And so, it feels like the season is beginning to slow and our plots are winding-down. It’s true, September could be considered the end of the growing season, but in actual fact it is the start of the new one.
This is the month to take stock, reflect on our successes and failures and begin planning how to make this new year the best one ever. If you were thinking about taking on an allotment from scratch, or creating a vegetable patch in the garden then September is the perfect month to begin. You’ll have plenty of time to prepare the soil, plan your crops and dream about the bountiful harvests to come. Not that there’s nothing to do, there’s plenty to be getting on with… like clearing dead foliage and plants away as crops finish, tending to our apples, pears and plums whilst checking for brown rot, plus sowing cooler loving leaves and planting our spring cabbages.
As far as seasonal eating goes, there will be an abundance of sweetcorn to enjoy and if you’ve had a sweetcorn cob picked, cooked and eaten that same day then you’ll understand why we grow our own. Some plots may even have respectfully sized parsnips in the ground, but we know that they will taste so much sweeter after a hard frost, so for now in the ground is where they will stay.
September reminds us that the seasons are rolling and as one ends we are already busy laying the foundations for the next one.
As the temperature cools, September is a perfect time to sow oriental greens and hardy salad to keep you well stocked over winter. The brassica greens are less prone to bolt this time of year and I even find the flea beetles are less voracious.
Brassicaceae varieties I like to sow in September are:
Salad leaves. It's worth a go an whatever you have to hand, but I have particular success with a lettuce called 'Winter Density'. I think the clue is in the name!
Another leaf thing worth trying is Claytonia, aka Winter Purslane.
Spring Onions. 'White Lisbon' is particularly good over winter.
I save my pennies all year and in September buy a bulk load of compost to mulch my beds.
Mushroom compost is the most affordable, but if you can stretch to it a mix of farmyard manure/mushroom compost will have more goodness. I dearly wish I could generate enough compost to be self-sufficient in this respect, but despite all my best efforts I cannot make enough.
My plot is 100 square metres, but with paths, shed etc I suppose about 80% of that is cultivated. I find 2,500 to 3,000 litres of compost is enough to give the all the beds a nice thick layer. This year I used a company call The Compost Shop, but I strongly suggest you shop around and compare the price per litre (not forgetting to include delivery costs). You also might be lucky enough to have a municipal compost outlet that offers compost free, or very cheap - the only snag with this is normally you have to arrange pick up and transportation yourself and if you only have a little car it's not ideal. It is often totally inert, meaning devoid of any goodness and totally sterile, however the beauty of no-dig is that it doesn't matter. It is still organic matter, which the worms, microbes and fungi love and it's this soil life that you are supporting that will supply the goodness the plants need.
In September I normally make a trip to the beach to collect seaweed. This gets scattered across the beds.
You can easily save seeds from flowers like calendula and nasturtium. I do this to share them with people, not for my own need as I find that they pop up by themselves year on year!
Beans that you have left to dry on the plant should be close to being ready to harvest and save too.
Hard skinned squash benefit from being left on a warm sunny window sill for a week to 'cure'. Then they can be stored somewhere cool, dark and dry and will last all winter! I have mine dotted around the house until we need them, they make the house feel all autumnal and cosy.