap has already begun to move, can cause severe bleeding. For the same reason, vine rods are also best cleaned up while they are dormant, when spot treatment for the control of scale, mealy bug and overwintering red spider mites can be given.

Fruit trees that are plunged outside should have their pots protected from frost to avoid breakages, and damage to the tree roots.

IN THE GREENHOUSE

In greenhouses in which crops are grown in the floor soil and not in boxes on staging, the soil should now be prepared for next year’s crops. Dig deeply and incorporate farmyard manure or well-rotted garden compost. A rough-and-ready guide is one barrow-load of farmyard manure to 9 sq m (10 sq yd) of floor space. Take the opportunity afforded by digging to give the exposed subsoil a good soaking before replacing the topsoil and organic matter. At least six weeks later, spread hydrated lime over the surface, at the rate appropriate to the degree of acidity as shown by a soil test, and the crops to be grown there in the following season. If the soil needs to be sterilized, this also is a good time to do it, provided there are no crops coming on’. Formaldehyde is death to plants and should never be used on soil where there are any fruit or vegetables growing. It is best to sterilize the soil, then lime, then soak it and finally, when it has dried sufficiently and is workable, dig and mix in organic matter, prior to planting. This preparation is suitable for most greenhouse crops, especially tomatoes.

Greenhouses can be washed down and sterilized if necessary now and the walls whitened to reflect light better. Any broken or cracked glass or plastic should be attended to, as persistent drips and draughts make the greenhouse an ideal breeding ground for fungal diseases to attack plants already struggling against bad light and lack of warmth. It is as well to look the heating system over at the same time, before the really hard winter weather sets in. Readiness for an early start can save many a headache later.

31. August 2013 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Uncategorized, Vegetable Gardening | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gardening Diary NOVEMBER: week 5

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