Jobs to do this month
September is the first month of autumn. The days are getting shorter, and the nights are starting to get colder. Now is the time to harvest the results of your hard work through spring and summer, to store crops for use in autumn and winter, to clear plots and start getting them ready for next year, to get your over-wintered crops under way while the soil is still warm, and to start planning for next year.
This list isn’t exhaustive. You can get detailed advice from many organisations, especially those listed on this website under Help and Advice.
- Finish summer-pruning of apple and pear trees as soon as possible.
- Harvest apples as they ripen, starting with those on the outer branches, as they’ll ripen first. Early varieties such as Discovery, Katy and Worcester Pearmain won’t keep well, and are best eaten straight away. With later varieties, store only perfect fruit, in somewhere cool, dark and airy, but not too dry; use any blemished fruit straight away.
- Cut off the old leaves and unwanted runners from strawberry plants. If you have prepared a new strawberry patch, now is the time to plant bare-root plants.
- Pick plums as they ripen. Remove damaged fruits, and any that show signs of rotting – and watch out for wasps! Damsons should be ready for picking as well.
- Keep picking autumn-fruiting raspberries. Cut down the old brown canes of summer-fruiting raspberries, and tie in the fresh green canes, but don’t overcrowd them – not more than five strong stems per plant.
- Order new fruit trees and bushes for autumn planting.
Vegetables and salads
- Plant hardy onion sets for overwintering, such as Radar and Senshyu – or start them off from seed.
- Keep weeding crops intended for winter use, such as leeks, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and winter cabbage.
- There’s still time to order vegetable plants for overwintering, such as broccoli, cabbage, calabrese, chard, perpetual spinach and onions.
- Sow broad beans for overwintering – a hardy variety such as Aquadulce Claudia, or The Sutton.
- Continue weekly feeding of sweet and chilli peppers with a high-potash fertiliser. Wait until the compost feels dry before watering, though; this will encourage ripening. Dry picked chillies for use through the winter; thread them through the green stalks on strong cotton and hang them somewhere warm and dry.
- Keep picking aubergines as they ripen.
- For tomato plants, starting from the bottom, gradually cut off the leaves this month to let in more air and light, and reduce the demand for water. If the plants are still making new flowers, cut those off as well so that the plants can concentrate on the fruit that has already set. It’s important to keep the soil evenly moist, to avoid splitting (too much water suddenly) or blossom end rot (too little water), but don’t overdo the watering, or your tomatoes will lack flavour. By the end of the month harvest all the remaining fruits (including the green ones) and take them home to ripen. Then you can clear the plants out, chop them up, and add them to your compost heap. (The same applies to aubergine, cucumber and melon plants once they have cropped.) Then you can refresh the greenhouse border soil, or the pots, to sow salad crops such as rocket, winter lettuce, mizuna and pak choi.
- If your lettuces have bolted, try collecting some seeds and storing them in suitably labelled envelopes or paper bags. Non-hybrid varieties should grow true from seed.
- Support tall-growing Brussels sprouts with canes.
- Harvest haricot beans when the pods are fully dry.
- Cut down the foliage of maincrop potatoes, and then leave the tubers in the ground for ten days before harvesting. Sort out any blemished ones for use straight away, as they won’t keep; dry the remainder off, and then store them in paper or hessian sacks. The paper ones that some local authorities sell for green waste collections make excellent potato sacks.
- Cut asparagus stems down to 2.5cm (1in) above the ground once all the foliage has turned yellow, and put them on the compost heap. Fork the soil over lightly, and then add a generous mulch of garden compost.
- April-sown carrots should be ready for harvesting.
- Protect late crops of carrots and courgettes with fleece.
- Runner beans will be coming to an end now. Now is the time to save some of their seeds for next year; leave some of the large, tough pods on the plant to mature.
- Harvest beetroot, cut the tops off (but not the roots), and store them in moist sand or compost.
- Prop up squash and pumpkins on bricks or upturned pots so that they can ripen in the sun.
- Pot up a few chard plants and bring them into the greenhouse, to keep cropping through the winter.