September in the Kitchen Garden…
Well, it has been quite a different growing year from last year: after a good few weeks with little or no rain earlier in the year we seem to be back to a more traditional English summer compared with last year with fairly low temperatures and lots of rain.
I’ve found that the climbing beans are doing really well compared with last year (my runner beans aren’t stringy this year) as are the courgettes, but crops that like more heat are proving slow to get cropping properly. Outdoor tomatoes are finally starting to ripen: I’ve had the earliest pickings from the grafted blight-resistant plants I bought from Ayletts. The same varieties grown from seed and planted at the same time are only two thirds of the size, which has been interesting to see.
Many of us will now have space in our Kitchen Garden areas as crops such as potatoes are harvested. To get the most from your plot it’s great to keep the spaces filled if at all possible: it’s not too late for direct sowings of quick growing crops such as baby beetroot, turnips, carrots, Chinese Cabbage, Swiss Chard and spinach, radish, mustard, mizuna and Lamb’s lettuce as well as the normal lettuce range. Germination should be quick as the soil temperature is quite high: covering the seed drills with horticultural fleece with keep them warmer and encourage good germination and growth. I’ve found that mixing some Vermiculite in the compost and/or soil in the seed drills helps prevent a crust forming on the soil in drier weather.
We still have a good stock of starter plants at the garden centre such as lettuce, chard and brassicas (remember to keep your brassicas protected from caterpillar and pigeon damage by putting a netting cage/tunnel over them) which will get your succession planting off to a flying start.
Other edibles for autumn planting, which are due to arrive at the end of September and can be planted out straight away, are over-wintering onions, garlic and shallots: I enjoy planting them in the autumn as they will actively grow through the winter (even last winter!) and it’s great to see something growing away in the winter months. It’s a good idea to get your onion bed ready now, getting rid of all the weeds, as onions don’t like the competition from weeds and are shallow-rooted so dislike root disturbance from weeding – also it’s a good idea to rake in a general purpose fertiliser now to get the bed in the best condition for planting. If we have another dry spring the autumn-planted alliums will perform better than spring-planted bulbs as they will have got their roots down and established over winter.
At the garden centre, the first of this year’s fruit trees ‘top fruit’ (apples, cherries, pear and plums etc.) are here with more booked in to arrive shortly, if you need advice on variety or pollination partners please come and ask us as we know that it can be a little confusing to start with. We’ve also had our first Autumn delivery of soft fruit, with more on it’s way, so can offer a good choice of; currants (black, red and white), gooseberries, hybrid berries (loganberries and tayberries) grapes, rhubarb and raspberries. Bagged up/potted bare root raspberries will be available later once they have become dormant and can be dug up. Fruit is expensive to buy and can give good crops with a little thought to protection from the birds – and some soft fruit is very hard to find in the shops if you enjoy making crumbles, jams or for eating fresh. Autumn is a good time to plant fruit bushes and trees as the ground is still warm and the roots will grow and settle in ready for next year’s crops. Top fruit is also worth considering if you have space: we sell varieties that you will never see in the shops which are often much tastier as you can pick them when they are properly ripe. If you have restricted space a form which takes less space such as fans, step-overs or cordons cold do the trick!
A good range of herbs are available still, many of which are perennial so can crop for some years after planting out.
It’s safe to say there is still plenty of growing still to be done in September and lots to look forward to…enjoy!
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