The start of November is a signal, countrywide, that it is time to make final sowings and to start planting long-awaited summer favourites such as chillies, cucumbers, capsicums, beans and tomatoes. A switch in the weather can mean that watering suddenly becomes an essential task as young seedlings with fledgling root systems become vulnerable on dry days. Weeds will also be quick to crowd out open ground, so keep in touch with your garden daily so that you can intervene quickly and easily. A new range of plants in the garden will not go un-noticed by a selection of hungry birds, insects, rabbits, rats etc - really they are mostly just fending for their families too – so try a little acceptance along the way. This is not to say that we shouldn’t try to protect what is ours – but do so with sustainable and humane methods where possible.

We visit Toni and Hugh Macfarlane at their wonderful food-forest-in-the-making north of Helensville. When they're not operating their Upbeat Catering Company for touring musicians, they can be found in their garden growing everything from Shitake Mushrooms to a wide variety of herbs and fruits which Toni dehydrates. Their resourcefulness and creativity is inspiring.

If you have lots to do and want quick and easy advice then check out our video tutorials at POD TV


November is a busy and exciting time because so much can be sown and planted in the garden. Take your pick from beans, aubergine, capsicum, chilli pepper, melon, pumpkin, sweetcorn, tomato and zucchini which can all go into the ground. To keep fresh greenery on the table it is worth sowing and planting salads and fast growing herbs like basil, coriander and parsley every few weeks to ensure your harvest continues through summer with salads no more than a hand’s grasp away. Keep a good stock of carrots, beetroot, peas, rocket, radishes, lettuce and spring onions on the go to increase your recipe options in the kitchen. Remember to stagger your planting so that harvest doesn’t come all at once.



Tasty salads should be easy to pull together from even the smallest of plots and make a welcome change from heavier winter dishes. Florence fennel, broad beans and fresh peas as well as perhaps an early zucchini or two can change the look and flavour of dishes to something lighter and altogether more summery. New potatoes become a realistic prospect as winter-sown spuds start to reach their productive phase. The first strawberries start to blush in the late spring sunshine and early blueberries are ripening – you may need to cover plants with mesh if you are to ensure these delicious berries get to your plate before the birds feast on them.



Companion planting puts plants together for their mutual benefit. A great example of this is what’s known as ‘The three sisters’. Originating from native American growers, ‘The three sisters’ sees a ring of half a dozen or so sweetcorn plants with a squash or cucumber planted in their midst and a couple of runner bean plants growing up around their outside. The beans clamber up the corn and tie them together whilst fixing nitrogen into the soil. The corn benefits from the extra nitrogen and provides a climbing frame for beans and squash/cucumber. The squash/cucumber climbs on the corn and its broad leaves provide shade at the base of the corn – keeping roots cool and shading out weeds. Three plants growing together and giving to each other in the process – perfect!


Plant the three sisters

Phil Stebbing's TIP
FOR November

Mark the main stem

"Zucchini, pumpkins, squash and cucumbers all tend to ramble around the garden and this can make it hard to get water to the main roots – where it is most needed. When you plant these spreading crops, make the position of the main stem clearly visible with a small stick so you’ll know where to pour water once they have rambled off."



Get tomato seedlings off to a good start

Planting tomato seedlings with the right method can help to ensure you’ll end up with healthy plants and an abundant harvest. First check your seedlings are ready to go outdoors. Seedlings should be at least the length of your middle finger and have several pairs of leaves. Check that they stand up and appear sturdy in their containers with and adequate root system before planting out. Space plants about an arm’s length apart to prevent over-crowding. If the chosen variety grows tall, at the time of planting push a strong 6 ft bamboo cane into the ground a few inches away from your seedling so it can be used to tie the plant to as it grows. Protect young seedlings from strong winds with juice bottle cloches and ensure that soil around them stays moist with extra watering if needed.


Accurate appropriate watering

Young seedlings are very sensitive to drying out thanks to their poorly developed root systems. One breezy or sunny day without moisture can be an end to weeks of successful sowing and growing. Water early morning so soil absorbs moisture before it all evaporates during hotter parts of the day. Ideally water should pool temporarily on top of the soil before it disappears – this is a good way of ensuring that you have given a particular area enough moisture for plants to remain hydrated through the day. Use a sprinkler attachment on your hose or a rose at the end of your watering can to prevent delicate seedlings from being washed away. Mulch all bare soil where possible but avoid much around newly sown seed or it will smother small seedlings.


Watch POD TV's: How to water efficiently