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The last of the warm weather may be fizzling away but there is still time to knock your garden into shape.
Autumn is a great time to get busy outside, from preparing your lawn for winter, to sowing vegetables and bulbs for next spring, or pruning and re-planting beds.
Harvesting also needs to be tended to this month as ripe tomatoes jostle for space on vines, and corn, tender and bursting with colour, is starting to emerge from its green blanket to be barbecued or roasted.
But with so many tasks demanding your attention, here we have rounded up the 37 most important jobs that you should do in September to give your garden an instant new lease of life.
1. Prepare your Penstemons
Penstemons can struggle to make it through winter, so leave plenty of protective growth on the plants and never cut them back hard. However, the tallest varieties, such as the lovely 'Garnet’, can rock in winter winds and will benefit from a trim by about a third now. In April, cut plants back again to their lowest shoots. If you’re in any doubt about winter-hardiness, try propagating from your plants now.
2. Make the cut on asparagus foliage
Once asparagus foliage has turned yellow, it is no longer feeding the plant, so cut it down to just above the ground to make way for spring growth and to discourage the overwintering of asparagus beetle.
3. Prepare your Brussels
Prepare Brussels sprouts for tougher days ahead by earthing up their stems and firming down around their bases. They are not the most logically shaped plants for blustery weather, so repeat this periodically to stave off a keeling over.
4. Plant fritillaries
Fritillaries look as though they should be tricky to grow: I am always slightly stunned that they succeed for me. Plant now, around 6in (15cm) deep. Fritillaria meleagris alba 'Aphrodite’ has white pendulous bells (pottertons.co.uk).
5. Sort out hanging baskets
As hanging baskets and summer bedding displays reach the end of their life, clear out the contents and start again with violas and winter bedding, plus some bulbs tucked underneath the soil for spring.
6. Pack away and oil wooden furniture
Admit that summer is over and pack away your wooden garden furniture. Cleaning and oiling it with clear Danish oil before you do so will prolong its life as the oil will have plenty of time to work its preserving way into the wood.
7. Sort rose cuttings
If you have a rose you would like to propagate, try cuttings. Cut several lengths from this year’s growth, each 6-12in (15-30cm) long, and insert into a trench, the base of which should be filled with sand for drainage. Cover and water it.
8. Order daisies
Michaelmas daisies are often overlooked because of their workhorse-like nature but are beautiful and useful. 'Little Carlow’ is disease resistant and produces lavender-blue flowers. Order from oldcourtnurseries.co.uk.
9. Clean your greenhouse
As tomatoes, peppers and aubergines reach the end of their harvest, pull them out of greenhouses and have a good clean out. If you are moving tender plants in, you want sparkling glass for maximum winter light and no hint of mess.
10. Sow new wildflower meadows
Sow new wildflower meadows on to well-prepared soil for strong plants and beautiful results next summer. UK-grown mixes for every situation, including clay soil, wetland areas, acid soils and calcareous soils are available from meadowmania.co.uk.
11. Plant lilies
Lilies can be planted in spring but they will be more impressive the earlier you get them into pots. This year I grew lily 'Romance’ and was thrilled with them. The fragrance was spicy and delicious (thompson-morgan.com).
12. Bring in plants
If your houseplants have been outside for air and light this summer, bring them in now before temperatures drop. They will have attracted beasties, so check carefully or risk caterpillars on your carpets or worse: an aphid infestation.
13. Order shallots
It is time to order overwintering onion sets for planting next month, though shallots - identical in cultivation and unusual and expensive as a crop - always seem much more worth the trouble to me. 'Griselle’ is a good multiplying variety with a strong flavour and a purple flush under the skin, and should be planted now for harvesting in June (suttons.co.uk).
14. Plant new perennials
This is a good time to plant new perennials, while the weather is still gentle and the soil warm. They will put down good roots over winter and give a good display next summer. I am planting Knautia macedonica (crocus.co.uk).
15. Sow salads
Sow some winter (or early spring) salads, ideally under cloches. Lettuce 'Arctic King’ is hardy and will produce lettuce in spring from an early autumn sowing, and spring onion 'White Lisbon’ will also do well sown now.
16. String chillies
If you’ve had a good crop of chillies, consider stringing them and they will look good in your kitchen up until the moment they are eaten. Take a length of black string, don rubber gloves, and tie around each stalk individually, leaving enough space between each that they will hang without touching. They will take at least three weeks to dry in a well ventilated room, and during that time take care to not allow them to be affected by steam or other moisture.
17. Store seeds
Choose a dry sunny day and head out into the garden with scissors, paper bags and a permanent marker, hunting for seeds. Collect up seed heads of cosmos, zinnia, calendula and other annuals, drop whole heads into paper bags, label and store somewhere cool and dry until spring.
18. Plant festive hyacinths
Buy and plant prepared hyacinths now and over the next few weeks for a chance of hitting Christmas with bowls full of their spring-scented blooms. They need 10-12 weeks planted and in a cool, dark place and then a few weeks on a bright windowsill (dejager.co.uk).
19. Harvest onions
Onions are ready to harvest when the leaves fold over. Lift them on a sunny day and let them dry, then brush them off and store them. Plaiting magically turns them from bog standard vegetable into kitchen ornament or even rustic gift. The Italian Garden Project has an excellent guide on how to do this, including a step-by-step video (Braiding Onions and Garlic), at theitaliangardenproject.com
20. Feed your lawn
Give your lawn a treat after its summer labours. An autumn feed must be high in potassium and low in nitrogen, or you will promote soft growth that is vulnerable to fungi and cool temperatures. Diluted liquid comfrey works well.
21. Test your corn
When your sweetcorn silks turn brown, check for ripeness by peeling back foliage around each cob and piercing a kernel: clear juice means it is not yet ripe, milky that it is just right, and no juice means you have left it too late.
22. Iris planting
Plant up little pots with tiny Iris reticulata for indoor spring blooms. Let them sit out in the weather all winter and in early spring, when their leaves are a few inches tall, bring a pot a week indoors, which will force the flowers into bloom.
23. Pond clearout
Attack overgrown ponds now. Plants should cover a maximum of 50 per cent of the surface, so have a clear-out if yours is more luxuriant than this. Divide and replant waterlilies at the same time, and remove leaves as they turn yellow.
24. Order alliums
Order ornamental allium bulbs and get them into the ground at once. If you have a light, well drained soil it is worth taking a chance with some of the more spectacular and expensive types, such as white 'Mount Everest’, a group of which looks like giant dandelion clocks. With luck they will slowly bulk up. Sadly on my clay soil they all vanish after a year or three, but I love and do well with modest Allium sphaerocephalum. Buy all from angliabulbs.com.
25. Beat the weevils
Vine weevils hatch now and if left alone will eat roots all winter, so this is the time to treat all of your pots. Nemasys Vine Weevil Killer is a good treatment that makes use of naturally occurring nematodes. Buy it from ladybirdplantcare.co.uk.
26. Check out Knoll Gardens
Knoll Gardens in Dorset is one of the best places to see ornamental grasses. Wander, take notes, and buy beautiful plants such as Panicum 'Hanse Herms’, red switch grass, which turns from red to burgundy (knollgardens.co.uk).
27. Sow spinach
Spinach grows far better for me from an early autumn sowing than it ever does in summer, being less eager to flower and seed. 'Medania’ from seedaholic.com makes a good spring or autumn variety. Sow it direct now, under cloches if the nights are getting cold.
28. Cabbage care
Transplant spring cabbages now into final positions, firming them down and covering with fleece to keep pigeons and cabbage whites away. If you don’t have seedlings you can buy plants of spring cabbages 'Duncan’ and 'Sennen’ from organicplants.co.uk.
29. Take salvia cuttings
Take cuttings of salvias now to make new plants for next year. Salvia 'Amistad’ has long stems and deep purple flowers that mix well with dahlias, and it makes a great cut flower, according to Louise Curley, author of The Cut Flower Patch.
30. Start a new strawberry bed
Start a new strawberry bed from this season’s rooted runners or buy new plants now. 'Gariguette’ is the variety grown throughout Provence and found in French summer markets, and you can buy plants now from kenmuir.co.uk.
31. Pick aubergines
Aubergines are ripening. Pick when the skins are taut and shiny; once they lose the shine they can turn bitter. If you have struggled to ripen fruit this year, try a small, early ripening variety such as 'Listada de Gandia’.
32. Help and replant hostas
Lift, divide and replant hostas before they die down, to keep them growing strongly. A fresh mulch of organic matter at their feet should help them outpace the slugs next spring.
33. Get compost bins in order
As we hack back the vegetable garden over the next month, compost bins are filled to the brim, so get yours emptied and in good order beforehand. Leaves are on the way, too. For wooden modular bins, visit recycleworks.co.uk.
34. Sow your autumn collection
My cut flowers were slow to take off this spring, so I am determined to get a head start on next year’s with an autumn sowing of Ammi majus, calendula, larkspur, nigella and California poppies. Higgledy Garden has an autumn collection.
35. Mix wallflowers
Plant out wallflowers now for a spring display of colour when it is most needed. Many mixes are gaudy and old-fashioned, but sarahraven.com sells a beautiful range in single colours, so you can mix as you wish. I particularly love 'Sunset Apricot’.
36. Dry potatoes
Remove haulms (foliage) of main crop potatoes two weeks before harvesting if you want to store tubers over winter, to allow skins to cure. Then choose a sunny day, dig up spuds and lay them on an old sheet to dry out. Use any damaged ones quickly.
37. Plant UK daffodils
The bulb industry is dominated by Dutch bulbs and Daffodils are best planted early in September.
Were you aware !