This is the last in a twelve part series for new gardeners. If you have never planted vegetables before but always wanted to, this is the series for you. Robin, who writes the blog Vegetable Matter, was posting through August. Robin lives in Houston and I live in Boston. We will be posting about what to do in the garden that month and giving advice. So if you have always wanted that vegetable garden, but didn’t know where to start, you have no excuse. Get growing!
November in New England brings frozen ground. Even most of the hardy plants will die soon without protection. Some root crops can be harvested if they are well mulched - beets, leeks, carrots, parsnips. Some brassicas could still producing like kale and Brussels sprouts, but not much gardening is going on in this month. Typically the last of the garden is cleaned up and the plants put in the compost bin.
Looking Back and Looking Ahead
November is a time of reflection for me. The first thing I do is look back on the growing season and take stock of what did well and what did poorly. If you took records throughout the season this part is so much easier. I don't keep a garden journal, but many do and that is a good way of record keeping. My blog is my record of what happened, but I do keep other records. I have a sheet that has all the seed that I'm going to plant and it lists what date I expect to plant. It has a a place fill in for when it was started, how well it germinated, and when it was planted outside. In early spring I'm really good about filling it out. As summer hits I quit. Lets just say record keeping isn't my strong suit. I really try, but sometimes I fail at it. When don't record things, I have to go back to my blog to try to figure out when something was planted.
I ask myself questions like, "Did my carrot crop fail because I planted too early?". "Should I have harvested my garlic later?" "Should I have put my zucchini under a row cover early on to avoid the squash vine borers?" "What were my favorite varieties?" "Was it worth growing Amish Paste again?" Step through each of the crops and take notes for yourself. I do mine on my blog every November. Look to the right panel on my blog and look for my 2009 Overviews. For each set of crops I list the good and the bad from the year. This way I have a place I can go back to and see what happens when I plant carrots in the middle July versus the middle of August. Your notes don't need to be as detailed as mine, but it is good to have all this information to tell you what works and what doesn't where you grow. Next year when you plant carrots, you can go back to your notes and see what worked for you in previous years.
Looking back at your growing season will help you plan next year's garden. Yes we have come full circle to planning your garden again. But this time you have information. Looking back will tell you if you planted too many beets and you need to only plant a three foot row rather than an eight foot row. And if you are like me and read blogs looking back on what you have read will give you an idea for what you will want to plant for next year. I know I want to try celery for the first time next year.
As you plan next year's garden. You should keep in mind one thing that I talked about once before in June. But it bears repeating because it is so important. Rotation. You will often hear that you should rotate your crops. This means that if you planted tomatoes in a spot last year, you shouldn't plant tomatoes in that spot this coming year. Different crops have different rotation schedules based on the diseases they have and how long they last in the garden. Each crop is rotated with the other in its family. These families are plants that are all closely related and tend to have the same needs and diseases and insect pests. The following is a list of the families of the common plants in your garden.
- Amaryllidacaea Family often called the Alliums: leeks, onions, chives, garlic
- Brassicaceae Family often called Brassicas or cole crops: broccoli, cauliflower, mustards, cabbage, rutabaga, kale, collards, cress, radish, rocket, turnips, Asian greens
- Chenopodiaceae Family: beets, Swiss chard, spinach
- Compositae Family: artichokes, sunflowers, lettuce
- Cucurbitaceae Family often called cucurbits: squash, pumpkins, zucchini, gourds, melons
- Gramineae Family: Corn
- Leguminosea Family often called legumes: beans, peas, peanuts
- Solanaceae Family often called nightshade crops or solanums: peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, tomatillos, eggplants
- Umbelliferae Family: dill, carrots, coriander or cilantro, fennel, parsnips, parsley, celery
Typically the solanaceae rotation is on a 3-4 year basis. So don't plant tomatoes where ones of the solanaceae family has been in the last few years. The brassicas are typically on a 6-8 year rotation because club root can be very persistent in the soil. The others I worry less about as their diseases aren't as persistent in my garden. In fact I often keep the peas in the same bed with my leafy greens. And then beans come in the next year. So I occasionally have legumes following legumes. But I am adamant about not following a solanaceae with another solanaceae.
Diseases aren't the only reason to rotate crops. Different plants have different nutrient needs also. If you always grow the same crops in the same place. Your soil is more likely to become unbalanced. The typical rotation is to put a heavy feeder (like corn or leafy vegetables) in after a heavy giver (the Legume family puts nitrogen back into the soil), then follow that with a light feeder (like a root crop). Which gives you a three year rotation. This is the typical advice. Which I never follow. My rotations are as follows. Solanum is the first rotation, followed by a mix of brassicas, lettuce, root crops, herbs and peas, followed by a mix of beans, squash, and corn. I put my legumes in with my heavy feeders typically. There is no one right way to do a rotation. Do what works for you.
Since we are busy looking ahead to next season. Now is the perfect time to look ahead to your compost pile. We talked about this last February, but this is the month to collect leaves for you piles. If you live in the suburbs the easiest to find carbon source is leaves. And during this season other people do your work for you. They bag them up and put them right on the curb for you to collect. You might have enough leaves already that fall in your own yard, but if you don't, your neighbors can supply that need. I collect enough for a whole year of composting in my garden. In fact if you collect more than you need for your compost. You can save the rest in a pile for a couple of years to make leaf mold. This is just the leaves broken down into organic matter. It makes a fabulous and free much if you have enough room in the garden to do it.
Other Posts in the SeriesDetermining your growing zone and planting peas (Vegetable Matter - December)
Planning a Garden (Daphne's Dandelions - December)
Growing Lettuce (Vegetable Matter - January)
Starting transplants indoors (Daphne's Dandelions - January)
Growing tomatoes (Vegetable Matter - February)
Compost (Daphne's Dandelions - February)
Snap Beans (Vegetable Matter - March)
Peas and Spinach (Daphne's Dandelions - March)
Eggplant (Vegetable Matter - April)
Brassicas (Broccoli, Cabbage, Asian vegetables) (Daphne's Dandelions - April)
Edamame (Vegetable Matter - May)
Tomatoes (Daphne's Dandelions - May)
Lima Beans (Vegetable Matter - June)
Disease Control (Daphne's Dandelions - June)
Chili Peppers (Vegetable Matter - July)
Insect Control (Daphne's Dandelions- July)
Southern Fall Garden (Vegetable Matter - August)
Preserving the Harvest (Daphne's Dandelions - August)
Season Extension (Daphne's Dandelions - September)
Garlic (Daphne's Dandelions - October)