Gardening in November

Gardening in November

For me the arrival of November is always a shock to the system. With only 9 Saturdays left until 2018 it is obvious that most of what I wanted to achieve – in the garden and around the home – will simply not happen this year. No use getting hung up on this. Let us focus on what can be done in the little time left before Christmas.

After my rant about the handling of the drought we’ve had some welcome rains. Nothing that will fill the dams, but enough to keep our gardens alive and fill us farmers with a sense of optimism for the next harvest. Locals call it a “green drought” where all you see is greenery, but the dams and ground water levels are still at pre-season figures. We remain hopeful that the drought will be broken by some decent late rains as well as proper management of our water resources by authorities and water consumers alike.

I still recommend using whatever water you have available to grow food. Fruit trees, berries, perennial vegetables like artichokes, asparagus and rhubarb are all investments in future food security. Once established they do not need a lot of water either. But we cannot live without our annual veggies – and now is the time of the summer abundance. Tomatoes, courgettes, eggplant, squash, pumpkin, cucumber, peppers – all of these will be filling our harvest baskets soon. If your planning failed you this year there is still time to head for the nearest garden centre to see what they have available. You will surely find some well-established seedlings as well as larger plants in pots. For the more patient gardeners almost all the summer vegetables can still be sown for an autumn harvest. Continue with your succession sowings of green beans, corn, root crops and leaf lettuce.

The rest of the garden should not be neglected however. Our ornamental gardens are an extension of our homes. We not only live out there al-fresco style, but the garden also adds value to our properties – on more levels than only financially. By now you should be well aware of which plants thrive in your un-irrigated garden beds. Plant more of these, try to introduce plants that you see in landscapes around you and add plenty of indigenous bulbs and succulents. If you are wary of establishing any new plants this season, make some notes, save pictures on your phone and plan where you need to make some changes next season.

I am amazed at how beautiful my roses are looking this year. The weekly drizzles we’ve had unfortunately brings with it the threat of fungal attacks, but I have not had the need to spray against this yet. Aphids seem to be a problem this year, but I am always letting them be in the beginning of the season to encourage natural predators like ladybugs and wasps to come and feast on them. Other pests to keep an eye out for include fruit fly, codling moth, thrips and leaf miner. I have also seen plenty of snails around. We must remember that drought stress negatively affects the immunity of plants. This could lead to more damage by pests and diseases. For me the best defense is a regular, often weekly, spraying of a good organic foliar feed. Use half the recommended dose and apply as a fine mist spray.

Other tasks include the routine preparations for summer – set your lawnmower higher (if you still have a lawn!), wind-proof your trees, mulch, mulch and mulch, keep weeds at bay and make sure whatever rain falls on your property is saved or directed onto your plants. Amaryllis planted in the first week of the month will flower by Christmas. Perennials like daylilies, irises, agapanthus and dietes are drought resistant and can liven up pots and patio beds in expectation of the festive season. Plant up some old garden pots with succulents and use these as table decorations if your cut flower beds look a bit drab.

November brings the promise of plums, apricots, green figs and strawberries. Homemade jam tastes better and I am sure is much healthier than the canned shop bought brands. I always adjust my sugar content to the sweetness of the fruit – often needing less than half of what the recipes recommend. Remember to harvest ripe fruit daily – even if you must keep them in the fridge until you have enough for a pot of jam.