September is a busy time in the garden, with seeds, fruit and vegetables to harvest. It is also a time to start preparing for next year, says local gardening expert Andy Colquhoun.
After quite a mild summer, the autumn is finally here. Autumn is a time for planting spring bulbs; daffodils are the first to go in followed by tulips later in October or November. Planting depths are important to keep them flowering. If too shallow, they will not flower after the first year. What’s best is to plant three to four times the depth of the bulb.
The end of August/early autumn is a good time to collect seeds. Carefully shake and scrape out the seeds and store in an envelope in a dry place. A sealed tin is helpful, and throw in some dried rice or silica gel to absorb moisture. Given the cost of seeds, collecting seeds for the following year will save you some money next year - or you can take them to a seed swap (one takes place in Crediton each year).
Tomatoes still need a lot of attention and it’s important to water daily or every other day depending on conditions. From October, watering will become less frequent. If the plants are still growing, it’s important to thin out the leaves to encourage the fruits to ripen.
The main crop potatoes can be harvested this month. Potatoes can go green very quickly, even after 24 hours in a greenhouse. If they are wet when you dig them up, put them somewhere to dry. Once dry, put them into a sack and store in a dark dry place. Hessian sacks are the best because they are made from natural fibre, unlike plastic and polythene which will trap moisture.
Plant winter veg
September is a good time to plant the winter vegetables. Winter and spring cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli, little gem lettuce, chicory and Chinese cabbage are a few choices.
Prune trees and shrubs
Once harvested, it’s time to start pruning back the fruit trees and shrubs. This will maximise yields for next year and the sooner after harvesting the better. If you are not sure when apples are ripe, gently tug the apple and it should come away from the branch easily.
Start a compost heap
I also find that early autumn is an ideal time to start a compost heap in the garden; autumn leaves, grass clippings, tea bags (non plastic), coffee grinds, egg shells (dried and crushed before adding). It is good to turn with a fork every few weeks to aerate. By the time spring arrives, there will be lovely organic rich compost to use.
Pick hydrangeas before they are damaged by wind and rain. Float the flowers overnight in a bath of cool water. Arrange the flowers in a vase with an inch or two of water. As the water evaporates, the flower heads will dry and keep their colour.
Andy Colquhoun runs Linden Lea Gardening Services