It is only 9th September yet trees and ferns are already tinged with yellow, not due to the approach of autumn but due to the incessant heat and drought we have experienced throughout the summer here in La Corrèze, France.
With slightly cooler temperatures, September is one of my favourite months for working in the garden. Here are the top 8 jobs I will be doing here at Le Jardin Perdu this September.
1. Harvest pears. We have three gnarly pear trees in our garden. One is a Conference pear, and they will not be ready to pick until October into November. To be honest, we have no idea what variety the other two are, but come September they ready to harvest. Pears benefit from a period of storage, so should be harvested before they are fully ripe and stored in a cool, dark place until they are ready to eat. They won’t take long!
2. Plant spring flowering bulbs. Whilst the soil is still warm, September is the perfect time to plant bulbs which will flower early next year. Bulbs I’m going to be planting this month include Winter aconite (French name: Aconit d’hiver) which will flower from January to March and Dogs-tooth violet (French name: Erythrone) which will flower from March to April. If you’d like more ideas about which bulbs you can plant now for spring colour, please read my earlier blog here.
3. Continue to dead-head flowers and collect seeds. This is an ongoing task and with regular dead-heading flowers such as my Dahlia, Rudbeckia hirta and Aster frikartii ‘Monch’ should be happy to bloom well into October or until the first frosts arrive. When other flowers such as my Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’, Nicotiana sylvestris, and Verbena bonariensis come to an end, I leave their flower heads in place so that I can collect their seeds.
4. Help squashes to ripen. This year I have grown butternut squash and climbing onion squash ‘Red Kuri’. Despite the drought we have had they have grown well, and with little watering. These squash I will harvest before the first frosts arrive. To help them to fully mature I plan to remove any leaves which are sheltering them from the sun. If it is raining where you are, it is also advisable to place a piece of slate or wood under each squash to raise them off the wet soil to prevent them from rotting.
5. Cut down peas and beans. With the hot summer we’ve had my peas and beans are already coming to an end. Later in the month when I have harvested the last of the crops I will cut them down but leave their roots in the soil. As the roots break down, they will release nitrogen into the soil making it perfect for sowing brassicas in next year.
6. Sow hardy annuals. Some annuals benefit from being sown now and overwintered in a warm place. This September I’ll be sowing various seeds in pots and over-wintering them in my greenhouse. Doing this will now will give you more robust plants and earlier flowers. Seeds I will be sowing this month include Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’, Linaria purpurea ‘Canon Went’ and Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Cat’.
7. Help tomatoes to ripen. With autumn but a few weeks away, I still have plenty of green tomatoes on my plants. Keep pinching out any side shoots and remove any yellowing leaves to encourage the plant to put all its efforts into ripening the fruits. You can read more about ripening tomatoes in my earlier blog here.
8. Divide perennials. This last job is actually one that I will not be doing this month, and I think it’s important to explain why. Many perennials such as Hosta, Astilbe, Hemerocallis and Agapanthus can be split in autumn. Although I do need to desperately divide many of my perennials, I will leave this job until March or April. As we live at almost 800m high in the mountains of the Millevache Natural Regional Park the winters can be very harsh. Temperatures often dip towards -8c at night (and lower) and snow can cover the garden for weeks on end. I fear that by dividing the plants now, they may not have time to re-establish themselves ahead of the winter months and may not survive. If you live in a warmer climate than me, then you can divide your perennials now, but due to where we live I feel happier leaving this as a spring job.
Autumn officially begins on the 22nd September, I just hope that the first frosts stay away for a good while longer yet!
I’d love to know what jobs you are planning to do this month in your garden, so please do leave your comments in the box below.