In the Vegetable Garden
Save money this month by collecting leftover seed. Most vegetables that go to seed can be harvested now and the seeds stored in packets in glass jars, a sealed plastic box or a dry place. Next spring you can test the viability of this seed by placing some of them on a damp disposable kitchen paper in a Tupperware box. The best seed to collect this month is tomato, just husk the seeds out with a spoon, place the pulp and seeds in a sieve and wash off the excess pulp under a tap leaving you with the seeds. These can then be dotted onto kitchen paper to dry out and then the paper folded up and placed in an envelope for next year. This is good to do when you have found a variety that is not readily available. It will not work on F1 varieties and is not advised, as you are wasting your time as F1 seed is often sterile.
Don’t forget to clear spent crops, thick stems can still be composted. You can shred sweetcorn stems and sunflower stems with a pair of sharp shears or lie them down on the ground and run the lawnmower over them. Put the resulting clippings onto your compost heap. The bigger the clipping the slower the decay, so don’t be afraid to get your hands in (after you have set aside the sharp shears and lawnmower) and crush any remaining thick stems under foot before adding to the heap.
November is also an ideal time to plant rhubarb. When you take possession of your crowns dig a large hole for it and mix fifty-fifty with garden compost or well-rotted manure. Plant you crown firmly and back fill with the fifty-fifty mix, top dress with well-rotted manure. I have always worked on the principle of leaving rhubarb alone in its first year only taking a small harvest in the second and going for broke in the third year. It is always best to top dress with more manure in spring and give it a feed of potash at the same time. There are several varieties available but a couple of my favourites are ‘Timperley Early’ which produces pink stems when forced and is early to crop in the season (from Thompson & Morgan at http://www.thompson-morgan.com) and the modern variety, ‘Stockbridge Arrow’, a trustworthy Yorkshire variety, hardy and easy to grow (from Thompson & Morgan).
In the Flower Garden
This is an ideal time of year to start planting hedges. Hedges are more than green corridors in our landscape. They are deeply satisfying things, they require little maintenance if you select the right variety, and they will give you decades of satisfaction. A good hedge will survive you and a yew hedge will outlive all of us. At Pig Row we have a mix of hawthorn, hazel and hornbeam and I have always believed a mixed hedge works best not just for nature but for aesthetics, as there is always some colour, some berries and some nuts. There is more scope for us at Pig Row to plant more and create wider diversity for animals and insects. You could this month start to plant hedges where you weave in wild rose, hazel, wild cornus, guelder rose and wild privet. This will give you colour and berries. The hazel will even give you nuts for Christmas Day. There is work involved in planting any hedge. At this time of year they do come bare rooted and are considerably less expensive than pot contained plants. To give you an idea, for the quarter acre I planted two years ago it cost a mere sixty pounds compared to a whopping two hundred and seventy pounds for hedging in pots. Bare rooted also means that the plants have time to acclimatise to where you are and if they die you have only lost a plant that cost you thirty pence compared to three or four pounds.