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 plants 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 end 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.
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?
We began harvesting in October, there are still jackfruit ripening and ready to eat in November.
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.
The tomatoes are still going strong in November. We pick a couple of handfulls 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. I cut mine right back at the end of the month because they weren’t looking happy and fruiting was tailing off. They looked happier again once the rains came.
In early November we’re harvesting large purple aubergines almost daily along with white aubergines. I have a small Thai aubergine plant coming. I had a lot of problems getting these seeds to germinate and this plant has been a very slow starter, but I finally have one healthy-looking Thai aubergine plant. 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 November the extremely hot, dry, conditions made all the aubergines struggle. They came back strongly once the rains arrived.
Dozens of ruby grapefruit have set on the grapefruit tree and they’re between marble and ping-pong ball sized 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.
Bush beans and snake beans are producing still. We have various other types of beans coming on and we plant more beans constantly, wherever there is a space, we add a bean. The bush beans don’t seem to be quite as heathy 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 the month, before it rained, the plants in full sun were struggling or had died, the shady ones were OK.
The stage the kaffir limes as at seems to vary a lot. In November 2010 Kaffir limes are falling from the tree, 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? InNovember 2020 we have dozens of fruit but they’re not yet much more than marble size, certainly not full-size.
Two types of kale, chard, various spinach-type plants, water spinach (kang kong), we have plenty of greens in November and pick individual leaves to have raw of cooked. 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 cyrly kale in full sun is bigger, but the difference could be in soil or watering.
In 2020 the rocket started going to seed. 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 inNovember 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.
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.
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. 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
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 October.
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.
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.
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’snot good. The Vietnamese mint is starting to come back after dying back in winter, the garlic chives are growing well. Asian coriander is flowering. Thai basil still grows like weeds. Mother of Herbs is growing well now too but next month, once it rains, it willgo insane. Sage is looking very healthy too, I don’t think the sage will like the coming wet season.
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.
Cucumbers and Cucamelons
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, producing just 2 or 3 good cucumbers each, after this the fruit gets stunted and distorted. 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. (Update, these late spring / summer planted cucumbers weren’t happy, mostly)