September in the Garden
Harvesting is in full swing now: your tomatoes, peppers, chillies, aubergines and cucumbers will be busy growing until the frosts start. They will enjoy being fed but stop when they are not setting anymore fruits. You can trim back tomato foliage so the sun can reach the fruits to help them ripen. Apart from late main croppers your potatoes should be ready – the foliage may well be dying back so take it off as it is no longer feeding the potatoes beneath. Dig them up carefully (you will always stab a few) and leave them to dry for a few hours before storing: don’t store any you have stabbed, these need to be used.
The foliage will start dying back on your pumpkins and squashes too. Try to keep the fruit off the ground whilst it ripens. As the fruit or stems change colour it signals time to harvest: cut the stalks a few centimetres away from the fruit like a handle. Put the fruits somewhere dry and sunny so they can harden before storing (we use the porch and the greenhouse if it rains).
Sweetcorn will be ripening now. The easy way to tell is to expose the kernels: when the juice from a kernel is ‘milky’ it is ripe. Clear juice means it isn’t ripe enough. It is impossible to wrap the cobs up properly again so don’t poke too many, you will get a ‘feel’ for them being ripe and its fine if some are a bit under-ripe as they can be eaten, over ripe cobs will be less sweet & tender and the juice becomes thicker. Sweetcorn tends to all be ready much at the same time – you will be eating lots for a week or two but you can blanche and freeze them. They also provide lots of ‘stuff’ for the compost heap: run it through a shredder or cut into pieces and stamp on them to break the fibres up first.
When you finish harvesting peas and beans all that greenery can also go on your compost heap but leave the roots in the ground to fix the nitrogen as they break down over the winter.
As these and other crops come out so spaces open up and you have choices to make. Leave fallow or sow some more veg. Fallow simply means you are not actively growing stuff – it does not mean that weeds won’t try to grow actively! You could cover the soil with mulch or manure to dig over the winter or cover with weed suppressant fabric to stop the weeds. All are good choices but you could be using that space to grow something. A green manure such as field mustard or phacelia will suppress weeds and add goodness to your soil as you dig it in later. Growing more veg is the other option – there is plenty you could be starting this month, just browse the September Sowing Guide for ideas.
Our main push in September (apart from harvesting and growing) is to tidy up. It’s a good time to check fences and structures before the winter. We wash pots and trays now so they are ready for spring. All those canes from the beans get put up in the shed roof to keep them dry so they last longer. Tools that are not going to be needed for a while can have a good clean and be put away: the hoe is still needed for weeds and the trowels will be needed for planting out the next lot of veggies that are waiting for their space to become available…