September in the garden
Late summer in the productive garden and the harvest is still in full swing. In the far north and Scotland, the first frosts are possible so be prepared and cover tender plants with fleece or cloches for protection. Before storing produce after harvesting, make sure it is dry and in perfect condition, otherwise disease may spread from damaged to healthy crops. For some crops, try saving your own seed for next year and keep the dry, cleaned seed in airtight containers or paper bags. Not every crop is advisable for seed saving, but I’ve always had great fun saving squash, courgette, broad beans, peas and runner bean seeds, for example.
If you’ve been unlucky to suffer from tomato and potato blight, good housekeeping is essential, so clear and burn all infected foliage and produce and do not compost as the fungal spores that cause the condition will overwinter on the heap. With potatoes, do make sure you remove all the tubers from the soil as these, too, survive the winter and infect next year’s crops.
Watering is not generally needed this month in the open, as nights tend to be dewy even if the weather is not showery. Any newly transplanted or sown crops need keeping an eye on, though, and water well to get them established. Celery and leeks will be ready for earthing up and endive can be blanched. Simply invert a clean clay flowerpot over each plant, laying a piece of tile over the drainage hole to exclude light.
Next year’s seed catalogues will be coming out soon. Make a list of the various companies that supply seed and contact them for a catalogue. Most of this can be done through the internet if you have access. Of course, you can order seeds directly online, but nothing beats sitting down in the potting shed or in front of a warm fire during the coming months and leafing through pages and pages of interesting seeds!
There is still time to take cuttings of raspberries and currants and plant out rooted strawberry runners in a new bed. Cut back summer fruiting raspberry canes and prune other currant bushes, too. Put grease bands on pear, apple, cherry and plum trees as this prevents the winter moth from reaching the top of the tree and laying eggs in crevices in the branches.
- Autumn is a good time to plant fruit, as the soil is warm and the plant’s roots get off to a good start. Buy container fruit trees and bushes now and plant up: bare-root stock is only available from November to March. Keep new plants watered until established
- Sow winter lettuces, spinach and cauliflower. Try sowing onions from seed now, too
- Keep on lifting onions and main crop potatoes, and harvesting other crops. All tender crops should be lifted from the ground before frosts: squashes, tomatoes, beans and peppers
- Harvest and store apples and pears as they become ripe. Some of the early varieties don’t tend to store well so keep a regular check on stored fruit
Philippa Pearson is a professional horticulturist and gardener, and she looks after a large estate in Hertfordshire amongst other projects. A keen and passionate gardener all her life, Philippa lives in rural Cambridgeshire where her ever increasing organically maintained vegetable and fruit garden provide a year round harvest of interesting crops, despite being on heavy clay.