Where did the summer go? It doesn’t seem like five minutes since I was writing about spring, and now it’s harvesting and planting time. And while September provides a glut of apples, blackberries and tomatoes, it is also the best time for gathering seed, taking stock and thinking about what needs doing ready for next year – whether you’re planning for year-round colour, filling gaps or you’re thinking about starting again.
Whilst everyone heads off to the nursery or garden centre at the first signs of spring, the best time for planting your garden, I think, is early autumn. It’s a great time to plant shrubs. The soil is still warm and moist from autumnal rains and plants will set roots and establish themselves nicely before the really cold weather sets in.
If you’re prepared to do a bit of work, you can prepare next year’s plants right now, for almost nothing. Cutting down the stems of perennial flowers will yield seed to grow new plants. You can save these to sow into your beds in the spring or, better still, sow into pots or seed trays now for larger plants ready to add to your borders by early summer.
Now is also the time to take stem cuttings from shrubs such as Bay, Box, Weigela and Philadelphus. Find non-flowering shoots, strip away all but the top-most leaves, trim them at the bottom of the cutting, beneath a pair of leaves, dip into rooting powder and insert around the side of a pot of gritty compost. Stand outside, away from direct sun, water in and keep damp. Your cuttings will root over the autumn and into spring to make new shrubs. It’s a very satisfying and cheap way to grow new stock and, even if you don’t need them yourself, you can feel great by giving them away to friends and neighbours.
September is also the time to start planting spring bulbs. After a long, grey winter, the sight of Daffodils, Crocus and then Tulips a little later are all guaranteed to cheer us up with some colour. Garden centres and nurseries will be stocking bulbs soon, along with all sorts of implements for planting them. Unfortunately I don’t find they work so well – there is little substitute for getting down on your knees and digging!
This article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of Village Breeze magazine.