November 2012
Home Grown Tomatoes

Fall is the Season of Beautiful Plants… And Food!


Assorted wild asters provide late food possibilities for honeybees on warm autumn days.

November in the Tomato Tower garden rocks with the seasonal colors of the trees, shrubs and flowers!

It always amazes me how well some of the traditional flowers last through even the most extreme fluctuating hot and cold temperatures in the South.

Zinnias are a standard here, and we start collecting seed heads according to color in early August. By early October, we aren’t quite as selective and collect seeds of mixed colors and save them for field planting next spring. The zinnias are still blooming now and the American goldfinches are having a heyday eating the seeds from the dried heads!

The red stems and leaves offered beautiful summer and fall color on this castor bean plant.


November is the season for marigolds. This is the month many countries (not including the United States) celebrate Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead and the marigold is known as the "flower of the dead." Marigold flowers are scattered during the celebrations to bring out the souls of the dead. Here at the Tomato Tower, we enjoy the beauty of the orange, yellow and pale white flowers of the marigolds through Thanksgiving as cut flowers. The Texas marigold, or Texas Tarragon, is used here as a seasoning in poultry dishes.

This year, our swamp sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) are performing magnificently! They became so tall last year we decided to keep them pruned short until early July. The only problem is that we didn’t prune them short enough and they are 8-foot tall with double the blooms as last year! Still, they are worth growing if you need a showy, late-blooming perennial in your garden.

The beautyberry bushes performed well again this year. Their berries are mostly gone now, so the bushes in formal settings will need to be pruned. The others are allowed to grow wild!


The swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) is over 8-foot tall and still blooming in November!

Castor bean or Ricin bean (Ricinus communis) is beginning to fade and it’s time to collect the seed for next year. Remember to allow the pods to dry completely before storing the seed.

Ornamental grasses such as zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis) are seeding now and can be cut and dried for arrangements.

I don’t know about you, but the Knockout roses we planted back in 2004 are still blooming! Last year, they bloomed until mid-December. There are a couple of them needing to be moved for next year, but I think I’ll wait until winter to do that.

It has been a beautiful season here in the central part of Alabama for tree colors. Some are still showy. I’m sure that with the next rain though I’ll be blowing more leaves and pine straw off my roof!

Clockwise from above, it’s always fun to get surprises in the garden! These pumpkins didn’t appear until after the deer and frosts took away the foliage. They will be part of our Thanksgiving dinner. The volunteer pumpkin vines took over the inside and outside of the potting shed, so I just let them grow! Satsumas begin to mature in early September and are harvested from October through early November.


This season has also been great for edibles. After harvesting pumpkins, I left the gargantuan vines alone because they were so showy. When the frost hit them, I found two more pumpkins I had not seen! Wow! Bonus pumpkins from volunteer plants!

Speaking of winter squash, zucchini soup and stuffed zucchini will be on the menu here for a couple of more weeks this month. The season was great and we had a bumper crop!

In addition to zucchini, there were a bunch of butternut squash this season as well. So, between the butternuts and the red potatoes we’re still harvesting, I think hash browns are in order for Saturday and Sunday brunches for quite a while!

Butter crunch and red oak leaf lettuce are still doing well and so is the micro-greens mix, but the black-seeded Simpson bolted early. I think we will be buying new seed for that one next year. All of the red-leafed giant mustard greens are also performing well this year.

Even though there have been a few cold mornings, the stevia is still green.

There’s nothing quite as good as going into the garden in November and picking a green salad with stevia, dill and basil! Oh, there are a few tomatoes coming in for frying, too.

November brings satsuma harvest here, too. The trees did well this year and the fruits are sweet and large! Satsuma sections on a salad with cottage cheese make a great, healthy lunch!

I’m making myself hungry! I think I’ll go out to the garden and see what’s for lunch!

We’ll be back in December with a special spotlight on spring flower bulbs.

If you have any questions or comments regarding things discussed in this column, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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