Gardening in September

September is reminding us that a new season of shorter and colder days is ahead of us. We’re not quite there yet and there’s still plenty to get on with in the garden! We need to keep on harvesting and help our plants to produce as long as possible, as well as preparing for the next growing season. 

If you have one of our Sprout mini greenhouses the change tends to be less drastic. One season merges with the next and all you have to do is to adjust the light, watering and temperature controls. 

If you haven’t already….

  • Support tall brassicas to stop them falling over in strong autumn winds. 
  • Cure your onions in the greenhouse or somewhere warm and dry for a few weeks. The drier and riper the skin, the better the onions will store.

What to do now….

  • Harvest your crops regularly when they are at their best, as they can grow too much or go to seed quickly at this time of the year. 
  • Pick the first apples of the season when they let go of the tree as soon as you give them a light twist. Check often as the exact time of ripening can vary a lot between locations, varieties and even on the north or south side of the tree. 
  • Prepare beds before planting any autumn and winter crops by weeding and feeding the soil with your choice of fertiliser. Mulching with compost, grass clippings or well rotted manure is a great choice as it not only feeds the soil but adds organic matter as well. It will also stop the soil from drying out, stop the weeds growing and help against soil erosion.  
  • If your area is still dry, keep on top of watering and adjust your watering schedule according to the weather. Little seedlings and newly planted autumn veg and fruit bushes are very vulnerable and need more water on sunny days to help the roots to establish. A stressed plant will attract pests, such as aphids, and regular watering is the key to keeping them away. If possible, water early morning or late evening and always water the soil around the roots rather than the foliage to avoid fungal related diseases.   
  • Feed your cucumber plants to keep them cropping for longer and remove old and diseased leaves. Also, remember to pick the fruits regularly so that the plant keeps on producing! 
  • Check your courgette plants often and pick the fruit when young. This will ensure that they keep on producing lots of courgettes! Remove old and diseased leaves to keep the plant healthy for as long as possible. 
  • Water your carrots in dry spells to keep the soil around the roots constantly moist. If the soil dries out followed by rain, it can cause the roots to split. If you have a problem with carrot flies keep your carrots meshed as the pesky little things lay eggs even in September. 
  • Plant out your potted strawberry runners. Make sure to use a new area every 3-4 years to avoid diseases building up. 
  • Feed your halloween pumpkins and winter squashes and keep them well watered so that they can swell as much as possible. 
  • As soon as you have finished harvesting a bed or area make sure to weed and add a layer of mulch. This will stop the weeds taking over and also feed the soil and its inhabitants throughout the winter. In spring, you can lift off any cover if necessary or just move the cover slightly to plant or sow. This will save you lots of time in spring when gardening is at its busiest. Compost, well rotted manure, leaves, grass clippings, weeds that have not gone to seed, hay, straw or hay silage can all be used. 
  • Keep on working to reduce slug habitats in your garden. It will make a huge difference to next years’ slug population. Tidy up, lift up stones, pieces of wood and keep grass short.
  • Pick fresh herbs like thyme, bay, mint and marjoram and tie them into small bunches. Hang them somewhere dry and dark to dry. They can also be frozen in ice cubes. 
  • Pick blackberries as they mature on the plants. Regular picking will help younger fruit mature and also ensure that the birds don’t get them all. 
  • Check on your plums every day if possible as this fruit doesn’t ripen all at once. Pick them before the birds and wasps damage them!
  • Help your outdoor tomatoes to ripen by removing a lot of the foliage, starting at the bottom. Tomatoes grown in pots can be moved to the warmest and sunniest corner to help it ripen the fruit before the cool and damp weather sets in. 
  • Continue pruning side shoots and removing some of the foliage on your grape vines to help the fruit ripen. Also, look out for wasps eating the fruit.
  • As the asparagus foliage turns yellow, cut it down to 2.5cm above the ground. 
  • Stake your Brussel Sprouts as they grow tall and become top heavy.  

Quick jobs 

Sometimes we only have five or ten minutes to spare but it is remarkable how much you can get done in those minutes! Imagine you did one of these jobs every day of the year. 365 small jobs creates miracles! 

  • Sow lettuce! Keep sowing lettuce little and often to ensure a continuous supply of fresh salads through autumn and winter. If you have a Sprout mini greenhouse any variety will do for the winter but if you don’t, make sure to sow winter varieties.
  • Keep on checking your brassicas! Remove any butterfly eggs and caterpillars before they munch on your plants. Also tidy them up by removing the lower leaves when they start to look old and tired. It helps in preventing both slugs and disease! 
  • Lift squashes and pumpkins off the ground by placing them on a stone, brick, paving slab or tray. This will keep the base of the fruit dry and increase the airflow to stop rotting and aid ripening of the fruit. 
  • Check on your tomatoes and ensure the soil moisture level is even to avoid the fruit splitting. 
  • Check your plants and remove any foliage that is yellow, dead or looking diseased to prevent moulds and fungal diseases from spreading. 
  • Check your potato and tomato plants for blight as often as you can. It starts with watery rots on the leaves that soon turn brown and spread over the foliage and stems. Remove any affected plants as soon as possible and discard the material.
  • Watch out for pests. You may feel that the gardening pace is slowing down but pests can still do considerable damage to your plants. 
  • Go on a slug hunt! We are not giving up now because it is the overwintering slugs that will cause havoc next year. Look under things like pots, pieces of wood, clumps of soil and stones. Dispose of them and any eggs you find.

What should I be sowing this month?

This month we can sow spinach, lettuce, salad leaves, kale for winter leaves, coriander, radish, salad onions, chard, spring cabbage, corn salad, oriental leaves such as mizuna and mustards for smaller leaves.

What should I plant this month?

September is a great time to plant out overwintering onions, spring cabbage, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, and also strawberries from runners or new plants. 

Time your planting out with forecasted rain to save on water and help the plants establish. This is of course not always possible, but try to avoid really hot or windy days.

What should I harvest this month?

September tends to be a fantastic harvesting month!  We can harvest runner beans, dwarf beans, main crop potatoes, squash, summer cabbage, calabrese, kohlrabi, lettuce, radish, spring onions, chard, carrots, beetroot, courgette, turnips, spinach, all sorts of herbs, autumn raspberries, apples, plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, cape gooseberries and possibly the first leeks!

Gardening with children 

Gardening with children is wonderful and chaotic! It is the very best place for them to learn about and connect with nature, wildlife, biodiversity, sustainability and growing food. It is important to let them have a go and fail but it is also important to give them an opportunity to succeed! Here are some ideas that you can do with your children this month.

  • Tell your children they are not allowed to tidy! For once we do not want them to pick up the mess. Explain that we must leave sticks, leaves and naturally fallen things on the ground, at least in some areas, to create a winter home for little creatures. A super tidy garden means there is nowhere for them to live during the colder months, and we must all do what we can. 
  • Whilst we mustn’t tidy up all the leaves we can take a few nice looking ones and make an autumn wreath. Children love creating things and leaves can simply be glued to a paper plate or, perhaps a little more advanced, tied to a wreath base.