Gardening in September

Gardening in September

It’s here. The month every gardener waits for. September is planting time. Sowing time. Getting your hands dirty time. Unfortunately, our Spring excitement will be restrained by the effects of another dry winter. If we do not get substantial Spring rains we are set for harsher water restrictions, higher tariffs and a bleak gardening season. It is good to plan for worst case scenarios; and my suggestion is to utilise whatever water you can spare to grow food. September is a busy gardening month anyway, let’s get our hands dirty.

Most of my energy will be poured into the vegetable patch. My fruit trees have all been pruned and I have made cuttings of figs and berries. The strawberries are looking promising, but I must still put down some mulch under the ripening fruit. It is not only the gardener that has a sweet tooth and I lose a big share of fruit to millipedes and other soil borne critters. Hopefully the mulch will help. I did some very early sowings of tomato, chilli, eggplant and pumpkins under cover – not sure how many days I will score in the end. But in September almost all summer crops can be sown or transplanted. I am often tempted to stock up on nursery seedlings this time of the year – simply because they are so well advanced already. I have already indulged in some tomato seedlings; if only to make sure I have some salad tomatoes by Christmas! Beans, pumpkins, cucumbers, squashes, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, brown onions, beetroot, carrots, chard and sweetcorn – you name them and they can be planted now. You can even attempt some late sowings of peas and broad beans. The first asparagus spears are showing – one of the most joyous moments in the gardener’s year. If you are one of the lucky ones who have too much ground available consider planting some green manure summer crops. I am going to make some space for lucerne and sorghum; even if only to be used as composting material. Green manures are an excellent way to conserve water by adding humus to the soil.

The ornamental garden also needs your attention now. It might be a good idea to get some outside help in just to get all the time consuming routine tasks that are due now out of the way. Lawns must be fertilised with a higher nitrogen fertiliser – you cannot go wrong with Bounce Back or the other chicken manure based fertilisers. In fact, the entire garden can do with some fertiliser now. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts and feed before rain is predicted. Weed all beds and apply mulch immediately afterwards. Lawns can also be top dressed with some fine compost mixed with sand for an instant greening effect and also to level out bumps and holes. Apply agricultural lime now if your soil pH is low – lawn grass generally prefers sweet soil. Winter flowering perennials like red hot pokers and aloes can be deadheaded now – or let them go to seed and cut the dead stalks later. Prune away up to a third of the spent flowers on Proteas and pincushions. Keep a close eye for pests and diseases. We don’t want to start spraying so early in the season. Rather work towards healthy plants this year. Healthy plants not only fight pests and diseases better, but they are also more

We always try to eat what is in season. This transition period between winter and spring is probably the most challenging of them all. Apart from some cabbages and too much kale and spinach there is not much around. We had a good beetroot crop earlier in the month – I have learned to make Beet Kvass – a refreshing nourishing drink sure to keep you healthy through the winter months. I can’t wait for the first peas, the next crop of carrot and beetroot and some very early green beans and courgettes.