November Harvesting and Planting

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In November in the southern hemisphere tropics the heat is building for us and rain is scarce at the beginning of the month. By November we’re hiding from the heat indoors and only venture outside very early or around sunset. The rains can arrive in late November but the start of the month is usually very dry and hot. The vegetables and fruits however, all seem to be loving the warmer temperature and are growing fast so long as they’re watered and given regular buckets of our homemade worm tea. A few plants begin to struggle in November and others are still starting from seed. Towards the middle of the month it is seriously dry, if you’re not watering regularly plants struggle, but then the rains come, this can happen in late November but December is seriously wet.

Pumpkin flowering in November in the tropics

Our first banch of vermicompost was ready in November (Year 1 of starting the garden) and we experimented with starting mung beans, dwarf red snake beans and butternut squash directly into vermicompost. They seem to do well but we didn’t set up control plants to see which did better.

It’s officially spring here, late spring and the birds are nesting. We have tiny golden sunbirds nesting in our garage and an abundance of birds in the garden. There are fewer butterflies now, I didn’t note the months when the butterflies are around because I just thought they were here all the time, they’re not. There are noticeably fewer sulphur-crested cockatoos flying over and a lot more rainbow lorikeets. It’s interesting to note the changes. I saw my first ever blue striped bee this year and some of my frangipanis are flowering. They’re much healthier after treating them for rust earlier in the year.

What else is happening in the tropical food garden this month?

Jackfruit in November

We began harvesting in October, there are still jackfruit ripening and ready to eat in November.

Pumpkins in November

We can and do harvest pumpkins in November. The plants have been growing for years now, we treat them as perennials.

We also have a spaghetti squash almost ready in November.

The courgettes aren’t producing right now, we think it’s too hot for them to a. produce female flowers, b. achieve successful pollination. However, the plants look healthy and are producing a lot of male flowers. We’ll leave them in the ground and see what happens!

They grow so fast! Probably 2 or 3 square meters are covered by just 3 or 4 pumpkin plants now. They’re in very poor soil but doing fine, still flowering. 4 or 5 pumpkins forming and we harvested the oldest one to see what it was like. Pumpkins do seem to take off at this time of year. I’ve also sown more pumpkin seeds in November. Obviously, if you feed them, improve the soil and amend with compost and manure, your plants do better. Make sure they don’t get too dry towards the end of the month. I’ve lost plants by missing just one watering.

Tomatoes in November

The tomatoes are still going strong in November. We pick a couple of handfuls of tomatoes every day. The Roma tomatoes are particularly prolific but the black russians and black grapes are the most delicious.

Some of the yellow and red cherries produce continuously, daily, too, but for volume and for cooking, you want romas. We have maybe 10 roma tomato plants all grown from cutting from one bought seedings. We’re starting more from seed now (from the fruits we grew so cross-pollination is possible) too, to see how that goes. We do need to keep adding manure or compost and if we see any signs of blossom end rot we take those fruit off the vine and add calcium. We have to do this often.

They struggle as it gets seriously hot and dry in September and October but in November they are back with a vengeance. I cut mine right back a few weeks ago because they weren’t looking happy and fruiting was tailing off. They looked happier again once the rains came and we got a bit of cloud cover through November, no sign of browning leaves now (with or without shade cloth) at all and they are flowering well.

Aubergines in November (Eggplant)

In early November we’re harvesting large purple aubergines almost daily along with white aubergines.

The Thai aubergine plant is also producing well and looking healthy. It’s been producing fruit for months, right through winter. I had a lot of problems getting these seeds to germinate and this plant was a very slow starter, but once established they produce well. These are the small, round, green aubergines you’d find in a green curry, for instance.

We also have long skinny purple aubergines but the bigger ones are more use.

Towards the end of October the extremely hot, dry, conditions made all the aubergines struggle and I cut some of them back almost to the ground. They came back strongly once the November rains and cloudy skies arrived.

Grapefruit in November

Dozens of ruby grapefruit and regular have set on the grapefruit tree and they’re between marble and ping-pong ball sized in November. We also still have ripe grapefruit on the trees from last year. We have grapefruit year-round but by late November most have fallen or have bug damage..

Lemons in November

Lemons on a tiny dwarf tree are growing. Not yellow and maybe not quite full-sized yet, the lemon tree seems to always flower before the grapefruit so the fruit should be ready first giving us some sort of succession of citrus.

The big lemon tree is covered in fairly large unripe fruit. They’re not ready yet but we’re still using up the frozen lemons from last year’s harvest. We normally start picking the new season lemons in January or February.

Beans in November

October is the “official” last month to sow bush beans, before it gets too hot. But I have sewn some at the end of November. Beans take 70 to 75 days to crop (they’re slow), so I’m probably too late for my Christmas bean harvest this year. Last year we had loads of beans for Christmas Day and right through January and February.

Bush beans and snake beans are producing in November. We have various other types of beans coming on and we plant more beans often, wherever there is a space, we add a bean.

Snake beans, like bush beans, should be planted by the end of October in the tropics. But we missed the cut off and planted them in late November. Snake beans also take about 65 days to produce.

The bush beans don’t seem to be quite as healthy in late November as they were in cooler months, but they are still producing. Particularly the ones that are out of direct sun. Some are on their second set of beans from one plant.

By the end of last month, before it rained, the plants in full sun were struggling or had died, the shady ones were OK.

Kaffir Limes in November

The stage the kaffir limes as at seems to vary a lot. In November 2020 Kaffir limes are falling from the tree, in November there were dozens. Presumably they were ready but it’s a pretty useless fruit, we only use the rind rarely, and the leaves for Thai Curries.

I wonder if we could use them for anything else? In November 2021 we have dozens of fruit but they’re not yet much more than marble size, certainly not full-size.

In November 2022 we’re starting over with a new tree after moving to the farm.

Growing Greens in November

Two types of kale, chard, various spinach-type plants (in particular longevity spinach), water spinach (kang kong), we have plenty of greens in November and pick individual leaves to have raw or cooked

What little lettuce we had (mizuna because the bugs don’t eat it as much) has flowered and gone to seed other than a few that were in very shady spots.

There’s plenty of rocket too. The curly leaved kale is struggling in a shady bed. It probably needs to be in the sun more but the sun is south of us now and some beds are barely seeing sun at all.

Another planting of curly kale in full sun is bigger, but the difference could be in soil or watering.

In 2020 the rocket started going to seed in summer. This has never happened before, but it’s in a much sunnier spot, it lost shade when a tree had to be removed. Some of these rocket plants are well over a year old in November 2020.

We have decided that chard tastes like dirt. We won’t be growing it again. Our favourite greens are the kales which are densely planted to produce small leaves daily for salads or cooking. We’re not aiming to grow huge kale plants right now.

Perpetual spinach is looking very healthy and has zero bug holes, so that’s a winner! Unfortunately, it does taste a bit like dirt too, but it’s not so bad.

The kang kong is looking particularly happy in November 2020, no insect damage at all. This is an issue with these plants at some times of the year. The plants are well over a year old and are growing in raised beds, not water.

Water Melons in November

We have our first baby watermelons forming. The chickens love to eat these so chicken-proofing methods are needed. These seeds went in the ground months ago, the plants did not like the tropical winter months at all. They only took off once the weather got very warm.

Chillies in November

We have hundreds of chillies! The yellow habanero chillies were all harvested in November. It did go on to produce a smaller second crop.There are dozens of long green chillies, one or two have gone or are turning red. The Thai chillies produce all year round. The red habaneros are starting to be abundant and ripe. We are never without chillies. November does seem to be the month for peppers though. Most of our plants produce their first, and best crop in November.

Ginger, Turmeric and Galangal in November

November, early summer, is when these root crops are supposed to start producing new green growth, and yes, they are, other plants haven’t read the memo.

Earlier in the month I dug up my first chunk of home-grown ginger because the top died back. We left some in the ground and it should shoot again, when? I don’t know. Other small pieces of ginger, turmeric and galangal are shooting well.

In November all of these plants have new green shoots, these mostly started in late October.

Sweet Potato in November

The sweet potatoes are putting on lots of green growth, more than previously. Maybe as the weather heats up. We haven’t harvested sweet potatoes as yet at all, we just grow them for greens and for ground-cover. All of our sweet potatoes come from small pieces of supermarket-bought sweet potato.

Unfortunately they’re a magnet for rats.

Sweet potato plants need full sun to produce large sweet potatoes, ours are in a shady spot beneath the passion fruit, so that’s something we need to change, maybe.

Passion Fruit in November

We started passion fruit plants from seeds in 2019 a few months back in raised beds. It was time to move them, they were growing fast. They’re now planted in the ground to grow along the pool fence, hopefully, if the high daily temperatures and transplant shock doesn’t kill them off. It was stupid to move them when it’s so hot and dry.

In their second year, 2020, they’re still growing very strongly but have never flowered. In 2020 we added a store-bought passionfruit plant. It also hasn’t flowered yet.

Once the plants matured they produced huge crops of passion fruit, purple and yellow, and they started to be ripe in November and into December.

2023- our mature passion fruit vines are absolutely loaded with fruit in November, it should be ripe for Christmas pavlova.

Growing Herbs in November

The mint is going crazy! We have mint everywhere, growing fast and it seems to love November heat so long as it has some shade, rich soil, and good watering. In full sun where it dries out during the day, it’s not good.

The Vietnamese mint is starting to come back after dying back in winter, the garlic chives are growing well. The regular or European chives are tiny in comparison to the tropical variety.

Asian coriander is flowering.

Thai basil still grows like weeds and sweet or European basil enjoys summer heat. We have Greek columnar basil, lemon basil and regular sweet basil, all do well in summer in the tropics so long as they get enough water and don’t become too waterlogged. They like some shade.

Tulsi, the king of tropical herbs is looking very well, is flowering and I have several huge tulsi bushes from one tiny plant that I bought early this year. Tulsi grows well from cuttings.

Mother of Herbs is growing well now too, but next month, once it rains, it will go insane.

Sage is looking very healthy too, I don’t think the sage will like the coming wet season.

We have thyme in a pot, and rosemary. The pot gets some shade and is out of the full sun, hopefully, it will survive but these two Mediterranean herbs are hard to keep alive in a tropical climate.

We have fresh green dill, both mature plants that have gone to seed and new green shoots from those seeds. Dill definitely behaves as an annual in the tropics, in that it goes to seed and dies, but it’s looking like we can grow dill year-round. I’ll keep an eye on that situation, but we’ve had dill all winter and now into summer.

Herbs are possibly my favourite thing to grow. Read our post on tropical herbs.

Papaya in November

Papayas produce fruit year-round for us, in huge quantities. November is a good month to harvest papaya. It seems that papaya is in season every month of the year in this tropical climate.

The papaya plant, well under a year since we planted it, is flowering constantly. but no fruit has set. It’s bisexual, meaning we only need one tree, in theory. November 2019 and Nov 2020, same situation, it’s flowering, in 2020 after being cut back hard because of damage. It’s now forming multiple branches from the main stem. Fruit set on this plant during the wet season last year and was ready around August. We have several young papayas growing too. They grow well in the hot and the wet.

Radishes in November

I was harvesting daikon radish to ferment in late November, the seed was sewn in early October.

According to the seed packets we can sew radish seeds all year, and the roots should take 21-50 days to be ready for harvesting. This batch have been in the ground maybe 7 weeks, about 50 days, they’re big but not yet woody.

Cucumbers and Cucamelons in November

The cucumbers produced really well in the first week of November 2020, but by mid-November the plants were past their best and succumbing to pests and mildew. It seems inevitable that these plants are short-lived.

The good news is we can keep sowing cucumber seeds in succession, year-round to have an almost constant supply. Cucumbers take 50-60 days to produce fruit, about 7-8 weeks. This seems about right.

The cucumbers we’re harvesting in late November were planted in early October.

But that said, we’ve had enough cucumbers to make pickles, more than we need, from half a dozen plants.

We have more cucumber plants started at the end of last month and will continue to plant more year-round to try and produce a continuous supply. Maybe it will work, maybe not. Seeds are cheap and home grown cucumber pickles are the best.

The cucamelons are starting to grow and flower as the weather gets warmer.

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