Going on in the PNW from Scratch Garden – November 2015

I know this is November’s post, but October still gets a mention. { I should have posted last month. Better late than never… } October was an amazing month – sunny, warm, and wet. With the return of the fall rains, the garden sprang back like nothing else! Even a lot of what the deer damaged at the end of summer came back and is giving us a yield.

November rushed in with gusto… literally. Scourging storms cleaned the orange flagging of the surrounding evergreen canopy, wiping away the remnants of a drought marked summer. Fall is definitely here.

Fresh snow once again blankets the Olympics… breathtaking, especially with the newly cleared view. Where before were only glimpses of the Canal and a wall of evergreens, we now have stunning fall colors of the surrounding pacific dogwoods, willow, and red alder. The sky reflecting off the water of Hood Canal, and the lights and colors of Sunnyside, are scenery we now get to experience. It literally does… it stops us in our tracks at times… it takes our breath away. We feel so blessed to call this place home.

In spite of the snow covered peaks, we have not yet had the first frost of the year. We must be getting close, it was 38 (F) last night. The wood stove is going full blast today, working hard to keep the edge off.

Still, the garden keeps going. This is what we have been munching on…

HARVESTING – Obtain a Yield

One of the primary design principles of permaculture… obtain a yield. Without a yield what is the point of it all? Harvest it, and use it…

  • Horseradish – this is the first year we have harvested and processed horseradish. That was an experience I’m going to have to tell you about.
  • Sprouting broccoli, Italian green – bounced back even after deer damage, we pick a handful every few days.
  • Cauliflower – got one little head from a plant that bounced back from deer damage.
  • Carrots – July-sown, coming back from deer damage and looking good, we will be using these until spring.
  • Scallions – as needed
  • Greens – lovely cold season crops, these are some of  my favorites!
    • Lettuces, heads and baby leaf
    • Chard
    • Kale
    • Beet tops
    • Miner’s lettuce
  • Herbs & Medicinals – keep working these into the menu plan as much as possible!
    • Cilantro
    • Vietnamese coriander
    • Thyme
    • Rosemary
    • Calendula
    • Basil

IN STORAGE – Notes on Inventory

  • Potatoes – coming to the end
  • Squash – plenty left
  • Garlic – still lots
  • Carrots – a few in cold storage
  • Beets – a few in cold storage { I’ve decided beets don’t really agree with me unless they are pickled and pickled is the family’s favorite way to eat them anyway. Next year – grow one big batch for pickling and call that good.
  • Canned goods – still working on tuna, jams, salsa (red and green), and more from last year. We worked hard this year at improving our habit of eating from the garden. That combined with a summer full of Airbnb guests and farm-to-table breakfasts, we did a really good job of keeping up with everything the garden gave us. We didn’t do a lot of canning this year.
  • Oven-Dried Herbed Tomatoes – in the freezer
  • Huckleberries – in the freezer


Sowing & Transplanting

Fall bulbs – It’s not too late for fall planted bulbs. Just try to get them in by Thanksgiving at the very, very latest. Once the ground frozen or your soil is too wet, you are out of time. Add a little bone meal worked into the top few inches of soil. This is what we put in these last few weeks –

  • Garlic – we added ‘Italian late’ a soft neck variety
  • Shallots –  ‘Holand red’
  • Saffron Crocus – yes, that saffron.
  • Flower Bulbs – tulip, daffodil, crocus, paperwhite, hyacinth, …

Potato experiment– Our early planted potatoes resulted in an early crop. Potatoes we stored for seed sprouted and were going bad already! I am experimenting with a fall sowing of the few good ones we had left. Potatoes volunteer / overwinter around here like nothing else so I think this should work. Plan B will be to get new seed locally in the spring which I will probably do anyway.

Seasonal Chores

Divide perennials and pot up starts – the Master Gardeners have been busy potting up starts for next year’s plant sale because this is the best time of year to do it. Dig up and divide perennials that have become crowded. Pot up a few extras to share with friends or donate to your local plant sale.

Take a little time to do some editing in your garden. Move things that you think would do better elsewhere. Not only perennials, but trees and shrubs can also be moved now if necessary.

Plants moved or potted up this time of year will have the remainder of the fall and winter to develop and strong root system and will jump off to a good start when it warms up in spring.

Leave no soil uncovered! – Bare soil invites erosion and weeds. It is too late to sow cover crops, but you can still mulch. I like to use…

  • compost – but this stuff is gardener gold. I wish I had enough to cover everything. Being that I don’t I just try to make sure every bed and bush gets their fair share. The chicken composting is definitely working though.
  • arborist chips – my second favorite mulch. This is the stuff that comes from tree services when they prune. It isn’t wood chips alone. It is mixture of woody material and green leafy material that makes an almost perfect compost blend. Unaged, we add a layer in places we don’t want things to grow like pathways. The rest gets piled up to compost {or thrown into the chicken yard} to age for 6-12 months when it is then used to topdress garden areas.
  • straw – if you want to avoid the sprouted oat grass in your garden beds, leave the bales out to be rained on and sprout for a couple months before you use them for mulch. The grass seedlings will die when the straw is spread.
  • boughs – yes, boughs! …as in all that storm debris. I saw it on a garden show once, and what a good idea for another free mulch! I sometimes use them to insulate sensitive crowns like artichokes and hops, but they can be used to simply protect the soil as well. Easily remove them in late winter / spring when it is time to let the soil warm up to plant.

Fertilize the lawn – If you must have grass, Thanksgiving is the best time of year to fertilize it. Use a balanced organic fertilizer spread evenly over your lawn. I was happy with some stuff I picked up at Costco last year for about $20 a bag.

Planning & Purchasing

Planning and purchasing are pretty much done for the year other than maybe grabbing some of those late bulbs from the garden center. Good quality bulbs can be found on sale as we approach the end of the planting window for the year. Grab some if you have the chance, just be ready to get them in the ground right away.

What have you got going on around your garden this November?

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