To many minds, including Head Gardener Imogen’s, September marks the beginning of autumn and the start of one of nature’s most vibrant shows.
September is a beautiful month with crisp, dew-drenched mornings, cool golden evenings, and often hot, sunny days. The days are noticeably shorter, and there’s a risk of frost. Autumn colours are developing on the trees and hedgerows, and allotments are abundant with fruit.
Common wasps, having diligently kept our gardens free of aphids and caterpillars all summer, are now kicked out of their nests with no work to do and are starving hungry. Being only able to feed on sugary liquid food they desperately search out rotting fruit and sweet drinks.
September brings the start of autumn, and the equinox, bringing the contrast between light and dark into sharp focus. Many find this time of year depressing as the evenings draw in, but by staying active in the garden the cycle of life can be celebrated, savoured, and appreciated.
It’s important to get your harvests gathered before the frost catches them. Try freezing, drying, or pickling, or make jams and chutneys with any gluts, or share with neighbours, family and friends. One of the best parts of gardening is sharing the fruits of your labour and the beauty from your garden.
Jobs for this month:
• Trim beech and hornbeam hedges to keep them neat.
• Plant spring flowering bulbs and plant up containers with spring bedding or late season colour using colourful foliage and interesting leaf shapes.
• Plant up some Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ in a small pot and keep them indoors, somewhere cool and bright, and they will brighten up your February!
• Take semi-ripe cuttings – here we will take cuttings from our Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine).
• Continue dead-heading, particularly late flowering perennials such as dahlias to encourage them to continue flowering until the frost hits.
• Harvest maincrop potatoes, carrots, beans, courgettes, cucumbers, lettuce, sweetcorn, apples and pears.
• Plant autumn onion sets late in September. ‘Radar’ and ‘Red Baron’ are two of my favourites.
• Sow winter lettuce, delicious crunchy winter purslane, fast growing land cress, spinach, peas for shoots, parsley, rocket and coriander. These can be grown in a window box or balcony.
• If you have any bare patches of earth sow green manures such as winter vetch or grazing rye. This will stop nutrients and soil from being leached away and improve your soil.
• Keep picking off cabbage white caterpillars and checking for slugs in the evenings.
• Cut herbs for drying.
• Save seeds – gather them on a dry day using paper bags.
• Leave hollow stalks, tussocky plants and seedheads for wildlife, and to add some winter interest to your borders and piles of leaves are important for beetles, other predatory insects, and hedgehogs.
• Leave some windfall fruit for wildlife; birds, hedgehogs, moths and butterflies all benefit hugely.
Whatever you do in your garden this month, take your time, and really focus on what you are doing, you’ll find yourself refreshed and revitalised – the perfect antidote and alternative to listening to the news!
Enjoy autumn and all it brings wherever you and your gardens are!