Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary November 2015

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 24th November 2015

November in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden has been a busy and eventful one. The weather has certainly kept us on our toes. We’ve experienced high winds and heavy rain along and later on, the first frosts of the year. But November 2015 will probably long be remembered as the month that box blight hit the garden.

Box BlightLate in October, Jo noticed a small chocolate brown patch of leaves on one section of the box hedge in the Kitchen Garden.   Within a couple of weeks the brown patches had spread and begun to die back. At this point we were very concerned and sent samples off for testing. Shortly afterwards, we received the devastating news that our plants had been hit by box blight.

We are always very careful to practise good hygiene with our hedges, never complacent that our plants were immune. Our shears and tools are always cleaned and disinfected after they have been used. We have box in various parts of the garden and we always take great care to use sterile tools on each one. Our plants are fed regularly with seaweed throughout the growing season to try to keep them healthy and, hopefully, more resistant.  

I have read about box blight, seen pictures of it and watched TV reports about it. However, nothing prepared me for the voracity of Box Blight -1it once it hits your own garden. It has been horrifying to watch, powerless, how fast it has devoured our beautiful hedges.   The box hedges define Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden and the mood has been very sombre as the news has sunk in that they are in grave danger. We have cut out the affected growth, collecting as much of the plant debris as possible, and burnt it. The hedge is being sprayed with Fungus Fighter on a weekly basis. We can only hope that the oncoming cold weather will slow its progress and that the structure of the garden can be saved.

Elsewhere in the garden, we have been preparing for the oncoming winter weather. We had been very lucky with the mild temperatures In October and early November allowing us the time to thoroughly clean the inside of the glass and supports before adding bubble wrap insulation. Our heater bubble wrap greenhouseis keeping the temperatures at a steady level, and adding the bubble wrap will help with the cost efficiency. If you don’t heat your greenhouse, the bubble wrap is an even more important addition to help protect your plants from the worst of the winter cold.

As well as overwintering crops from the Kitchen Garden, we are also using the greenhouse as shelter to tender plants from around the ornamental gardens. Other plants that are too large to be moved, such as our olive trees, have been covered with a plant jacket to make sure they are safely snug and protected from frost. Most of our remaining crops in the Kitchen Garden are now protected with a layer of fleece, however we still keep a small supply of it to hand should a big dip in temperatures be forecast. Our winter salads have been covered with a pvc cover in their manger to allow us to control the levels of moisture they receive as well as providing shelter from frosts.

This month we have given our rhubarb bed some care and attention. Rhubarb is a low maintenance crop that rewards the gardener with loads of delicious stems, great for freezing to fill the winter gap. Each year, once the leaves have gone, we give our crop a generous mulch of well rotted manure or home made compost. Take care not to cover the crown of the plant though, as this can cause it to rot.   A couple of our plants have been in the ground for a few years, so we dug these up and divided them to make more plants.

Earlier in the month we took time to check the stakes on our brussel sprouts, and make sure that the plants were securely tied in to keep them safely in place. It was just in time, as a week later very high winds hit the garden and the sprouts were left intact. Our stormproof cages did exactly as they were designed to do and collapsed onto their crops of broccoli, protecting both the plants and the structure of the cage.

We have already harvested a few sprouts and parsnips this year, but are holding off a big harvest until the crops have been autumn leaf collectionsweetened by a good hard frost. Most of our crop is earmarked for the big family Christmas lunch, so they should be well frosted by then!

And of course, this month we have been continuing to rake up the many leaves currently falling on the garden.

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

  • Apply Winter Wash to our fruit trees.
  • Draw up our garden plan for spring/summer 2016.
  • Begin digging over the main beds and adding organic matter.
  • Check the boundaries and structures in the garden to check for any required routine maintenance.

We're always here to offer help and support.  Go to the Ask the Expert section on our website and email Horticultural Advisor Jo Blackwell with your Kitchen Garden queries or Pest 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 desks and Facebook site, you can be sure you will get the best service we can offer.

Our 108 page Autumn catalogue is out now and is 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!