September isn’t just the beginning of the new school year, it also marks the start of a new term for your garden too. It might feel as though it’s time to start winding things down for the winter, but - sorry to break it to you - September is actually a busy month for the garden, getting it prepped and ready for autumn, winter and even spring.
While you won’t need a new pencil case or lunch box in order to get outside and spruce your space, purchases of new tools, pots and gloves will all be forgiven - after all, what’s a fresh start without some fresh new kit?
If your house plants have been living the al fresco life over the past few months, now’s the time to bring them back inside before the cooler weather arrives. You’ve also probably been giving your house plants inside a little more TLC of late with the warmer temperatures, but you can start to scale back on the regularity of watering them now to prepare them for autumn temperatures.
It wasn’t the scorching summer we dreamed about, but nevertheless, the likelihood is over the summer months you won’t have needed to mow the lawn as frequently as you did in the spring. You may also have consciously left some of your lawn long to encourage wildlife - but as we head into September it’s time to consider treating your lawn to a fresh new shorter style. If you’re experiencing any bare or less-healthy looking patches, or the lawn just needs a little pampering, use an autumn fertiliser to bring back some of its lustre.
Set your sights on spring
The warm, September soil provides the perfect environment for your spring bulbs to get a great head start. And, in planting them it gives you an excuse to start dreaming about warmer days again. Crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, bluebells and snake’s head fritillaries will all be suitable for planting now, either in pots and borders. Hold off on the tulips though, as they prefer slightly cooler temperatures, so you’d be better off waiting until November or December to plant these.
All the hard work you’ve put into tending to your vegetables will come into fruition this month, because it’s finally time to harvest them and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Dig up any remaining potatoes, pick fruits such as apples, pears and plums before they fall to the ground, collect any late raspberries, dig up courgettes, pick tomatoes and harvest your onions. The next challenge is finding a recipe to incorporate all of your newfound ingredients...
Get swept away
It’s best to start tackling the falling leaves earlier rather than later, in a bid to avoid them quickly taking over - you’d be surprised how fast they drop when they all start to go, and all it takes is a couple of blustery days to give your garden a whole new carpet of brown. If you can, sweep them after a few dry days to avoid making too much of a mess with mulchy leaves. Or, if you have one in your possession, grab the leaf blower to do the hard work for you.
Wondering what to do with those leaves once you’ve gathered them all? Once they’ve decomposed the leafmould will make a great addition to compost, so collect them in a hessian sack or large bag, make sure there are some holes in the bag, and then keep them for up to two years before using them as compost.
We know, we know, we hate to say it, but (and without sounding like a Game of Thrones cliché), winter is coming. And, much like Christmas shopping and bringing the heavier tog duvet out of hibernation are part of the winter preparations, so too is the act of preparing your flower borders for the colder months.
If you act now before the autumn arrives, you’ll be in the best position to keep those beds thriving throughout the next few months and into spring next year. Here’s some ways to prepare your beds for winter and the 2022 season.
Weed ahead of winter
It’s one of the more arduous tasks, but come spring you’ll be thankful you tackled the weeds ahead of winter. If bindweed is being a pest then you’ll want to get rid of it as soon as possible to avoid it strangling your other plants - but this can take a bit of time, so make sure you’ve boiled the kettle and got a good playlist to keep you motivated.
The best way to approach removing the bindweed is to untangle it until you get to the ground, then chase the roots through the soil. Avoid breaking them so they don’t just grow again! If you’ve got raised beds that are carpeted with weeds, lay down tarpaulin to kill them off over winter.
Choose winter bedding plants
It might sound obvious, but to keep your beds looking vibrant in winter, you’ll want to select plants that are naturally acclimatised to the cooler weather. Bear in mind that during the winter, growth is slow, so make sure you give your beds a head start by using plants that are already fairly established. Hardy flowers worth planting include winter-flowering pansies, cyclamen and primula. These will mostly flower in the spring, but you may get flowering during the winter too if the weather is mild.
Another way to keep those beds looking lively even on the bleakest of days is to invest in some evergreen shrubs and plant these up now. Foliage is also another good option for keeping the garden looking green - try ornamental cabbage which looks lovely in winter and will survive moderate frosts, too.
Adding compost to your beds now will ensure the soil is full of nutrients and ready to help those flowers flourish come spring. For raised beds, consider something containing loam, which will help maintain a good volume of material in your plant bed, as well as encouraging good plant growth.
Mulch and maintain
Adding mulch to your soil can be a great way to protect your plants from frost, keep weeds at bay and ensure your beds are kept healthy over the winter months. Autumn is a good time to add mulch around newly planted shrubs and herbaceous perennials, and then come winter you’ll want to mulch the entire bed to trap in moisture.
With the summer holidays in full swing and the chance to hopefully spend more time outdoors than usual, tending to the garden might be quite low down on the list - especially if entertaining the kids and getting your cost-per-use on your sun loungers are in order.
However, there are some tasks that need tackling this month, but we promise they’re not too arduous. You’ll still have plenty of time to soak up the sun and relax, and you can do so safe in the knowledge that your garden is in tip top condition. Cheers to that!
Banish the brown
Soaking up the rays in pursuit of a golden tan might be on your agenda this month, but the plants in your garden don’t have the same ideals - if they’re looking a bit brown, they’ll need a bit of TLC to keep them fresh. Keep watering regularly and make sure the lawn is looking healthy - if there are brown patches don’t mow these as it’ll only make things worse. In fact, ease up on the mowing altogether if you can, to help keep the lawn looking its best.
Trees and hedges will also need some attention to avoid unsightly brown patches too - clip conifers now so that new young shoots can form before the frost arrives, and if you have laurel hedges, trim them with secateurs rather than a hedge trimmer. This will allow you to remove whole leaves rather than cut into leaves and cause them to go brown.
Compose your compost
If you’ve been thinking about introducing a compost heap into your garden, then now’s the time to do it. Compost heaps are best created in the summer because the heat helps to break down the waste quicker. For the best results, you need a 50:50 mix of green (nitrogen rich, i.e. grass clippings) and brown (carbon rich, i.e woody stems and cardboard) materials. Be strategic about how you layer them - add materials like twigs at the bottom to aid circulation, then grass cuttings and vegetables on top, then your carbon-rich brown materials - this is a great place to use old coffee grounds, for example. Turn your heap to aerate it and help to speed up the process. If you turn regularly it’ll take about six months for your compost to be ready.
Get savvy with seeds
As your favourite flowers finish for the year, collect and save the seedheads ready for planting in the spring. Choose a dry day to collect them, and then store them in paper bags or envelopes - avoid plastic as this can attract moisture and your seeds may be mouldy by the time you come to plant them!
Pep up peppers
Keep your peppers and cucumbers healthy and thriving by using a high potash fertiliser on them once fruits start to form. For courgettes, harvest them before they become too big, and it’s probably also time to harvest beetroot that was planted in the spring, although this can be left a little longer if you’re running out of space in the salad drawer!
Re-use the rain
No, we’re not wishing for rain or for autumn to arrive, but before they do, it’s worth considering installing a water butt before next season’s rainfall. That way next summer you’ll have plenty of reserves to water your summer flowering plants and containers without needing to untangle the hose or worry about water bills.
Start brushing up
Make the most of the warm, dry weather by working on those painting projects you’ve been putting off. Tidy up fences, sheds and garden furniture - the paint will dry quickly in the sun and the tasks will be over before you know it. It’s also a good time to bring inside projects outside to get them finished - internal doors that need a new lick of paint will be quicker and easier to paint outdoors, and there’s less risk of spilling paint on the carpet/upholstery/kids/dog, too.