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September Ideas for Garden


In the kitchen garden
Clear stems and leaves from vegetable beds and sow final crops of lambs lettuce and oriental salads (the latter can also be sown as an edible green manure, instead of covering beds with compost if you are otherwise going to leave them fallow for a season). Water tomatoes, beans and courgettes sparsely as their production period is coming to an end; continue to water autumn and winter vegetables regularly. Make sure you harvest fruit and vegetables regularly this month; leaving crops on the bough can lead to rot and disease setting in.


Continue to collect seed
It is best to harvest and store your own seeds in the middle of a sunny day, when moisture levels are at their lowest. Only harvest ripe seeds that look hard and brown. Store them in paper bags or envelopes; label these with the name of the plant and the harvest date, then snip the seed head off and place the whole thing into the envelope. When you are ready to sort, working envelope by envelope, tip the contents onto a tray and gently remove any chaff. Tip the seeds back into the envelope, seal and store in a dry container.


Plants to try growing from seed this autumn
Gypsophila ‘Covent Garden’ (pictured): delicate white flowers on bright green foliage. Hardy annual that enjoys moist, warm soil; sow in September for flowers June to August; available from Suttons
Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Ball’: dark crimson cornflowers. Hardy annual that enjoys well-drained, preferably poor soil; flowers May to July; loved by butterflies; available from Crocus
Asphodeline ‘Yellow Candle’ (Jacob’s rod): spikes of yellow star-shaped flowers on grey-green foliage. Fully hardy plant that enjoys reasonably fertile, well-drained soil; flowers April to May; available from Kings Seeds
Mizuna Ormz: spicy-flavoured salad leaves that can be eaten raw or in stir fries. Grows vigorously and fully hardy; available from Tamar Organics
Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais’ (Loosestrife): spires of burgundy-crimson flowers on silver-green foliage; hardy perennial that enjoys moist, well-drained soil, full sun and some shade; sow in September and over-winter in a cold frame; available from Sarah Raven


Lift and divide summer-flowering perennials
Dividing these plants will help to re-energise them, encouraging them to reboot, to grow back next year with more vigour and true to form once more. If any or all of the plants look as though nothing will restore them to their former glory – although one hopes the latter will not be the case – then be ruthless and take them out altogether and replace them with something else.


Sow and plant now for colour and healthy plants next spring
To guarantee you have flowering trees and plants in your garden next spring, you need to sow and plant this autumn. Doing the work yourself now, and watching things grow, will not only save you money (buying seed to sow and grow now is far cheaper than buying plants next spring that have been grown by someone else), it will provide you with healthier plants and the pleasure of knowing you have created your spring garden yourself.


Order small ornamental bare root trees
As with plants grown from seed, bare root trees and shrubs (the roots are visible) tend to be healthier and cheaper to buy. Bare root plants should be planted between November and March but you can place your orders with nurseries now. Soak roots in water until you have dug your hole or trench, if you are planting a hedge, and are ready to place them in the ground. Set the plant into the hole, backfill and heel in the soil. Water thoroughly and leave to settle, then water again and mulch.


Small ornamental trees to plant this winter
Malus ‘John Downie’: native crabapple with good autumn colour and edible fruits that are good for jams and jellies, apple sauce and as a part-ingredient in cider. Enjoys heavy clay but will do well in any moderately fertile, moist, well-drained soil and while it can tolerate some shade, prefers full sun; try Ashridge Trees
Corylus maxima ‘Kentish Cob’ (Filbert): native hazelnut with yellow-green catkins in early spring and abundant cobnuts from September. Self-fertile, it does not need a pollination companion; enjoys sun or partial shade; try Thompson & Morgan
Cercidyphyllum japonicum (Katsura tree): dome-shaped tree with good autumn colour and foliage that produces an aroma of burnt sugar as the season continues. Enjoys deep, fertile and moist loam with full sun but does not enjoy late frosts; try Weasdale


Clip, cut back and use foliage
Clip hornbeams and give beech hedges their second clip of the year. You can also start to tidy and cut back plants grown for cutting, and make the most of the glorious foliage, hips, berries and haws in flower arrangements.


Harvest early apples
This early in the season, eat them now and enjoy their rich, fresh flavour; a homegrown apple should be in every coat pocket, picnic hamper or lunchbox this month.


Plant now for Christmas
In addition to planting your spring-flowering bulbs outside, now is the time to start preparing indoor plants that will flower in time for Christmas. If you are going to give them as presents, enjoy the process not only of planting up but of choosing the container and the plant to suit, to create the perfectly personalised present. Fragrant hyacinths, hippeastrum and narcissi are easy to grow but you could also try poinsettia and cyclamen and orchids.

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