What to do in your allotment in November

Apple Tree - Queen Cox Self Fertile

Written by Lee Senior

I always fully embrace November down on the allotment as it’s really the start of the next gardening year. The winter months are a great time to improve our plots, and if you think of it in terms of building a house, now’s the time to lay foundations or plan a new extension.

If you want more growing space, this is, without question, the best time of year to take on another plot.

During November and for the remainder of this year, winter digging is one of my priority tasks. This gives the frost plenty of time to gradually break down the freshly dug clods, and by next spring it should have become a fine tilth. I’ll also be cutting the foliage of my asparagus plants to ground level now it’s turning yellow. This tired foliage has served its purpose, and I don’t want it blowing around and loosening the soil around the roots.

At this time of year I always feel an inherent need to tidy up! But while I’m filling my compost bin, I remind myself not to take it too far. I like to make a hedgehog pile with fallen branches and twigs to provide much needed shelter. These timid creatures are in decline and need our help. And I’m always happy to encourage guests who get rid of slugs! Happy growing!

Allotment flowers in November

  • There’s still time to sow sweet pea seeds. Move your trays into a cold frame or an unheated greenhouse to germinate and grow over winter. They will produce flowers earlier than those sowed in the spring.
  • November is the perfect month to plant your spring flowering bulbs, especially tulips. Perfect for tricky parts of the allotment, these unfussy flowers should go into the soil at a depth twice their own height.

Allotment vegetables in November

  • Sow winter hardy broad bean ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ and ‘Luz de Otono’ into unfrozen beds and cover with a cloche or fleece. Sow dwarf variety ‘The Sutton’ into trays in the cold frame or into large containers under cover.
  • Sow hardy peas ‘Douce Provence’ and keep them in a cold frame or an unheated greenhouse. You can plant these out in March for an early crop.
  • Plant garlic through November as long as the ground isn’t frozen. Use netting to cover your cloves until they root to prevent birds pulling them up.
  • Plant onion ‘Senshyu Yellow’ sets in November for harvesting next summer. Cover them with a net to keep them safe until they root. Shallots are a great addition to the veg patch too, try traditional ‘Griselle’ for a spicy flavour or banana shaped ‘Longor’ if you prefer a sweeter, pink-tinged bulb.
  • Cut back your yellowing asparagus foliage, if you haven’t already.
  • Sow kale seeds alongside pea shoots ‘Twinkle’ for quick windowsill crops at home. The leaves are lovely in salads and sandwiches.
  • Remove the lower leaves from your Brussels sprouts as they start to yellow to improve airflow.
  • Sow hardy winter lettuce ‘John’ under cloches or in grow bags in an unheated greenhouse. This variety produces large buttery heads, which are suitable for picking whole or using as a ‘cut and come again’ crop. Alternatively, start off with lettuce plug plants. ‘Vailan Winter Gem’ is a great choice.
  • Sow a few rows of the heritage radish ‘Black Spanish Round’ under cloches. You’ll get a tasty winter crop two months after sowing.

Allotment fruit in November

  • Bare root fruit tree planting season starts in November. Prepare the ground for your new tree or orchard by clearing weeds and adding organic matter to the soil. Remember there are plenty of grafted and dwarf fruit trees on the market if space is at a premium.
  • Consider planting nut trees on the allotment. Hazelnut trees provide screening as well as a crop of edible nuts. Dwarf almond ‘Nut Me’ happily grows in a container, providing sweet nuts in summer.

Crops to harvest in November

General November allotment jobs

  • Take on the big jobs you’ve been putting off during the busy summer months, like maintenance, tidying and clearing.
  • November is a great time to take on a new allotment. Woven ground cover is an easy way to weaken perennial weeds over the winter so they’re easier to remove in spring.
  • Double dig your empty beds. The bigger clods will break down to create a fine tilth with repeated winter frosts, perfect for spring planting. If you live near the coast, gather dead seaweed to use as a free soil improver over winter.
  • Cover young plants with frost protection fleece this month.
  • Prepare a special climbing bean trench now by digging a deep ditch and filling it with vegetable scraps and organic matter. When it’s full, backfill with soil or compost. The plant matter will rot down over winter and spring, providing warmth and nutrients for your bean seeds to get a head start.
  • Raised beds warm up quicker and drain better than regular beds, so ear-mark them for planting broad beans or lettuce for your first spring crops. Try making your own using pallets or old planks for a fun winter project.
  • Check your netted brassicas regularly, ensuring they’re fully covered to keep the birds away. Do the same for your covered autumn planted garlic, onions and shallots.
  • Make a pile of leaves to rot down in a corner. You’ll have nutrient rich leaf mould in around 12 months. Use a petrol powered lawn mower to pick them up if you can. This shreds the leaves and speeds up their decomposition. Don’t add them to the compost heap, as they break down at a much slower rate.
  • Bare root native trees or spiky varieties like holly are best planted now. Perfect for benefitting wildlife or increasing security on your plot. You can even get a crop from certain types, like sloes from thorny blackthorn (Prunus spinosa).
  • Spare a thought for hedgehogs at this time of year. Check before lighting any bonfires, put a hedgehog house in a quiet corner of your plot or leave a messy area over winter. They’re great allies in the fight against slugs and snails.

Planning ahead

  • As the days darken and get colder, find a comfy armchair and start next year’s crop planning! Sketch everything out on paper, and mark down sowing and planting dates on a calendar. It pays to be organised when you come to order your seeds for next year.
  • Check you have plenty of frost protection gear and netting to keep young plants healthy over the coming months.
Lead image: Apple Tree – Queen Cox Self Fertile
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About Lee Senior
Lee Senior is an experienced horticultural writer, RHS Yorkshire in Bloom judge and horticultural consultant. He has also had an allotment for over 25 years. After initially spurning horticulture as a career option, to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a train driver, Lee soon realised he couldn’t resist getting his hands dirty to make a living. Horticultural College training led, to getting an allotment at the tender age of 18 (in the days when you could actually get a plot quickly). My gardening hero, is Geoff Hamilton” says Lee. “It was Geoff who convinced me that you didn’t have to spray everything that moved in the garden. Watching him on Gardeners’ World in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was a revelation. I was lucky enough to meet Geoff and I’ve also more recently had the pleasure of meeting Joe Swift. Now over two decades of practical experience has taught me to work with mother nature, not to fight against her and don’t try to tame her, as so many gardeners seem to be on a mission to do. Small-scale food growing is my passion and I can’t wait for my two daughters, one who is 8 years old and the other who is 5 to hopefully pick up the baton in the future. Nothing beats the flavour and satisfaction of growing your own food. You simply cannot buy the same quality and freshness. Everyone can have a go at growing something says Lee, no matter where they live. Lee has also written his two books; ‘Pennine Way, The Highs and Lows’ which is a humorous, personal account of walking this momentous iconic walk. His second book ‘Walking in the Aire’, features 14 short walks in Yorkshire.