Your September Garden
School children go back to their learning institutions resplendent in over-sized blazers and blister-inducing, shiny black shoes. Crows and ravens return noisily to nest uncomfortably close in neighbours’ trees. Strictly Come Dancing revs up for its sprint to Christmas and…..there’s plenty to be getting on with in the garden. There are lots of crops to pick, dahlias to cut, gladioli to stake against the breeze as thoughts turn to planting again. After all, the soil is warm, the soil is moist, the soil is ready. September is a marvellous month.
OK, it’s getting darker earlier in the evenings and the grass is sodden with dew every morning, but there is a magical smell to September. The first leaves are turning red (my own Amelanchier is well on the turn now and promises a fiery show – again, as it never fails to impress). Courgettes need picking as mildew will soon slow and stop the growth of plants.
Hopefully, your onions did well and are languishing in wooden trays in a mouse-free shed. After all, those lovely critters (mice, not the onions) are all starting to snuffle around on the lookout for safe and cosy places to live over winter. Persuade them to look elsewhere if you want your bulbs intact and your tubers in one piece. I speak from experience.
The weather in September is usually pretty good. Cries from cricketers appealing for the season to be shifted one month from its traditional start of an April start and August finish fall on deaf ears as the use of the mower becomes less frequent. However, once a week will encourage grass to stay short and stubby. Our lawn will still grow if the temperatures is above 6 degrees Celsius. And it will be for most of the month.
Then of course there are bulbs. All those gorgeous spring flowers you always promise but usually forget to sort. Plant bulbs now. It’s a simple message. Daffodils, alliums, tulips, fritillaries – the lists and displays in garden centres are seemingly endless, and all need to go in soil, pots, containers and hanging baskets this month to produce a superb display next spring.
Key activity/planting/preparing September
It’s easy to forget to plant some bulbs in the frenzy of September activity – and the problem is once you have missed the planting season it really is too late. You can buy ready-planted bulbs next spring but they cost a fortune (in comparison to doing it yourself now) and lack the satisfaction of nuzzling the bulbs into fluffy soil, gently covering with a warm duvet of rich, stone free soil and waiting for the noses of growth to appear next spring. Do it now, sit back and take the plaudits next spring. It’s a great feeling.
First up, you have to choose what you want to grow. That’s a personal choice, obviously, but do it as soon as possible in the month as everyone will be doing the same and the widest choice and, indeed the best quality bulbs, will quickly disappear from the shelves or screen. A good bulb is one that is firm, doesn’t have any soggy sunken patches and isn’t actually growing yet. Pre-packaged bulbs are popular in many garden centres as it makes selling easy, and no one can swap around bulbs in the wrong containers, but always have a good rummage to check all the bulbs in the netting or packet are quality ones. A bulb contains all the energy to produce leaves and a flower next spring. All you need to do is to plant it at the correct depth in the soil or planter (three times the height of the bulb is a good guideline) and that’s it! You’ll thank me next spring for reminding you now.
Hints and tips for September gardening
- Only mow the lawn when it is dry to prevent muddy patches and grass getting chewed up in the blades of the mower. A sweep over the top of small lawns will help disperse early morning dew.
- Mildew on cucumbers in the greenhouse is becoming a menace, so pick off infected leaves to slow down the diseases progress. Same with outdoor cues and courgettes, marrows and pumpkins.
- Sorry – but it’s time to check heaters are working and that the horticultural fleece is handy. You don’t need them yet but it won’t be long – so be prepared.
- Squeeze out every last flower from plants in hanging baskets by checking watering every day and dead-heading faded flowers. Why not have it blooming for another month?
- Pick dahlias as they mature. They are great cut flowers in the home and taking flowers off the plants encourages smaller buds to fully develop.
- growing aubergines in a garden
Q: Can I plant bulbs in containers?
A: Of course – just ensure you have a good depth of compost above the planted bulb. Thus is usually three times the height of the bulb. It allows good development and great blooming. Make sure the pot drains well and use any multi-purpose compost. Bulbs don’t need lots of feed until they are flowering next year as everything is already present in the bulb.
Q: I’ve lots of tomatoes on the plants in the greenhouse but most are green. There’s only so much green chutney I can eat – can I ripen them off the plant?
A: There’s still some growing time left for your tomatoes (especially if it is a warm, sunny September) but try picking the biggest ones, putting them in a box along with a ripe banana and placing in a warm environment. The banana gives off ethylene that helps the tomatoes ripen. It’s worth a go.
Q: My runner beans have finished and I want to save the beans – but how?
A: Wait for the pods to completely dry. Then, on a dry day, pick them all, shell the seeds and store them in an airtight container (sandwich boxes are great) or simply use paper bags (the paper absorbs any residual moisture = better keeping qualities). They can even be used to grow new plants next spring.
Events and shows this month
September is the key time for local village shows. Largest carrot, biggest marrow and onions grown to perfection – go to yours, get inspired, eat home-made cake and keep this Great British tradition alive.