September 2011


Updates from September 2011.

Update September 17th

The first half of September has seen amazing growth in the garden here with a lovely balance of rain and sun, coupled with some steady warmth, especially at night. Plants showing most benefit include french beans, salads, brassicas outside and basil and tomatoes in the polytunnels.

Also weeds are still germinating and growing… keep soil clean for remaining plantings, for future sowings and to reduce slug habitat.

Fruit is abundant but apples are ripening early and need picking soon if you have not already. We shall pick this week, about a fortnight earlier than last year. On the other hand, Conference pears are still maturing and I am happy to leave them on the trees until early October.

I hope you have some spring onion and cabbage plants and garlic cloves to go out from now until early October.

Summer lettuce has just gone on and on and plants which are normally rising to flower now are still cropping, a wonderful bonus.

There is still time to sow winter salads for growing undercover but don’t delay. Any salads sown outdoors will emerge but have too little time to make worthwhile growth before spring, assuming they survive the winter. One exception is mizuna which, sown now outdoors, could still make a decent plant by November in milder areas.

Advice for September

View of the top field in late August, meshed beds have carrots and brassicas

View of the top field in late August, meshed beds have carrots and brassicas

September is still an important month for sowing and planting if you want to fill spaces left by harvests of earlier carrots, potatoes, salads, onions and beans. Timing is important because days are cooling and shortening so fast as we approach the equinox: late sowings in autumn struggle to catch up, the opposite to spring. Right now there is just time to sow lambs lettuce, spring onion and spring cabbage. Also salads for overwintering under a cloche, such as endive, spinach, rocket and oriental leaves.

Then in mid month you can sow all sorts of salad to overwinter in a polytunnel, greenhouse or conservatory. I sow in modules, for transplanting in the middle of October after pulling out tomatoes, peppers and so forth. Looking at the moon, there is a nice window of time in mid month when leaf days on 13th/14th coincide with full waxing effect until 15th so I am sowing oriental leaves, rocket and more spinach at that time. We have been doing several moon experiments this year and the waxing aspect is looking more important than leaf-root-fruit flower, but there are more harvests to come and it could change a little.

Late August harvest of Orange Hokkaido squash which grew with the sweetcorn - I have harvested the whole bed because badgers were starting to eat the corn.

Late August harvest of Orange Hokkaido squash which grew with the sweetcorn – I have harvested the whole bed because badgers were starting to eat the corn.

Summer harvests in the tunnels have been varied this year with melons suffering a lack of summer sun and some have rotted at the roots before fruits were fully ripe. Aubergines have also struggled a bit except for one variety Marco which was abundant and with much nicer fruit than Moneymaker. Tomatoes have grown well but need more sun to ripen well and I am glad I stopped their leaders in early August to concentrate growth in remaining fruit, instead of setting new tomatoes. Even so I suspect there will be quite a few green fruit in six week’s time.

Mostly I have found it an excellent year so far with just enough warmth for summer beans and sweetcorn, and plenty of moisture for winter vegetables such as brussels sprouts and kale.

 Tree Cabbage and Cavalo Nero kale benefited from being covered with mesh for eight weeks, cabbage on left are still covered

Tree Cabbage and Cavalo Nero kale benefited from being covered with mesh for eight weeks, cabbage on left are still covered

However, cabbage root fly has been more prevalent than I have ever known and many June planted cabbages keeled over; they were only netted, not meshed. All the meshed plantings of brassicas have done brilliantly. Leeks have done well despite a lot of caterpillars; I did not protect them against moth and find that strongly growing plants can come through its nibblings.

By the end of September one’s sowing thoughts are firmly turned to next summer with garlic to go in during the last week or in early October, so it can establish roots in the remaining warmth of autumn, ready for fast growth next spring. If your garlic succumbed to rust, due to lack of soil moisture in April, May and early June, you can still plant their cloves, just the big ones, and remember to water them next spring if it is dry again. Also it helps to spread organic matter on the bed after planting. I put a couple of inches of well rotted cow manure and then there is enough goodness for excellent second harvests of kale, cabbage, beans, beetroot and carrots after the garlic, see the pictures below.

A view of the bottom garden in late August with, again, many second plantings of wild rocket, lettuce, spinach, coriander, chervil and chicories. Runner bean Czar in middle is for seed not pods, has not been picked yet. Asparagus on left and Jupiter apple in front, starting to colour beautifully.

A view of the bottom garden in late August with, again, many second plantings of wild rocket, lettuce, spinach, coriander, chervil and chicories. Runner bean Czar in middle is for seed not pods, has not been picked yet. Asparagus on left and Jupiter apple in front, starting to colour beautifully.

An interesting point here is that nutrients in well composted manure do not leach in winter rain, otherwise the second plantings in summer, with no extra compost, would not grow so abundantly. There is misunderstanding about the differences between artificial fertiliser and compost, which are not the same at all, and even people in the “organic world” have confused the two, as they offer frustrating advice “not to spread compost in autumn in case its nutrients leach out”. In fact the composting process results in most nutrients being NOT water soluble, instead they remain in soil until roots can access them. If this were not so, the Earth would have been barren long ago.

So autumn is a busy time: as well as making the last sowings and continuing to weed, you need to be continually preparing for next spring by covering clean soil with composted organic matter, whose structure is then improved by winter frosts, leading to a good tilth for sowings and plantings next year. Extremely weedy soil or new ground can be mulched more thickly, see elsewhere on this site, for instance the No Dig Growing banner.