It is November in Minnesota and during this month the weather can be tricky, warm and sunny one day, cold and cloudy the next. For the last three days the weather has been sunny and almost warm. At least the water is not freezing over on the creek. But it is cold at night and most mornings there is a good amount of frost. Soil in the garden that is not mulched or covered with thick plant growth will freeze to about a half-inch.
Most plants, wild and domesticated, are now dormant but even this late in the season a few flowers are still blooming. By far the most common one in my gardens is viola. These aren’t any particular breed just random seedlings from a mix of hybrids bought many years ago which have self-sown ever since. Their purple and blue petals reflect the coolness of November but some have sunny yellow centers. The violas will keep on blooming until they are covered by snow. In April or even in March when winter snows melt these plants will start to grow and flower again.
Here and there a few bright yellow dandelions are looking summery even though the air temperatures are only 50 degrees at noon. And the lonicera is still flowering on vines with ripe red berries and dropping yellow and orange leaves.
Cold and wet probably best describes most of October yet there were days when it was incredibly warm and sunny. I’ve fallen behind on my garden clean-up waiting for the rain to stop. I did get the garlic and some shallots in the ground. There is space ready in one garden for about another 150 feet of shallots and multiplier onions. If we get a day or two next week without rain then they can be planted. Or maybe I’ll just plant in between rain showers because the safe time for planting bulbs is getting short.
Everything is harvested except the root crops and some kale. That isn’t as bad as it sounds since the weather, although cool, is not cold. Evening temperatures are in the upper 30’s to low 40’s and so the ground does not freeze and lately there has been no frost.
I usually put away 20 or so pounds of broccoli and cauliflower every year. This year I only got a few pounds of broccoli from a small patch and that one grew strangely- 3 feet tall and with small heads. My main broccoli and cauliflower patch has not made a single head. There are signs of head development but it is too late in the season to expect much. I planted my usual mix of varieties that have done well in previous years but for reasons unknown they did not produce. Fortunately, there is plenty of cabbage, kale, turnip, and rutabaga. Lot’s of beets, too, in many varieties each a little different tasting. I had the variety “Cylindra” with my dinner last night and a yellow-skinned variety the night before.
It has been a colorful October fall but the trees dropped their leaves early after a week of cold nights and strong winds. Fall colors are not just in the trees but in the shrubs, grasses, herbs, mosses, and of course, mushrooms. There are fewer birds passing through now. Lately, I have seen or heard chickadees and bluejays which always stay during the winter. These birds are actually migrants from Canada as our summer residents have migrated further south. There are ruffed grouse in the woods and also coming to my yard where they feed on tiny crab-apples from several planted trees. Some robins have also been feeding on them.
Weather, as I noted above has been cool but not very cold. The coldest temperature was 24 degrees on October 16. Overall, lows have stayed in the 40’s and until October 20 highs were between 50 and 70. Now, the high temperatures are in the upper 40’s to 50’s and the skies are cloudy. So we head into November which can be a strange month for weather. It may be mild and sunny or it could get cold and cover us with a foot of snow. I’m hoping for the former.
And misting and drizzling with fog. And it is cold. Not good weather to be working outdoors in the garden. Walks in the woods are pleasant enough with a light rain coat and rubber boots. There’s a small chance of some sunshine and no rain on Friday so I might be able to get a few things done in the garden. Tilling is out of the question until the soil dries a little bit. All frustrating because by November the weather will be much colder and the days even shorter than in October. The time to get things finished before the first real snows is compressing.
Cooler days are ahead for the rest of the week with plenty of rain and maybe some snow (I hope not). The ground is still warm so it can absorb the additional moisture where it will be stored through the winter and replenish groundwater. All this rain does make work outside difficult and unpleasant, though. It’s just too muddy and slippery.
But there is work to do inside. Sorting out old and chipped canning jars for recycling can be checked off the list. The dishes are washed and put back in their cabinets. The kitchen floor is swept and mopped ready for the next round of messing up. Later, to the basement to straighten out the supplies for the starter bench, test lights, and organize seedling pots and trays. It may be October but it’s good to have things ready for starting tomatoes before March. And there’s butternut squash and cornbread cooking in the oven for dinner.
Maybe not. Even at this late date hiding here and there among the yellowing grasses and withering stems in the flower gardens are blooms of stitchwort, dandelion, fleabane, aster, yarrow and dandelion. Violas are abundant in the garden and are thriving in the cooler weather. In the woods and meadows all the wild flowers are done, the last of the goldenrods having finished blooming in late September. Today I found this spire of blue veronica flowers on the edge of a garden brightening a gray day. There are clouds gathering in the southwest now as the sun sets. They are the leading edge of stormy weather coming our way that will bring colder temperatures and rain and some snow tonight and tomorrow. I think the flowering season will come to an end at least outdoors.