The Vegetable Garden In November
Last week I was in the vegetable garden harvesting radishes, and even though I was well aware of how little rain we’ve had lately, I was nevertheless shocked by the dryness of the soil. So I checked The National Weather Service, and learned that our rainfall so far this year, through the month of October, is over five inches below our average rainfall — 5.36 inches to be exact! And here’s another unusual thing about our 2016 growing season — the first killing frost date of October 15 has come and gone without a killing frost. Wow, what a growing season. We started off with periods of too much rain, followed by weeks of no rain, and now our fall killing frost is more than two weeks late.
November in the vegetable garden is the time to harvest fall crops — lettuce, spinach, kale, radishes, turnips — and it marks the beginning of the garden clean-up season. It is also a time to reflect back on the growing season as to what varieties performed well and what varieties performed below our expectations. Don’t forget to make year-end notes in your garden journal, as this information can be very valuable when planning for the 2017 growing season. We will soon be reminded of the upcoming 2017 growing season because in December we will start to receive the 2017 seed catalogs — chock full of pristine and unblemished photos and exciting new vegetable offerings.
Here’s my Vegetable Garden To-Do list for November:
- Root crops such as carrots, radishes, turnips and parsnips store well outdoors in the ground. Just before the ground freezes, bury these crops under a deep layer of leaves or straw. Harvest as needed during the winter months.
- Dig up some of your parsley plants (including the root) and plant into a small container which can be placed in a sunny spot in your kitchen.
- If your soil test revealed a low pH — meaning it’s too acid — now’s the time to add lime in accordance with your soil test recommendation. Lime acts very slowly but will permeate the soil over the winter and adjust your soil pH before spring planting season. Avoid other fertilizing treatments in late fall, because they will leach away before spring and be unavailable for your spring crops.
- Prepare a spot in the garden NOW for early planting of peas. This way you’ll be all ready for planting peas in the spring, before the soil dries out.
- Don’t forget the garden hoses: drain and roll up and store on a warm sunny day. It’s hard to get a cold-water hose to coil into a tight coil. Also, be sure to shut off and drain any outdoor water pipes and irrigation systems that may freeze during the cold weather.
- Fallen, spoiled or mummified fruit should be cleaned up and destroyed by burying or placing them in the trash. Good sanitation practices reduce re-infestion of insects and diseases in the following seasons.
- Mulch strawberries with straw or leaves. This should be done after several nights near 20ºF but before the temperature drops into the teens. Apply the straw or leaves loosely but thick enough to hide plants from view.
- Now is a good time to collect soil samples to test for pH and nutrient levels. A free soil testing kit is available at your local Extension Office. The Charlottesville-Albemarle Extension Office is located in the County Office Building on 5th Street Extended, 460 Stagecoach Road, (434) 872-4580.
- Rhubarb plants that are four years old or more can be divided and transplanted. A site prepared by deep digging and incorporating compost will pay off with a good yield in upcoming years.
- Tidy up the asparagus bed. Cut off the tops of the plants to about 3-4 inches above the soil level. Weed and add a winter dressing of compost or aged manure to the bed.
- Early November is a good time to plant most fruit trees, especially if a little mulch is added. Local gardening and landscape centers often offer discounts on fruit trees at this time of the year.
- Keep mulches pulled back several inches from the base of fruit trees, to prevent bark injury from hungry mice and rodents.
- If you have been thinking about installing a deer fence around your vegetable garden, the fall and winter months are a good time to design and build a deer fence.
November may not be a busy month for growing produce or harvesting a garden’s bounty, but there are plenty of gardening tasks to keep a gardener busy, and they’re well-worth the effort because they’ll ensure not only a healthy winter in the garden, but a quick start to a productive spring.
Thanks for stopping by The Garden Shed; we look forward to your visit next month.
Tips and Tasks adapted fromVirginia Cooperative Extension, Albemarle/Charlottesville, November Monthly Horticulture Tip Sheets, Va. Coop.Ext. Monthly Tip Sheets http://offices.ext.vt.edu/albemarle/programs/anr/tip-sheets/index.html
“Deer,” Internet Center For Wildlife Damage Management, Cornell University, Clemson University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Utah State University, Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, http://icwdm.org/handbook/mammals/Deer.asp