November gardening tips for the South West | In Your Patch

Terri Sharpe shares her tips for your gardens in the Margaret River region.
Terri Sharpe shares her tips for your gardens in the Margaret River region.

November has finally arrived and what a busy time in the garden it is. I tend to plant a mix of slow and fast growers, so I have a continual supply of produce to harvest while waiting for those that take a bit longer to mature.

Short term fast growers include lettuce, cucumber, Asian greens, both yellow and green zucchini, and silverbeet.

Longer term delights that are not ready until after Christmas but so worth the wait include tomatoes, basil, sweetcorn, all the melons, and pumpkins.

Finally it's time to plant an all-time favourite of mine - sunflowers.

I must admit I'm so impatient to see these beauties arrive that I can't help myself and get students to throw a few seeds out into the school garden randomly before November, but my true organised planting starts now.

It seems to have been particularly cold and wet to date, so starting to plant now is fine as sunflowers do like the heat.

I try to sew a few into the school garden every week throughout the entire month of November so their flowering time is staggered, maximising the number of weeks they flower.

This also means that we'll get to enjoy them in February and even as late as March the following year when the kids are back at school.

One year I planted them out so early they all came into flower over the Christmas break - fabulous timing in your own backyard when the relatives arrive for Christmas, but not so great in the school garden when there's no one around to see and enjoy them!

An array of sunflowers will be on sale at the Margaret River PS roadside honesty stall in November.

An array of sunflowers will be on sale at the Margaret River PS roadside honesty stall in November.

You can sew directly into the soil or grow them in small containers, transplanting into your garden when they are a little larger and not quite so attractive to the myriad of pests - possums, birds, rats, slugs, snails, slaters - that are keen to eat the young, tender shoots.

We will have an array of sunflowers for sale on the roadside honesty stall in November as I like the kids to experience the full life cycle in action - we start with harvesting seeds from the flower heads, eat some, store some, sew them out 9 months later, tend them, watch them grow, protect them - mainly from the 28 parrots that try to eat them before we do - collect the seeds, and start the entire process again.

We simply do not have the space to sew as many as we collect, so some go onto the Roadside Honesty Stall to spread the love - and sunflowers - around town!

This year we will be showing a giant variety (pictured), teddy bear, dwarf, and a rust-coloured variety in the school garden, and those varieties will all be available on the Stall too.

If you truly want to reap the rewards of your garden, it helps to learn the art of patience.

On the whole, gardeners are a patient lot - you have to think about what you want to grow or how you want your garden to look, and then work backwards from that image.

Do your research, find out if that vision in your head can be achieved in Margaret River within your resources available, locate the seeds or plants you seek, prepare the site/s, and get them into the ground at the right time of the year.

Then it's all about care.

And time.

I have a Magnolia that flowers for about two weeks of the year. And it is spectacular.

That's a whole lot of waiting. But for me, so worth it.

Next time you're thinking you couldn't possibly wait "that long" for that tree to fruit or that plant to flower, consider the Madagascan Palm (Tahina spectabilis) that takes anywhere from fifty to one hundred years to flower.

Then it dies.

Now that's a lot of waiting time. It's all relative really, isn't it?

And remember gardening tip number four - be patient!

Good things truly do come to those who wait.

Terri Sharpe is Coordinator and Garden Specialist of the Margaret River Primary School's Kitchen Garden Program and a Lecturer in Horticulture at TAFE Margaret River.

Her column focuses on tips for a productive edible garden - what and when to plant, when to harvest, disease and pest management, and general tips on what works (and doesn't) here in the Margaret River region.