September 2020 Column

Updated: Oct 24

After 20 years of gardening, it still feels like alchemy that a tiny seed will grow to produce flowers and fruits; a process that continues to delight each year. In fact, I defy anyone not to be enchanted by growing something.


Those of you that have experienced the joy of gardening for the first time during lock down, you have a treat to come! Beginning in March or April, you might have started on the back foot, having a reduced choice of what you could grow and how. However, one can be right ahead for the coming year by beginning this month.


Following the natural order of ‘going up a year’ for our children at school, September is the beginning of the new gardening season for me also. Some tasks like sowing biennials are completed earlier in the summer for the next Spring, but mostly, September is where we begin again for the one to come.


Your soil’s health is key to success. It is the foundation and yours will have been depleted from a long dry summer’s growth. If you haven’t already, start a compost heap. Essentially layers of carbon (paper, hedge trimmings, pet bedding, cardboard) and nitrogen (grass clippings, vegetable peelings, flower heads and weeds) in a bin, chicken wire cage or pallets tied together. Make sure layers are watered well. Turn the heap after a couple of weeks, ideally into another bin, beginning a new one. The turning activates the heap again, raising the temperature, accelerating decomposition. Do this several times and compost can be yours in two months. Once the autumn rains come in, you can mulch and spread this precious material around your plants in a thick layer to suppress weeds, adding humus to the soil, retaining nutrients and moisture.


Now is also the time to sow Hardy Annuals (those that can survive the winter cold, grow, flower and seed in one summer) to produce earlier and larger flowers late spring. These include Larkspur, Cornflowers, Antirrhinums, Ammi and Nigella. There are lots more. To hedge my bets, I will do a mix of both direct sowing into the soil and undercover in pots to grow on over winter planting out in mid Spring.


In the kitchen garden we continue to sow Parsley and Basil inside for winter and winter leaves outside including Kale, Mustards and Purslane for daily pickings.


But it’s not all about the next season. The party in the garden is just getting going for the most spectacular of dancers of which dahlias and salvias rule supreme, together with encore after encore of summer perennials and roses having a second flower.


I’ve noticed that the Dahlias improve as the season develops and by the Autumn equinox on 22nd September, they are producing flowers almost daily. I can’t cut them quick enough, ensuring that I am the most generous gardener in this month of harvest where the year’s preparations crescendo. You don’t need to have a garden to see this. Step out into parks, along rivers and hedgerows where the trees and scrub are dripping in berries and nuts. Gather as much as your pockets will hold leaving plenty for the wildlife. Even the nettles have a second flush of new leaves now. Highly nutritious, add them to soups, quiches and sauces or make tea.


Like a gardeners ‘Last night of the Proms’, there is a fiesta of colour, flower and produce, true abundance all around and setting seed for the year to come. All this and more make September my favourite month and I relish every moment.