Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary November 2014

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 20th November 2014

We have had some really wild weather in the Kitchen Garden in November - high winds, storms, torrential downpours and generally wet, mild days.   The winds have brought the leaves down off the trees in abundance, with plenty more still to come. As regular readers will know, I am not a lover of clearing leaves and wet ones are even worse! I am hoping that December will bring us some calmer, brighter days.....

leaves 2As well as raking leaves, there has been much activity in the kitchen garden this month, despite the awful weather. Our new strawberry plants arrived and these were quickly planted into the raised bed, where the soil had been prepared by Jo last month. We used Root Boost to give them a good start and added mulch mats and labels. The mild weather will help them to establish before the cold weather arrives.

We also planted out our broad beans this month. The ground had been dug over and had well rotted manure and poultry manure pellets added to it. The beans had been growing in rootrainers in the cold frame. Once they were in the ground we built a slot and lock frame and covered it with fleece which was secured into the ground with pegs. The fleece will protect the beans from the worst of the weather and from the pigeons who are looking for an easy meal.

Earlier in the month we harvested our sweet potatoes. This is always an event greeted with trepidation and excitement as you never know if success or failure lurks beneath the soil. Our sweet potatoes are always one of the most sweet pot harveststunning and admired crops in the Kitchen Garden. We grow them in a Superior Raised Bed and train them up an obelisk. The heart shaped leaves have an almost tropical feel and always look great. We have yet to enjoy flowers, but one year they may treat us. Sweet potatoes are harvested when the leaves begin to turn yellow, before the frosts arrive. Last year we harvested them in mid-October but this year they lasted longer due to the warm conditions. The harvest was a good one, but not as good as last year.   This year they were grown in a wide, shallow raised bed. Next year we will go back to a deep one as the plants seem to prefer it.

When the weather was too bad to be outside in, we retired to the greenhouse to begin the winter clean. The capillary matting was removed from the staging which was then cleaned with greenhouse cleaner. New matting will be added to it when the cleaning is complete. Jo has been cleaning the inside of the glass with a swop top brush. The next step will be to add a layer of bubble wrap to the glass as winter insulation. We are late with this job this year, but the mild conditions have been kind. We’ll be putting this top of our priorities for the beginning of December so we don’t caught out by frosts.

Another job that we were later getting done this year was the glue bands on our fruit trees. Early in November we removed the old bands and replaced them with new ones. The fruit tree supports were also given a glue band and this process will be repeated in early spring. This will stop bugs overwintering in the soil from climbing into the tree and causing problems next season.

The wet weather this month gave us the opportunity to draw up our garden plan for 2015. Since the garden was first built, we have kept a plan of what is grown where in the garden. This allows us to maintain crop rotation as well as keeping a record of what has grown where in the past.   We keep it hung on the wall in the potting shed and use it to refer to when we are completing our seed order.

We also keep a daily diary of the jobs we carry out along with the weather conditions. This is really useful to refer back to year on year. It is also a useful prompt for the jobs that need doing at various times of the year.   Along with the garden plan, we can tell which crops grow best in certain parts of the garden, and whether they are more suited to raised bed gardening, or growing in the ground.

It’s always good, at the end of the year, to spend a rainy morning reflecting on what you have done, what has gone well and what you intend to try again next year. At this time of year, the seed catalogues and of course, the Harrod Horticultural brochure are landing on our doormats. Just in time for a subtle hint to Santa.....

Here are some of the jobs we've got planned for December in Stephanie's Kitchen Garden:

• Dig over bare soil and add compost or manure.

• Clear any leaves or debris from the ground.

• Continue cleaning pots and tools.

• Bubble wrap the greenhouse.

• Pick yellowing leaves from brussel sprouts.

• Order seeds.

We're always here to offer advice and support. Go to the Ask the Expert section on the website and Email Horticultural Advisor Jo Blackwell with your Kitchen Garden queries or Pest Control expert Gavin Hatt and they'll do their best to help!

We're busy tweeting about all things Harrod Horticultural - what we're doing, special offers, gardening tips and advice and you can always use Twitter or Facebook to get in touch with us as well. With our webteam manning the Tweet decks and Facebook site, you can be sure you'll get the best service we can offer!

Our 100-page Autumn catalogue is out now and it's packed full of gardening ideas and products to solve the problems every gardener faces, plus plenty more seasonal ideas for harvesting, storage and preserving solutions.

Happy gardening!