Vegetables that can be sown this month include:
- Spring onions – for overwintering to provide a crop in the late spring.
- Japanese onions – Grown from sets and overwintered for a crop in June/July.
- Quick maturing and hardy salad crops – Choose the right varieties and you’ll have a fresh supply of salads that will see you well into the winter
Varieties of onion worth a try include Radar, Senshyu, Red Cross, White Snowball and Troy.
If you have a greenhouse the soil borders, or even old grow bags with their summer plants removed, can be used to grow vegetables more commonly grown outdoors. They are grown throughout the winter, either to provide a catch crop (i.e. a fast-growing or immature crop, filling a space where the ground would otherwise be left bare) or for an early crop next spring. Try carrot, lettuce, coriander, basil, radish and turnip for quick/baby crops; try spring onion as an over-wintered crop.
Onions sown in the spring will be ready to lift when the tops begin to turn yellow and fall over. Lift, complete with tops, brush off loose soil, and lay them out to dry in a bright, airy place sheltered from rain and damp. This seasoning process is necessary if they are to keep in storage without rotting through the winter. They are ready to store once the tops have dried.
Maincrop potatoes are ready for lifting in the first half of this month. If possible, lift during a dry spell, drying them in the sun for an hour or two before storing. If you notice any signs of blight – brown patches on the leaves – in the days before harvest, remove the haulms immediately.
Allow one or two courgettes on a selected courgette plant to grow into marrows. Raise the fruits off the ground on a brick or tile and turn them as they grow to allow even ripening. Once the skin is hard they can be picked for storage, lasting a couple of months if stored correctly.
reen manures are crops sown as temporary ground cover on otherwise bare patches of land, and whose roots and foliage are grown specifically for incorporating into the soil. They can be used to improve the soil structure and take up nutrients that would otherwise be washed out of bare soil by the rain. Some will also fix nitrogen from the air into the soil. Next spring, dig them into the soil at least a month before the subsequent food crop is sown, or remove them to the compost heap.
Green manures that can be sown now for overwintering include field beans, forage peas, winter tares, forage rye, phacelia and white tilney mustard. (The first three of these, because they are legumes, have the additional benefit of fixing nitrogen from the air into the soil.)
If you intend to plant bare-root fruit trees/bushes this autumn then get catalogues from suppliers now and start thinking about what you want to order. Although you won’t be planting until November, popular stock from good suppliers disappears fast, so be first in the queue.
Cut the grass beneath apple, pear and plum trees nice and short so that you can see where fruit has fallen.
Victoria plums will be at their best in the first week or two of this month. Check daily for ripened and fallen fruit.
All pruning of plums and cherries should be done by now. Pruning outside the summer months of active growth greatly increases the chances of stone fruit getting canker and silver-leaf disease.
Tie in new canes of summer raspberries as they grow. With blackberry, tayberry, wineberry and loganberry, once the fruit has been picked from the one-year-old fruiting canes remove them completely. Tie in new (current season) canes in their place.
Pea, bean (french, broad and runner), courgette, pumpkin/squash, pepper/chilli, lettuce, chard and tomato seeds can all be collected and stored for sowing in subsequent years. Also, many annual flowers – for example nigella, marigold, nasturtium, eschscholzia, godetia, amaranthus – will proffer a ready supply of free seeds.
Consider trench composting on a selected bed after it becomes free of crops (e.g. onions or potatoes) this month. Dig a trench one spade deep, then over the coming months fill it up with your compostable waste, mixing each deposit with some soil and covering the mixture with the remaining soil as you go. Next year, the bed will be ideal for crops that thrive in a water retentive soil – runner beans, pumpkins, courgettes and sweetcorn for example.
September is traditionally the time to give hedges one last trim before the end of the season. Now is a good time for a final cut because any tender new growth, which is susceptible to winter frost damaged, will be removed. Also, cutting at this time of year will not stimulate any new growth.
Hopefully you’ve had a successful year and now need somewhere to store your bounty (potatoes, carrots, beetroots, onions, garlic, pumpkins, marrows, apples, etc). Now’s the time to scout out somewhere cool, dark, frost-free, pest-proofed and dry. This could be a garage, a sturdy shed with shutters on the windows (although bear in mind that it is extremely difficult to make your average garden shed mouse proof), an under-stair cupboard of the type you’ll find on the ground floor of many an Edinburgh tenement, or an unused, and unheated, room in your house. Only store food which is in excellent condition, and check on a regular basis throughout the winter.
September is probably the best time of year to sow grass seed. In all likelihood you won’t have any plans to sow an entire lawn; however, there could be bare and worn patches that need new grass sown in. If an area has become worn due to frequent use then use a “high-wear” grass seed mix. Some points to note:
- Scratch the patch to be sown with a rake to loosen the soil.
- Apply a thin layer of compost over the sown seeds such that the seeds are just visible.
- Use horticultural fleece, plastic sheeting or fine-mesh netting to stop the seeds merely becoming bird food (this can be removed as soon as the seeds have sprouted).
- Sowing at the recommended rate is fine, but sow thicker if you can.
Forced Bulbs For Indoor Winter Flowers
Many spring-flowering bulbs can be planted in pots now and forced into early growth for indoor flowers in winter. “Forcing” is the process of tricking the bulb into early growth by placing the potted bulbs in a cool dark place for a period of, typically, 10-14 weeks. Once shoots appear and reach an inch or two long, the pot is brought indoors and, with nothing more than a bright location and regular watering, will be flowering around a month later. Some points to note:
- You don’t need a lot of compost – a 5” pot will grow, for example, 3 hyacinths or 5 daffodils.
- No feeding is necessary.
- During the forcing stage, you ideally need to keep the temperature low but above freezing – no more than 9°
- Bulbs from the garden, or from garden centres, are fine. Although it is possible to buy treated ones specifically for indoor growing, the only advantage with these is that they need a reduced forcing period.
- Once flowering is finished, it is very unlikely that the bulb will be any good for indoor flowering next year. If you want to save the bulb for future use, apply a liquid feed after flowering and keep watering as the foliage dies down naturally. Un-pot and dry the bulb then save until next autumn for planting outdoors.
Examples include daffodil, muscari, snowdrop, hyacinth, and amaryllis.
Time to flowering varies, but to take the classic example, hyacinth, the process takes about 13 weeks (10 weeks forcing and 3 weeks growing); so, bulbs planted mid-September should be in flower for Christmas.
Sow An Annual Flower Meadow For Next Summer
The most common time to sow annual flowers is mid-spring to early-summer, for flowering later on in the same season. However, many of the annuals used in cottage and meadow planting can be sown now for an earlier display next year. Sow them where they are to flower (as a rule they do not like being transplanted) and they will germinate readily, surviving as seedlings through all but the harshest of winters. (Trials have found that, in many case, annuals flowers sown now are even more likely to be successful than Spring sown annuals.)
So, if you have a spare patch of land, preferably not too high in fertility, create a flower meadow. Regardless of size, it will be an attractive feature, a source of cut flowers, and will also be a magnet for beneficial pollinating insects.
Try the following:
- Pot marigold (Calendula officialid)
- Corn marigold (Chrysanthemum segetum)
- White campion
- Red campion*
- Corn cockle
- Common poppy (Papaver rhoeas)
- Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum)
- Welsh poppy (meconopsis cambrica)*
- Poached egg flower
- Sweet rocket
- Night-scented stock
* Strictly speaking a perennial that grows well as an annual.
Note that many of these are available not only in their ‘wild’ (native) form but also as named varieties which are the result of selective breeding. These are fine but bare in mind that, as a general rule, the more highly bred a flower is the less likely it is to self-seed and to attract pollinators.
In The Greenhouse
As mentioned above, greenhouse borders, or even old grow bags with their summer plants removed, can be used to grow vegetables more commonly grown outdoors.
Vigorous young strawberry plants from the garden, or the garden centre, can be potted up now for cropping in the greenhouse around about April next year. Note however that the potted plants are not brought into the greenhouse until after mid-winter; until then, they are kept outdoors in a frost-free spot. This period of winter chill is essential if they are to fruit properly
It should be possible to dig up young and vigorous specimens of many different types of perennial herbs to bring inside for an extended growing season. For example: thyme, marjoram, parsley, mint, chives and sage.