As we descend into November, temperatures cool, days get shorter and light levels drop. Growth in the garden slows or grinds to a halt. This is a quieter month in the container garden, but there are still some useful jobs you can do.
- Care for winter crops.
- Get your wormery ready for winter.
- Sow broad beans and garlic
And if you haven’t protected your tender herbs and other crops yet, see What to do in October.
1. Care for winter crops
If you planted some winter crops (hopefully you have?) these should be well enough established now to survive the cold snaps. Remember to remain vigilant about slugs (they don’t usually hibernate for a while yet), and to water the containers during dry periods (it can be easy to forget when its cold).
To get the best growth out of your winter crops, you may want to create some protection for them but they’ll often do fine without (see October).
2. Prepare your wormery for winter
Worms work best at temperatures between about 12 and 24 degrees centigrade. When the temperature falls they will be become less active and will require less food. Take care not to overfeed them at this time – or the extra food will become rancid and smelly.
As it gets colder, you’ll also want to move your wormery to the warmest, most sheltered space you can find (unlike in summer when a cool, shady place is better).
It’s also important to make sure that you keep your wormery at least two thirds full. When its cold your worms will retreat into a huddle in the middle of the wormery – and the more biomass (ie stuff!) you have in your wormery, the more insulated your worms will be from the cold. So keep it topped up during the winter, and wait to harvest the worm compost until it gets warmer in the spring.
Some books also advise wrapping your wormery in insulation (like an old carpet) to help the worms survive the winter. I’ve kept four different wormeries (both wood and plastic) alive over seven years through winters in London and Newcastle, without finding this necessary. However, if your wormery is very exposed, this will certainly help.
3. Sow broad beans and garlic
Broad beans are one of the less productive crops to grow in containers – they take up lots of space for little return. Having said that, I love them so much I find it hard to resist growing a few. The advantage of sowing them now is that they will crop earlier next year and they’ll be more resistant to the dreaded black fly than those sown in the spring. Make sure you sow a variety of broad bean suited to winter growing – a popular one is aquadulce.
Garlic is a slow growing crop but has the advantage that it doesn’t take up a lot of space in a container. And its smell can help deter some pests. Now (or early spring) is a good time to sow it. You can take a chance and sow it from a clove of garlic you’ve got hanging round in your kitchen – if you do this, you need to be aware that it may get diseased or the variety may not be suited to your climate. A more reliable option is to buy planting garlic suited to your climate from a seed merchant or garden centre – or, even better, plant the cloves from a garlic plant you grew successfully this year!
What are you doing in your container garden this month – have you put your feet up for the winter orr are you growing a whole range of winter crops? Whatever you’re doing, I’d love to hear!