2016-11-10 / From The Garden

November Gardening To-Dos

By Cynthia Gibson

The first nippy frost has blackened the once lush, green basil plants in local vegetable and herb gardens. There are a few straggling green tomatoes, hoping for just one more warm day in which to turn red. These tomatoes, by the way, are quite good. They will not have the glorious sun-drenched flavor of a summer tomato, but they will taste better than any store-bought variety. They make a great addition to a homemade soup or tomato sauce.

Parsley should still be going strong, along with other varieties of chives and leeks.

The last potatoes can be dug or left in the ground for reseeding next spring. I have a designated potato patch, and over the years have been consistently surprised by the varieties that now exist in this bed. Even when you think you have dug them all up, at planting time next spring you will find that last year’s missed-the-trowel potatoes have seeded themselves. In the fall you’ll have twice as many potatoes to harvest as you planted.

The cucumber, pumpkin and squash crops were excellent this year. They love heat, do not mind humidity, and are ready to pick right now. Squashes should be some of the last vegetables hanging on in your garden. Pick them and bring them in. Pull all the vines and roots.

Gardening Tips:

. It is time to toss out the old soil in pots along with the dried tomato plants and weeds. Turn your pots upside down for the coming winter. If soil is left behind, moisture from rain or snow will make the pots crack – even if they are plastic. Should you have fancy terra-cotta pots, empty them and place them upside down in your basement, garage, or shed to protect them from the winter elements.

. Vegetable beds should be weeded, stakes and tomato cages pulled, and the soil covered with landscape fabric. This is a gardener’s best friend. It is black and tightly woven, but still allows water to drain through. It is perfect for keeping weeds out of beds in the fall and will prevent grass from growing on paths. The dense cloth will not allow sunlight or spring’s windblown seeds to light in your garden and grow like weeds. Remove the fabric when you are ready to plant in the spring.

. Use piles of leaves for mulch or add them to your compost pile. Dead leaves make rich compost.

. This past summer in our part of Rhode Island goes on record as having little rain, and late frosts made it a bad spring for pollination. We also had unforgiving humidity, which created a ton of mold on plants. Mold is never good. If you see it on top of your soil, scrape it off and discard it. Destroy any moldy leaves remaining on vegetable plants.

. Do not add fertilizer to your vegetable beds until February. There are still a few rogue warm days that will pop up between November and December that might give the fertilizer the wrong idea. New growth can sap the strength of plants that winter over.

. For those thinking about sustainable gardening, do not pull your leeks. Leave them in the ground over the winter so they will be twice the size by next summer.

. Plant spinach seeds now, as well as garlic. They will be among your first surprises in the spring. If you have cold frames and the coming months are mild, you can plant lettuce throughout the winter.

. It’s not too late to plan your beds and plant your flowering bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils, fritillaria, crocus, and hyacinths. Spring is always brighter when they appear.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

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