The Garden in September
Jobs and Tips
plants for September

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless with fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run.
From John Keats - To Autumn.

September is the best month for Dahlias, support them with canes and give them the space they need to get the most from them

Jobs / Tips

    Tidy the garden. This helps to reduce the amount of hiding places and food that slugs and snails in particular will have to tide them over the winter, which is good news for you next year. Don't be too enthusiastic though, some plant seed heads can look good through the winter, particularly of ornamental grasses.

    If your plants have been affected by disease or pest pay particular attention to tidy-up hygiene so as not to give them (the diseases and pests) a head start next year. Diseased leaves should be burnt or taken out of the garden and disposed of, likewise fruit that is damaged by apple scab, plum sawfly or anything similar. The pest or disease needs the host tree and they do what they can to make sure they hang around it through the winter to feed on it again next year.

    Just enough time to prune any plum and cherry trees you have as soon as possible. The problem with plums (and all the Prunus) is that you're supposed to prune them in the summer, any other time means they're at risk from developing "silver leaf" a fungal infection that can easily kill the whole tree. If you do prune in summer then you lose the fruit on your pruned branches, not to mention what you would knock off adjacent branches as the pruned wood fell. A good compromise is to prune immediately the years crop has been picked, not quite high summer, but enough to keep the tree reasonably safe.

    Scour the retail outlets for summer plant bargains. The end of the year is the best time for new plantings, the soil is still warm and there's time for plants to get established before the winter. At the same time drought and being baked by the sun is much less likely so new introductions don't need the fussing over that they may do at other times of the year. Come the spring they're all ready in place and ready to perform as best they can with minimal intervention from you.

Shrubs and perennials that have sat in nurseries and garden centres all summer have been growing strongly in good conditions and are now large and vigorous. They pose a problem for the retailer in that they will need potting on to ensure they remain healthy, in the main, if the plants are not sold they will end up on the compost heap or in the skip. So this becomes a good time of year to buy and plant new introductions to the garden.

    Sow hardy annuals for early flowering next spring. Calendulas, Larkspur, Nigella (love in a mist) Shirley poppies and my favourite blue cornflowers all do well if sown in rows in a sheltered position. Don't bother with the "broadcast" method of sowing as often advised for hardy annuals, the additional individual attention of short rows drawn in the soil with a stick, seed sown thinly and then covered properly and watered in is much more successful. The rows don't need to be straight or aligned, as long as the seeds aren't left so much to their own devices.

    Plant spring flowering bulbs for next year. Plant hyacinths in tall containers for the best results indoors (not shallow bowls, the more the roots reach down, the more the flowers reach up so it seems). Lily flowered tulips are extravagant, but fantastic and only very rarely found as potted bulbs in the way that Hyacinths and Daffodils are. buy: crocus, daffodils and narcissi, hyacinths, tulips

    Detach strawberry runners and plant them out in well dug over and manured soil. You can get huge amounts of free plants if you've grown any strawberries. If you're not ready to plant them out, then place each little plantlet in a space of its own in a small pot or several in a seed tray and they'll soon root and be ready to plant out later. It's also a good way of getting extra plants to give away to friends and neighbours which is always one of the nice things about gardening.

    A good time to make a new lawn or repair and existing one using seed or turf. if you've put it off over the summer (or for even longer). The cooler but still reasonable temperatures and more reliable rainfall at this time of year mean that it is one of the best times to do this.

    If you have any half hardy plants such as fuchsias or Pelargoniums watch out for cold weather and frosts that may kill them off, they need to over-winter in frost free conditions if they are to survive the winter. It's a good idea to take cuttings in a protected place as an insurance policy.

    Sow the seeds of any perennials or shrubs as soon as they're ripe. If you collect your own seed from existing plants, then sow them when nature intended them to be sown. They might not always germinate straight away, so keep them somewhere sheltered from too much rain and sun and they will do in time.

    In the 19th Century, Devon girls would go "crabbing for husbands". Crab apples, gathered on 29th September (Michaelmas Day) would be arranged in the shape of the prospective lover's initials. Those best preserved on Old Michaelmas Day (10th October),  were thought to indicate the best prospects.

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