Hello Autumn! Gardening in September…

We may be mourning the passing of high summer but if you think about it, this is the month when all the hard work we’ve put into our gardens through the year finally comes to fruition.

We’re rewarded by the fruits in our orchards and the berries in our fruit gardens, and instead of beating down on our heads, the sun − if we’re lucky enough to get another Indian Summer − will gently warm our backs as we work outdoors, plotting and planning for next year’s garden and pruning, clearing and tidying up from this year’s.

Let’s start with the flower borders. Now the summer bedding plants are over, you can start to plug gaps with hardy perennials such as salvia, erysimum and heuchera (elephant’s ears). You can also start planting your spring bulbs including daffodils, tulips and alliums, making sure you plant each bulb 3-4 times the depth of the bulb itself. September is the time to harvest your fruits and berries – remember if you have a glut of berries you can freeze them − but we gardeners always work with an eye on next year and so you will also need to divide perennials such as agapanthus, euphorbias and geums this month to make sure they flower well next year and also to stop them taking over the border.

Spring may seem a long way off but September is also the time to be planning and planting your favourite spring bedding plants including bellis (daisy), pansies, primroses, polyanthus and wallflowers. Any wildlife that has taken up residence in and around your garden will really thank you for planting and taking care of late-berrying plants such as sedum, berberis and pyracantha which will supply them with food and nectar this month. We know that the UK bee population is struggling and so anything you can do to help them find nectar will mean you are making a difference to wild bees. And if you have an area for wild flowers then now is also the time to plant field scabious, field cornflowers and feverfew now, which will also attract, bees and butterflies to the garden. For those with a productive veg patch, early September is ‘last chance saloon’ for the sowing of outdoor salad leaf crops such as rocket, mustard and mizuna. If you like your super salads, you might want to think about growing a lettuce cultivar such as ‘Valdor’ which you can grow in a cold frame for early cutting next spring.

September is also all about the onions. You’ll know the onions are ready to harvest because their leaf tops will begin to flop over. Check the onions for signs of damage before storing either in plant trays or old net bags and if you’re feeling creative have a go at plaiting them into strings. If you’ve been growing pumpkins and squash these will need to be raised up off the ground to ripen in the autumn sun before harvesting but if the weather is wet, cut them early and bring them into the greenhouse or place them on a sunny windowsill to allow that to happen. Prepare orchard fruits for storage by keeping them in a warm room for a fortnight before moving to somewhere dry and cool but frost-free and if you’re not sure when your apples are ready to pick from the tree, gently cup the fruit in your hand and twist. If it comes away easily it’s ready for the fruit bowl if it’s an early variety like Discovery, which is best eaten straight away or for storage so you can look forward to apple bobbing at Halloween.

Quote for September

“In the garden, Autumn is, indeed the crowning glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil. ?And at no season, safe perhaps in Daffodil time, do we get such superb colour effects as from August to November.” – Rose G. Kingsley, The Autumn Garden, 1905