November is a time to clear away the old and plan the new
NO fruit, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, November". Thomas Hood's poem sums up how a lot of people feel about the penultimate month of the year, but I rather like November.
It feels like a decisive month, when it is usually too cold for fruit and vegetables, and the merry go round of the allotment or veg patch can stop for a while.
It is a quiet month, and a month for bonfires, where they are allowed; a proper time for clearing away some of the old, and planning for the new. December always feels a bit too busy for all of that.
I also feel a renewed sense of respect for the winter vegetables that can stand outside over the next few months, and produce something edible. Kale, purple sprouting broccoli, and savoy cabbages can do it, and look good too. But they have been in the soil for a while, and had the chance to get used to weather, fair or foul.
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I have a particular respect for the broad beans and garlic which can be sown now and will snatch the warmth that's left in the soil to make a start on life. Neither of them like to be damp but cold does not faze them. Making the most of the last warmth, feels like I'm getting some extra value out of the old year.
It's the trusty aquadulce broad bean that people rely on for an autumn sowing. Often it comes with instructions to sow in double rows, so that each plant can afford some protection to its neighbour, but also to counter loss of some plants to weather or pest. Any other protection will also pay good dividends, particularly if it helps to keep the soil dry.
Garlic needs to sit through a winter. The cold encourages the bulb to divide into cloves, otherwise it may remain whole, like a very dense onion.
It's not too late to be sowing garlic this week, especially if you are sowing into containers, or modules, for planting out in spring. I have never had a problem with using garlic bulbs that I've bought to cook with, rather than those from a nursery, that have been carefully screened for viruses and so on, although some gardeners advise against using the shop bought ones.
I like to grow lots and lots of garlic, so it would be too expensive to use the nursery varieties only. Using a combination of these works well for me, and I like the surprise element of seeing how they grow. One year, I had unknowingly bought a Rocambole variety that grew beautiful spiralling stems.
If viruses are a worry, remembering to sow garlic in a different place the following year will avoid most problems. This year I want to grow even more, in the hope that I shall have enough to have a go at making my own smoked garlic. I bought some from the wonderful greengrocers Dig In, in Redfield, and since then, I've been hooked.