September is a go-getter month in the garden, if you want it to be, or one can just potter about and enjoy some mellow time, but remember the work you put in now will bear fruit for years to come, says Fiann Ó Nualláin.
September is officially the end of summer, but some Septembers can be as good as June for boons on the edible front.
Main crop potatoes should be ready.
Still cropping are courgettes, beetroot, cabbage, carrots, cauliflowers, cucumbers, globe artichokes, kale, lettuce, kohlrabi, spring onions, spinach, sweetcorn, tomatoes, turnips, leeks, marrows, onions, pumpkins and radishes.
But this is also the month to start again with onion and shallot sets and to get going on winter and over-wintering crops.
If you have picked all your beans and lifted all your spuds you can move to the next allocations in crop rotations.
Far from being the end of something, this is the start of something.
So what is timely to sow/grow right now?
Sow direct (straight onto a fine tilth) calendula, borage, violas and dianthus — these edible flowers are wonderful additions to the plot and to the plate and they will also brighten up the veg patch and bring pollinators.
Perhaps you might try some cowslip and primulas for early edible petals come spring.
OK, there is a nip in the air so if you are keen on a last run of leaf veg or winter salad leaf then sow with some cover ( a cloche or fleece will do the trick). Spinach and pak choi can be started from seed now.
At this time of the year I start sowing micro veg and sprouting seeds on the windowsill inside.
I’m normally too busy or inconsistently at home over summer to avail of these high impact nutritional bullets — so now I can catch up on a bit of 5-a-day expresso style.
Nip in the air or not this weekend is the start of autumnal planting — which includes strawberries, overwintering onion sets, Japanese onion, garlic and shallots and plenty of winter veg available as plugs in modular trays in your local garden centre — kales, cabbages, pak choi, leeks — all plants with good sulphur that will boost your mood and immune system come the darker nights.
The big misconception in growing your own is that summer is growing, and autumn is harvest — in reality there are growing and harvesting opportunities all year round.
Each season has seasonal veg to eat and crops to be started for the next season.
I love native trees. I see their beauty but I feel my cultural heritage when near them — be it the red branch knights — ancient Irish warriors who made their spears from alders that bleed red when cut or the red berries of the rowan warding off evil and bad energy — and there is that jolt of good energy that a beautiful rowan gives to the soul of the eye of the beholder.
You might consider planting a Blackthorn for its dark blue sloes (and sloe gin) but remember also that its spiny protection is welcomed by many small species of bird and its nectar is key to many native bees and butterflies — which means more pollinators and pest control for you in the long run.
Trees are crops too — linden tea, roasted sweet chestnuts, even something like the Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) yields tasty red fruits in mid to late summer, but you will have to fight the birds for them.
On the topic of fruits — traditionally September is the time to prune blackcurrants but also last chance to prune stone fruit such as interior apricots and peaches and exterior damsons plums and gages.
Summer bearing raspberries can be rejuvenated for next year by cutting back canes that have fruited and tying in the new shoots.
Blackberries and hybrid berries can also have old canes coppiced and new ones tied in.
It is also the perfect time to plant fruit bushes and fruiting trees for future harvests. From raspberry to fig, from a conference pear to a logan berry.
If you think you haven’t got room for fruits there are step over and patio varieties but there is also the potential of a fruiting hedge in place of the cats pee privet or skyscraper coniferous beast.
If you have a compost heap and you didn’t turn it last month, do it now to recharge the batteries of decomposition, you can boost it further with a little urine or comfrey tea.
If this is the month you want to start one then not to worry you can start a compost heap any time of the year. It is all about layers. Don’t fret too much about percentage ratio, think instead lasagne.
A layer of brown, a layer of green, a layer of brown and then again green. A great layer which is attainable now is Comfrey (Symphytum officinale and Symphytum x uplandicum).
Whenever I start a fresh heap I utilize it as as a Compost Activator, speeding up decomposition and addition of minerals and trace elements to the heap.
If you have comfrey in the garden, simply chop a few stalks and leaves, let wilt a little and sprinkle on as a next layer.
If you don’t have any then get to your local garden centre or get a root-cutting from a friend or a friendly allotmenteer.
The fermented leaves (simply left in a bucket of water for three weeks to rot a bit) is better than any tomato feed and will not only boost your tomato crop but feed all fruit and nourish all root crops too.
So September is a go-getter month. If you want it to be. Of course you can just potter about and enjoy some mellow time.
But the work you put in now will bear fruit for years to come. There is always December and January to put the feet up.
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