While we might be bunkering down to protect our plots from the first frosts – November can also be one of the most productive months in the vegetable grower’s calendar with plenty to pick and pickle…
Store autumn produce
It’s time to protect those precious crops or lift and bring them indoors. Roots such as carrots and celeriac can be covered with straw or packed into boxes of sharp sand; apples and pears can be wrapped in newspaper and placed in single layers in crates; while onions do well hung in net bags in a cool room or, of course, preserved in vinegar.
Grow your own mushrooms
A damp autumn day is an ideal time to turn your attention to fungi, and it’s easy to grow your own with specialist kits. Try oyster, shitake and button mushrooms by ordering starter kits impregnated with mushroom spawn (see gourmetmushrooms.co.uk or mushroombox.co.uk). You can also insert dowels into logs, straw bags or even scatter them onto old paperback books. Keep them moist and warm and you could be harvesting within two to three weeks. (Or forage for your supper instead!)
Give rhubarb some TLC
Congested rhubarb sets can be lifted and divided this month. Simply slice down the middle with a spade and replant the crowns to breathe new life into them. You could also try lifting the crowns and following the traditional ‘Wakefield Rhubarb Triangle” method of forcing indoors for gourmet pink stems.
Gardening can be an expensive business but there are thrifty ways to save money on the plot this autumn with a little bit of legwork. One way is to make your own leafmould, which will provide a superior soil conditioner that’s far better than anything from the garden centre. Site your leaf heap directly on bare soil and construct a cage, around 6ft square, using posts and chicken wire. Collect soft leaves like oak and beech (rather than thick leathery leaves) and use as a mulch around plants in year one, digging in as a soil conditioner in year two. (Find more of my handy #saveplotdosh tips via Twitter and Instagram).
And this month’s top plot tucker…
Turnip top pasta
Cook 500g (1lb 1oz) pasta in a pan of boiling water until al dente. Heat 1-2tbsp rapeseed oil in a separate pan and fry 1 chopped clove garlic and 1 chopped chilli for 3 minutes. Add 500g (1lb 1oz) young turnip tops and fry for another 5 minutes, or until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta and add to the greens, coating in the oil, and serve with shavings of Parmesan.