September Garden Notes

FIRST PUBLISHED SEPT 2014 (Viv Kershaw); UPDATED SEPT 2015 (Viv Kershaw)

This month should be great for getting plants started.  Let the weather guide you. When rain is forecast, sow your seeds. There will be no need to water them unless the rain fails. After the rain, when the ground is damp, it is the perfect time to plant out your seedlings. On the wild wet and windy days you can plan your garden tasks and go shopping for seeds and seedlings. Make sure you take time out on those beautiful sunny spring days to sit back and enjoy the sights, sounds and perfumes in the garden.

Jobs to do in my Ocean Grove garden this month:

  • Harvest the peas, broccoli, spinach, lettuces and salad greens that have been growing through the winter.
lettuces

Lettuces – ready for picking

  • Provide support for the peas and broad beans.
  • Keep the weeds under control. Remove the existing weeds. Spread mulch to cover bare patches and prevent more weeds from growing.
  • Encourage the annual flowers that have self-sown to get established with a bit of general purpose fertiliser
  • Give the fruit trees their Spring dose of fertiliser. Cover the fertiliser with compost then mulch well with coarse tree mulch or pea straw followed by a good watering.
  • In dry weather, water the new seedlings, plants that were planted during winter and the vegetables growing in pots and boxes.

Learners Corner

Now is a great time to start your own herb garden.  Most will grow in the open garden even in flower borders. However some, especially the mints, are better grown in containers as they can soon take over the neighbourhood.

Oregano

Oregano

Majoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, mint and thyme are all perennial plants. Once they are established you can snip bits off as you want them.  When they are in flower it is better to leave them alone. Sage and Thyme in particular are pretty in flower so if they are in pots move them to a spot where you can see them. When they finish flowering give them a good tidy up and remove about two-thirds off each stem. They will soon start growing again and reward you with tasty herbs for your casseroles.

Coriander, parsley and dill will run to seed when the weather warms up then they will die. If you are lucky new plants may start growing nearby in the Autumn or next Spring.

If you are planting out in the garden be sure to prepare the area well beforehand. Start by pulling out all the weeds. Sprinkle some good quality general-purpose fertiliser such as blood and bone and/or Dynamic Lifter over the patch and water it well. Plant your herb plant to the same depth as it is in its pot. Surround it with a few handfuls of a chopped mulch such as pea straw, lucerne or sugar cane and water again. Many dogs like to dig up the fertiliser so you may need to protect the area with some sort of barrier until the plants can fend for themselves.

If you are using pots or containers, do buy the best quality potting soil that you can afford. There are mixes designed for vegetable growing which include slow release fertilisers and water retaining materials.  The advantage of using pots is that they can be moved into a warm spot for this time of the year then to a shady spot when the weather heats up.

When they are all planted, water them well with a seaweed solution such a Seasol or worm juice diluted 1 part in 10 parts water.  They won’t need much fertiliser but may require the occasional watering in summer.

For the Experienced Gardener

Now is the perfect time to get seeds to germinate outdoors.  The second half of September into October is the perfect time to sow zucchini seeds. There are some interesting heritage varieties about and it is worth seeking them out. However bear in mind that they will cross-fertilise and you could get some funny looking fruit. Spaghetti squash is a type of zucchini so it would be a good idea to grow it well away from you other zucchinis!

Asian and salad greens

Asian and salad greens

Most of the Asian greens such as mizuna, bok choy, tatsoi, shujiku, will grow really well over the next couple of months and should be ready to harvest in 4 to 6 weeks. Choose a cool part of the garden, as they tend to run to seed if they get too hot and dry. Sow them into soil that has been well manured, covered in compost or received a good dose of organic fertiliser.  I like to sow the seeds in bands rather than in strict lines. First remove any coarse material and flatten the area to be sown. Sow the seeds about 1 cm apart then cover with seed raising mix or fine potting mix to the depth of the seeds. Water gently then protect from birds by covering with a net.  Most of these vegetables will germinate within a week and be ready to harvest within 4 to 6 weeks so plant in a warm spot now.  As they grow and require more space, thin them out and use the tiny plants in salads. Asian veggies require regular watering to keep them growing fast.

September is the perfect time to re-pot chives, mints and tarragon. I do half my pots each year so that I can use the old plants while the new ones grow. Now that the nights are getting warmer it is safe to bring the Vietnamese mint out of the greenhouse and cook up some great Asian noodle soups.

Seeds to sow this month

Asian greens (e.g. Pak Choy, tatsoi, mizuna), beans (climbing), beetroot, cucumbers, leeks, lettuce, onions, peas, pumpkins, spring onions, zucchini, dill

Seedlings to plant out this month

Asian greens, leeks, lettuce, onions, silverbeet, spinach, spring onions, tomatoes, chives, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, Vietnamese mint.

The War Zone

Cabbage white butterfly on broccoli

Cabbage white butterfly on broccoli

I have already seen a cabbage white butterfly at the end of August so expect to see green caterpillars soon. The only deterrent that works for me is white plastic butterfly shapes pinned to the top of stakes. Apparently these butterflies are territorial and like to lay their eggs where no-one has been before. Hope we can fool them for years! There are fine nets available in the garden centres which can be set up over your brassicas. They will not stop tiny insects but they are very effective against these butterflies.

Be on the look out for aphids. With a bit of luck the ladybirds will also be breeding and they should be able to gobble up the aphids. Too much fertiliser round your plants will make the plants nice and tender and more of a target. Fortunately the aphids can be hosed off with water. If it is a real problem then pyrethrum spray will knock them out without damaging us but it will also kill the ladybirds. Please avoid using the systemic sprays such as Confidor as they kill bees and without the bees we could all be in serious trouble.