Kitchen Garden Notebook
By Ian James, gardener, and co-custodian of Water Lane
It’s November in the Kitchen and Cutting Garden, and we welcome back Ian James, gardener and co-owner of Water Lane, a Victorian walled garden with a restaurant in Hawkhurst, Kent to share some of his expert tips and thoughts for making the most of the seasonal changes and preparing the garden for Winter.
The growing season is winding down, and while there’s still plenty to harvest in the vegetable garden including all the roots, pumpkins and squash, leeks, chicory and some early winter brassicas, our focus in the garden is about rest and recuperation and giving the soil back much needed nutrients. Healthy and nutrient rich soil means healthier and tastier vegetables. This means mulch, mulch, and more mulch. We add a thick layer of mulch and organic matter from the compost piles, that are tended throughout the year, to all the beds and growing areas. Think of this black gold as a 12-tog duvet for your garden throughout the winter; it’s rich in nutrients, which feeds the soil and rebuilds its health and biodiversity, while also helping the ground retain heat and moisture.
Jobs for November in the vegetable garden
- Harvest carrots, celeriac, salsify, and parsnips - the latter two benefiting from the first frosts as the sugars concentrate and the flavour intensifies and sweetens.
- Sow Autumn sown garlic and onions.
- Sow broad beans under glass for a head start on next year. We sow in root-trainers and try to get a steal on the spring, planting out in late autumn, creating some protection in the depths of winter.
- If you’ve not sown any winter leaves in your glasshouse, now’s a good time to give it a clean. Clear out all plants on a dry day and clean inside and out.
- Collect fallen leaves for leaf mould and continue mulching beds.
In the Cutting Garden
With the change in season, we’ve been hanging on to whatever floral moments we can get here in the garden. The dahlias have started to fizzle out and it will only be another week or so before they’re lifted. The chrysanthemums will also continue to flower well until the first heavy frost. Current favourites from the chrysanthemum bed includes Bigoudi Red, Allouise Salmon and Tula Carmella. As long as the hard frosts hold off, we’ll hopefully keep on cutting these for a few more weeks. And then we’ll be delving into store of summer dried flowers.
It’s Tulip planting time. November is a good month to plant tulip bulbs, as the colder soil and weather reduces the chance of fungal infections that thrive in warm, damp conditions. Most of our tulips at Water Lane are destined for the vase, so stem length is important; Tulip ‘China Town’ grew spectacularly well this year, with long straight stems holding a flushed-green and blush-pink flower head which twisted and arched, like a ballerina, in the vase as it matured and faded. We create a trench about 20cm deep ensuring the bottom is well-drained by adding horticultural grit. The bulbs are planted in the trench in straight rows - imagine eggs in an egg box - and then covered with gritty compost. If we run out of space in the cutting beds, we use crates to plant any left-over bulbs, which have the added advantage of being movable, so we can create pockets of colour around the garden where they can be seen and enjoyed.
Jobs in the cutting garden
- Dahlias can flower up to the first frosts. However, if lifting the tubers don’t leave them in the ground too late, as they need time to be cleaned and dried before being stored.
- For all the work that’s involved in lifting it can be easier to leave in the ground and mulch heavily. Cut the stem down to 10 cm and cover with a thick layer of compost. Make sure you mark where each plant is with a marker.
- Plant tulip bulbs and other spring flowering bulbs.
- Plant indoor flowering paperwhites (narcissi), hyacinth, amaryllis now for Christmas and New Year colour.
With the clocks going back and an unequivocal change in the seasons, our restaurant menus are getting heartier, and the puddings stickier. There’s deep bowls of Crown Prince soup with butter-fried sage and croutons, slow roast duck legs with lentils and green sauce, bitter leaves, blue cheese, pears and walnuts. We make this addictively nutty and nourishing Buckwheat Granola for a sustaining breakfast for chillier mornings. Serve with milk or Hinxden Dairy natural yoghurt, sprinkled over porridge or with a pear and prune compote. We use a local rapeseed oil from Morghew estate, its nutty flavour enhances the flavour of the buckwheat groats.
This will make a large 1 kilo batch and, if stored in an airtight container, will last several weeks. Although, we doubt it will last that long as a handful to grab, breakfast or not, is just too tempting!
- 350g jumbo oats
- 150g buckwheat groats
- 150g pumpkin seeds
- 200g sunflower seeds
- 100g hazelnuts
- 100ml Water Lane honey (available at our Saturday Produce Market)
- 50g soft brown sugar
- 40ml rapeseed oil from Morghew
- ½ tsp sea
- 150g dried cranberries or your favourite dried fruit
Preheat the oven to 160oC
Heat the honey, sugar, oil, and salt gently to dissolve the sugar. Mix the oats, buckwheat, seeds, and nuts together and stir in well to the honey mixture. Spread the mixture in an even layer onto a lined baking tray and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10mins or until golden brown. Watch it as the nuts can catch easily. Allow to cool and stir in the dried fruit and decant into an airtight container.