September is about new beginnings and moving on. The light is different and the temperature has changed; the traffic is terrible, the roadworks are increasing and the kids are back at school; apples are being harvested, grapes are growing fat and the garden needs at least a couple of days of solid work to get back into shape – well mine does at least.
We work so hard in the garden all year to have it in great shape for the summer and when summer comes we leave on holiday or we have guests and are busy with summer things and the garden often gets left to its own devices. Sometimes, like this year, it is just too hot to work in the garden and the most we can do is water unless that too is prohibited. It seems to me that we are having longer periods of very hot weather than we’ve had in the past. Summers like this make me take a closer look at what I’ve got growing and make me reevaluate the plants I have in my garden, those that cannot handle the heat have to move on.
Having promised to reduce the number of pots on my terrace I am happy to report that I am more or less succeeding. I’m being much more careful about what I plant, more grasses and sedums and fewer if any annuals so I’m heading in the right direction. I’m very happy with the heavy mulching that I started on my raspberries and blackberries earlier this year. I followed the recommendation of a US gardener who suggested putting cardboard down around the base of the plants, dampening it as you place it to make it a little more manageable, and completely covering it with wood chips as mulch. I have to say I’m a convert, it makes such a tremendous difference to the weeding. The weeds become long and leggy as they try to find their way to surface making them very easy to pull out when the mulch and cardboard is damp.
I was home and away quite a lot this summer which was lovely for me just not so lovely for the garden. I successfully hired a local student to come over and water every few days, more if it was hot, which of course it was. Because of this travel chaos I decided to restrict my veggie growing, so no courgettes and no tomatoes for me or so I thought, mother nature had other ideas. Tomatoes are notoriously difficult to grow from seed when you try, however, when you don’t try it seems they are very successful. I now have five plants laden with slowly ripening fruit. I just hope the weather holds long enough for them to mature so I can taste them!
We are well and truly in the midst of harvesting. In order to get the best from your vegetables, pinch back any new flowers especially on the tomatoes and courgettes, this encourages the plants to put their energy into the existing fruit. It is also a good idea to thin the leaves around the fruit to allow as much light and air in as possible thus encouraging maturation. If you have pumpkins cut back the leaves so the fruit is not shadowed from the sun.
I’ll be planting a winter green cover crop again this year, it will be spinach and I’ll be putting it down as soon as the tomatoes are done. This keeps the weeds down and when I dig it back in in the spring it will return nutrients to the soil. I’m also looking at garlic and onions which are easy to grow here. Garden centres have plenty of varieties available now. There are also masses of bulbs in the shops now, hold back until late November before planting the tulips as they need it to be cold before going in the ground to prevent tulip blight but all other spring bulbs can be planted now.
Something I’ll be doing this weekend is documenting what I liked this year, what worked, what didn’t. I’ll be making notes in my garden book and taking photos which will remind me later in the year or even next spring where things were, what needed to be staked or moved. Photos are a tremendous help because we do tend to forget and go on to make the mistakes again.
Enjoy your garden.