Garden Tips For September By Jill Blackwood

For many gardeners September marks the beginning of a new gardening year, the nights are starting to draw in and late flowering plants such as Dahlia’s, Japanese anemones, Echinacea and the stately Miscanthus grasses give their last flush of colour and interest before the temperatures plummet.

Mid September through to the end of October is one of the best times to think about starting bigger garden jobs such as making new borders or constructing new features.  The cooler, wetter gives newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials time to establish a good root system before winter arrives and the frost makes the ground too hard to work with.  When choosing new plants makes sure they suit the conditions of your garden to avoid failures.

Give your garden borders a overhaul by cutting back perennials that have finished flowering leaving any with attractive seed heads, like Echinacea for the birds to feed on.  Clear away any spent annuals and add debris to your compost bin.  Spread a dressing of organic matter, paying attention to the areas around any established plants.   Don’t worry about digging it in as the winter frosts and rain will carry the nutrients through the soil to plant roots.

Autumn flowering annuals – pansies and polyanthus – and evergreens can be planted in pots and containers to give the garden some colour through autumn through to the Spring.   Hardy annuals can be sown in borders ready for flowers next year and prune climbing roses once they have finished flowering.

Most spring bulbs can be planted now to give a burst of colour in the spring.  When choosing bulbs make sure you pick the ones that are firm to touch  and are healthy with no signs of disease or rot.  As a general rule bulbs should be planted two to three times the depth of the bulb.  For a natural look gently scatter handfuls of bulbs in the border and plant them where they drop.  Bulbs can also be added to containers for extra spring colour.

Tender plants in the garden will need some protection over winter so move pots into an unheated greenhouse over cover with a clear plastic dome and move as close to the house as possible.  If tender plants are in borders or they are too big to move.   Stuff the centre of tree ferns with straw and gather the fonds over the top before tying together and covering in bubble wrap.  Banana plants, palms, Olive and Bay trees can be wrapped in horticultural fleece covered with bubble wrap.  It may look ugly but expensive plants are worth it.

Many garden lawns will be showing signs of wear and tear and some annual maintenance now will ensure a healthy lawn next spring.  Use a lawn rake to rake over the lawn  to remove any dead grass (scarifying), then moving across the lawn using a garden fork pierce the lawn surface to a depth of about 15cm every 25cm cm or so (aeration).  If you have a large lawn tools can be hired to carry out both these tasks.  Any large weeds can be dug out by hand.  Finally apply a suitable autumn lawn feed following manufacturers instructions.  To reseed a bare path fork over the patch so soil is crumbly and sprinkle with lawn seed, cover the seed with a thin layer of compost before watering.

Thin out congested plants in garden ponds leaving the debris on the side for a few days so any wildlife can get back into the water.

In the vegetable garden continue to harvest fruit and vegetable as they are ready and also clear any debris to prevent the spread of pests and disease.  Plant out spring cabbages and sow winter lettuce.  In the greenhouse remove shading, reduce the amount of watering and close the doors and windows on colder days and nights.