September 01 2022

Head Gardeners’ tips
September 2022

Amy Moffett - Head Gardener, Stoke Mandeville

As summer slips away September is the perfect time to reflect on what's worked well in your garden, whilst it's also well-worth starting a spot of seasonal seed gathering!

Seasonal shifts can be felt once more and whilst that means there's plenty to be getting on with in your garden, it's also a wonderful opportunity to dedicate time to taking a closer look at nature.

Spending time in the garden, observing the plants and enjoying the sensory qualities of it, is one of the most valuable aspects about having a garden. When leading such busy lives, we can easily forget to do this and spend most of our garden time ‘doing’ rather than ‘experiencing’. Take some time to enjoy the space you have nurtured (or allowed to run wild!) and notice the beneficial aspects of non-doing; particularly good for calming and clearing the mind, improving focus and boosting energy levels.

While spending time in the garden, observe which garden plants have been successful this year and which have been struggling to survive over the summer of extreme weather conditions. Have certain plants needed a lot more water than others, or have some plants surprised you in how well they have coped with the drought? Do you need to establish more shade in the garden, and could this be achieved through planting a tree or two?

If you are thinking about planting a tree, the best time to do it is in the autumn. It will still need to be watered regularly during winter dry spells, but it will be much easier to establish than if you waited for the spring. If you have a small garden, then make sure you choose a tree that will fit the space; there are plenty of options, including Acer griseum with its beautifully textured bark, many Sorbus species with their attractive autumn berries, Magnolia stellata ‘Jane Platt’ with its gorgeous, scented spring flowers, to name just a few. There are so many benefits to adding a tree into a garden space – they attract and benefit wildlife, provide shade and shelter, offer structure and height, and many have beautiful flowers and autumn colour. 

If you are fortunate to already have trees in your garden, be sure to make the most of the fallen leaves in the autumn. Leaf mould is one of the most nutritious forms of mulch that you can add to the garden and it’s very easy to make. Simply designate an area of the garden and make a pile! To ensure they won’t blow away you can make a simple framework using chicken wire and posts, or recycled wooden pallets. The pile of leaves will gradually slump down as it rots, eventually forming a lovely crumbly texture resembling the soil on the surface of the woodland floor. This provides a wonderful boost to all manner of garden plants.

Now is also a good time to think about dividing any herbaceous perennials that you would like to bulk up around the garden, or that have become too big for their space. If it’s the latter, you can always offer any surplus plants to friends or neighbours! To divide the plants when they have finished flowering, dig out a patch and lay it onto a piece of tarpaulin or similar. Use two garden forks, back-to-back, to tease the clump apart and divide into smaller pieces; once you have the correct size for your space, replant it and water in. Some plants may need to be carefully cut through with a spade, or even an old bread knife. Excess pieces can also be put into pots if desired.

Keep an eye out for seeds that you might want to collect and sow from the garden; you will know when they’re ripe because they become hard and come away from the plant quite easily. These can be sown straight away or stored to sow another time; don’t forget to collect things like tomato, cucumber and bean seeds for next year which will save you money too. If you are storing seeds keep them in a paper envelope in a cool dry place; you could keep them in a container in the fridge with some silica gel to keep them dry. Fleshy seeds like tomato will need to be cleaned and dried first; lay them on a piece of kitchen towel to dry, and don’t forget to label them!

If you’re keen to get growing now, no need to wait till spring to start sowing! Sweet peas, calendula, strawflower and lavender can all be sown now, or try colourful Coleus for a splash of year-round colour in your greenhouse or on the windowsill. Most herbs can also be grown all year round on a sunny windowsill which is a great way to keep adding lots of tasty homegrown nutrients to your plate. Happy gardening!  

Enjoy relishing all the bright and beautiful late summer sights near you.

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