This ‘n’ That in a November Garden

There is nothing like it. Biting into a carrot with a resounding snapping crunch.

  • Dec. 1, 2011 2:00 p.m.
SHELBY COULD TAKE this snail and move it

SHELBY COULD TAKE this snail and move it


There is nothing like it. Biting into a carrot with a resounding snapping crunch.

Cannot stay out of the bagful of garden morsels in my fridge. Good thing the healthy calories are on my side!

Normally we leave our carrots in the ground over the winter as we do not have a whole lot of good storage space for fresh vegetables. Covered with a thick blanketing layer (four to six inches or 10 to 15 cm) of leaves or straw both carrots and beets can survive nicely.

They are biennial plants which means they are supposed to stay in the ground into a second growth year in order to flower and set seed.

Well…if you are an avid seed saver and looking for the healthiest seed off of the best carrots or beets in your garden…the experts do recommend you dig up your crop, sort through for the very best specimens, cut the tops back to one or two inches (2.5-5 cm), store them in a sand-filled container over the winter and replant out in the garden in early spring.

A lot of work but is very much worth the effort for developing vegetables capable of weathering the climate changes specific to our region.

Seed-saving aside…I have been kept busy in other directions lately and poor John was left to tend with many of the fall garden chores himself. And covering those carrots and beets before the snow fell was not one of them. The decision was made they would be pulled once the snow disappeared.

As some of the carrots were fairly small-sized, I placed them in a separate pile. Got a tidy little bagful for the fridge. Nice and handy for those inevitable snacking moments.

I just have to watch my intake…and the carotene level. One year I had an orange-tinged son because he ate too many carrots.

Did I mention rain and snow? Not my favourite weather even for November. But it does give me an excellent excuse to sit and catch up on my reading…about gardening, of course.

One interesting article was on how to deal with large branches if one does not have a chipper…or a garden waste pickup service.

The procedure laid out was to stack lengths of cut branches up to three quarters of an inch (two cm) in diameter into a pile.

The accompanying photograph shows a layer of smaller diameter branches in between two layers of larger ones. The layers were built up in a criss-cross pattern, too. That allows for good air flow, an important component in a compost pile.

Because wood is a carbon-rich material and tough, it is slow to decay. The best way to speed this up is by introducing nitrogen-rich components that will generate heat in the pile and ingredients that will hang on to moisture. These would include grass clippings, garden debris, leaves and soil from emptied pots of annuals.

You do need some spare room in your garden to build a compost pile of branches as it can take two to three years for them to decay. It is all about being organic!

And speaking of which…need an organic method of dealing with snails? Just pick them up and move them 350 feet (105 metres) away from the perimeter of your garden…preferably with a major obstacle in between such as a creek or road.

One British gardener conducted an experiment to verify whether there was any truth to the old wives’ tale snails have a homing instinct…something scientists have yet to determine.

Incredibly, her findings supported the old truth after she collected some snails from two different areas of her garden, splashed a dot of paint on their shells, released them 30 feet (10 m) outside her boundary and a representative number came back.

To be sure, she repeated the experiment and increased the distance to 100 feet (30 m) and still had a significant number of marked snails return.

Don’t believe me? She won a weekly BBC Radio 4 science show competition and was written up in Gardener’s World magazine, November 2010 issue.

Goes to show…even snails know a good buffet dinner when they find one. Wonder if this works with slugs?

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her column appears every second Friday.

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