by Max Akroyd

Every month has an association for me in terms of the vegetable garden: in February I sow indoor tomatoes, May is the time to sow Witloof chicory, October is when Aquadulce broad beans get sown, and so on… every month, that is, except November.

Monty Don describes November thus:

“November is the month when the garden closes in on itself, becoming introverted and almost truculent in its inaccessibility. The clocks have gone back and the garden closes down”


In practical terms, there’s nothing to do in November that could have (and probably should have) been done in October. Fortunately, since a holiday is a budgetary impossibility, I’ve left plenty of things unfinished in October which must be done before the inexorable gravity of Christmas starts to pull all mundane progress out of shape. The sowing of broad beans, over-wintering onions and garlic will be completed. I’ve also lots of tulip bulbs to plant. Most urgent though is the need to clear out the polytunnel of its mouldering cargo of aubergines and tomatoes: ghostly reminders of the recently deceased summer. The hens are going to be conscripted for this purpose – they’ll be thrown in there tomorrow for a poytunnel holiday of bug eating and general scratching about.

The majority of the leaves are still on the trees in Brittany, this will soon change and I need to construct a large leaf mould container to throw my share of them into. Along with seaweed, leaf mould is the best thing for improving the soil around all the more delicate crops which aren’t planted over a trench: carrots, parsnips, onions… that kind of thing. A continued back problem means that any more trenching will have to wait until December. Better a postponement than a post mortem in this regard…

If any fresh vegetable harvest is going to be limited to the hardy brassicas this month, wannabe subsistence farmers like me must look to their animals to take up the slack. Our big boar is getting close to the point where his sexual maturity could start causing problems, so he’s for the chop. Arrangements will be made this month for a home killing – the only way to go from contentment to extinction with no stress in between. There are other, less momentous, possibilities for animal protein. I’ve heard that November is the best month to collect mussels hereabouts. If I have to subsist on kale and mussels during November 2011, that’ll suit me just fine!