November 2011 Newsletter

When you have lifted your main crop potatoes allow them to dry

Pick apples as soon as they are ripe. This years' bumper crop means fruit is juicier, sweeter and with better skin colour than we often see, so make the most of it! There is nothing quite like a crisp apple eaten straight from the tree, although some varieties are better after a few weeks of storage in a cool place to bring out their full flavour. If you don't have a fruit tree in your garden, now might be a good time to think about planting one, there are varieties to suit every garden, with plenty of self-fertile varieties such as the frost hardy Scrumptious. It has been bred for growing in all conditions throughout the UK and is disease resistant, thin skinned and can be eaten straight from the tree making it an ideal garden variety. The new Marshalls Exclusive Christmas Pippin looks set to be a winner especially since it reaches perfection in December just in time for Christmas. It is especially good with a glass of port and some Stilton cheese (and better for you than Christmas pud!)

If you haven't already done so lift your onions and shallots

If you have a cold frame or greenhouse make full use of it by sowing salad crops to over-winter. Imagine nipping out over the Christmas period to pick your own salads! Try Lettuce Winter Density and Spicy Greens Salad Mix, Radish Wintella and White Lisbon Winter Hardy Spring Onions! Much more satisfying than opening a bag of allegedly 'fresh' salad leaves from the supermarket that have been washed in goodness knows what to stop them going limp! The New Four Seasons Greenhouse Gro-System is perfect for over winter growing, enabling you to maximise the space in your greenhouse and giving lots of winter salads just in time for Christmas.

Don't forget to order your

There is still enough time to sow Broad Bean Aquadulce Claudia and Pea Douce Provence - they are tough enough to come through the winter. If you live in a very cold area or have trouble with mice, sowing your broad beans and peas in pots in a cool greenhouse, can give a more reliable germination. Sow one seed per 7cm (3in) pot or in Rootrainers filled with multipurpose compost. Water in and keep in a cool but frost-free place. Do not grow in a heated greenhouse as they need cool conditions and will fail to germinate if it is too warm. If you want the very earliest and sweetest mangetout peas and you live in a mild area, try sowing Oregon Sugar Pod in pots or Rootrainers under a warm layer of Horticultural Fleece or a cloche to give you early pickings from May.

If you have empty vegetable beds after the harvest

Growing and picking your own Soft Fruit is such a wonderful experience and you don't need a huge garden to be able to grow some of your own. They need to be planted from autumn to early spring so now is the perfect time to begin planting these superb plants in your own garden. Raspberries, Strawberries, Blackberries, Gooseberries and Currants can all be planted any time from November to March provided the soil is not frozen or waterlogged. They will grow in most soils but a bit of preparation beforehand will reap dividends for your future crops. Make sure that the site is in a sunny spot.

Salad crops will still be going strong

For the best results, garlic needs a long growing season and a good cold period, for the cloves to develop properly, so there is still plenty of time to order your Autumn Planting Garlic Bulbs. If you don't have space in your veg plot just yet there is also a very good selection of Garlic for planting in spring. If your harvested onions are nicely dry store them in onion nets to allow good airflow and keep them dry. Or you can plait them by the stems and hang them strung together in a cool airy place.

Gardening Tips
If you have a problem with slugs in the warm moist weather of autumn

Give your greenhouse a good tidy up, remove any old dirty pots and clear up any lingering bits of rubbish and old compost as all these can harbour pests and diseases which will be ready to pounce on your precious plants as soon as the weather warms up in the spring. Give the glass a good clean to get rid of algae etc and allow more light to be available especially if you are over-wintering frost tender plants in the greenhouse. Citrox is a powerful concentrated organic disinfectant for cleaning greenhouses, pots, staging, tools and seed trays. It doesn't harm plant material in any way so may also be used to disinfect water for washing cuttings, bulbs and corms. It is pleasant smelling, safe and effective and will eliminate any fungal or bacterial spores that may be lurking in those cracks and corners. Citrox is also an effective cleaner for pond accessories and can be used to clean bird tables, feeders and bird baths. It can also be added to water butts to keep water sweet and free from disease.

If you still have tomatoes ripening cover them with fleece at night

Watch the weather forecast and if a very sharp frost is forecast give your cold frame some extra help by covering with a couple of layers of Horticultural Fleece overnight to ensure your crops stay snug and warm. You can also cover any crops growing in the greenhouse to give them just a bit of extra warmth if it's really cold outside. Remove the Fleece during the day to maximise the light and if the weather is fine don't forget to open the cold frame and greenhouse door, as ventilation is still as important as ever and on sunny winter days the greenhouse temperature can rise dramatically and should be ventilated freely except on days when there is a very cold breeze which can quickly nip your plants! Don't forget to close the vents and the door in the late afternoon when the temperature can drop considerably.

Cabbage white butterfly is still a big problem

Prepare the ground before planting soft fruit by thoroughly working the area to remove all weeds including their roots and dig in as much well rotted organic matter as possible. Summer fruiting Raspberries will need the support of stakes and wires as they grow and it is best to put these in place in advance of planting to avoid accidental damage to your young canes. When planting any Soft Fruit – Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackcurrants, Blackberries or Gooseberries – make sure the hole is large enough to spread out the roots and is a depth of just above the existing soil mark on the stem. This will encourage better root growth. Using Rootgrow Mycorrhizal Fungi as you plant will give plants a really good start. It helps plants to establish quicker, grow better and the mycorrhiza will be effective throughout its life. Rootgrow is endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society too!

Cut down Asparagus stems

As you rake up and clear away fallen leaves don't let them go to waste. Recycling autumn leaves is one of the easiest ways to make free garden compost. Make some holes in the bottom of black bin liners, fill up with leaves, packing them well down and if they are very dry give them a sprinkling of water. Tie the tops and store the bags in a shady spot. Chopped or shredded leaves will break down quicker but this isn't a necessity, a quick way to do chop them is to run over them with a lawn mower, the grass that is cut and mixed with them will also help with the composting process. Any deciduous leaves can be used and you will end up with lovely crumbly leaf mould which you can spread as a mulch on your borders and around fruit trees. It is particularly valuable applied to raised beds or the vegetable patch in autumn as soil improver and winter mulch for bare soil, where it will suppress weeds and add valuable humus.