First Frost on the Way
Fall has arrived and winter is on the way, but there is still plenty to do in the November vegetable garden. The first frost to Central Texas usually arrives after Thanksgiving (the average is the first week of December.) We are lucky that even with the occasional frost we have many mild days that are perfect for cool season vegetable growth.
Your November vegetable garden plan is to get your plants through the cold snaps so they can keep growing until ready for harvest. Mulch your veggies well and make plans to cover them with row cover or other lightweight protection when the weather forecast says temperatures will dip into the low 30s. Use bricks, heavy rocks, soil or U-shaped pins to secure the row cover so it doesn’t blow off. Most of our cool season crops will do just fine in a light freeze, especially if they are well established, but when the temperature drops from 75° to 25° overnight they will need a little extra protection.
Be sure to keep up with irrigation as dehydrated plants are more susceptible to frost.
Stockpile Leaves for Mulch or Compost
Stockpile leaves over the next few months to use for spring and summer mulch. Those leaf bags make handy storage containers if you’ve got room to pile them up. Leaves can also be mixed with kitchen waste and added to the compost pile over the winter. Water lightly if the pile is dry to keep the microbial life active.
Plan Your Spring Crop Rotation
Those tempting spring seed catalogs should be arriving so now is a good time to sketch out your plan for spring. Rotating your planting beds is a good way to manage pupating insect pests, nematodes, essential minerals, and even organic matter. This is because not all vegetables have the same growing requirements, and leaving them in the same place year after year can cause unbalances. This applies to large and small spaces, even if it means just changing things up hole to hole.
A successful rotation strategy focuses on plant families. The goal is to plant a new family every time you change out plants. The planting sequence order of the families is less important, but some gardeners develop their own method schedule to address specific issues. I have issues with nematodes in my own patch, so make sure to rotate the nightshade family right after the grass family. Nematodes can’t reproduce in grasses, so it’s a good trap plant. More on nematode management can be found in this great video from Texas A&M AgriLife Specialist, Dr. Joe Masabni.
Rotate the Ten Families
Here are the ten plant families to concentrate on:
- Cruicifer (Brassicaceae) Family: Cabbage (the blue varieties do better), Broccoli (be sure to eat the side shoots, not just the head), Cauliflower (color is the big trend – easier to grow, more than just white), Kale, Kohlrabi, Brussels sprout, turnips, Collards, and Mustard Greens
- Goosefoot (Chenopodiaceae – now subfamily in Amaranthaceae) Family: Beets, Swiss Chard, and Spinach
- Umbel (Umbelliferae) Family: Carrot (color a big trend), Parsley, Cilantro, Fennel, and Dill
- Allium (Amaryllidaceae) Family: Onions, Leeks, Chives, Scallions, and Garlic
- Composite (Asteraceae) Family: Lettuce, Sunflowers, and Chicory
- Nightshade (Solanaceae) Family: Tomato, Peppers, Potato, Tomatillo, and Eggplant
- Bean (Fabaceae) Family: Green Beans, Fava Beans, Black-eyed Peas, Southern (or Cream) Peas, Pinto/Black (or any dry bean), Butterbeans (lima bean), and Sugar Snap Peas. NOTE: If rhizobia nodules are present, use this family as a nitrogen rotator crop.
- Gourd (Cucurbitaceae) Family: Cucumber, Summer squash, Winter squash, Melons, Pumpkins, and Gourds
- Mallow (Malvaceae) Family: Okra
- Grass (Graminaceae) Family: Sweet Corn, Elbon Rye (Cereal Rye) NOTE: Grass can be used as a rotator crop to trap root-knot nematodes. Plant densely to cover planting bed. More information on nematodes can be found here
November Vegetable Garden Checklist
While you’re developing your rotation plan, here are some other jobs you can do in your November vegetable garden:
Water and Irrigation
- Irrigate transplants and seedlings weekly (unless it rains) for an even supply of moisture.
Diseases and/or Pests to Look For
- Aphids and cabbage loopers can still be active in November. Use row cover to keep them from your crop.
- Be sure to disconnect hoses, wrap faucets and drain sprinklers before that first freezing night arrives.
- Cover unplanted vegetable beds with a layer of leaves or shredded mulch.
- Keep birds in the yard to eat pesky caterpillars by keeping those birdbaths filled.
- Harvest near-ripe tomatoes before the first freeze, and allow them to ripen indoors out of direct sun.
- Enjoy a supply of fresh salad greens by harvesting young leaves of lettuce, kale and spinach. This is when the leaves are small and tender, and have the sweetest flavor. Regular harvesting will stimulate plants to produce more leaves
- For snow-white cauliflower, pull the leaves up around the head when it starts to form using a clothespin, rubber band or string. Exposure to sunlight will cause the head to be an off-white color – still fine for eating, just not as pretty.
About Sheryl Williams
Sheryl Williams has been a Travis County Master Gardener since 2010 and currently works as the Horticulture Program Assistant at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Travis County. She was introduced to gardening by her mom and grandma and has been an avid vegetable gardener most of her life. Sheryl believes that there is nothing more satisfying than growing and preparing your own food. She likes gardening in Austin year round and concedes that means pulling weeds every day. She practices organic gardening principles and enjoys the challenge of outsmarting garden pests. Occasionally she loses these battles, but doesn’t mind sharing a good meal.