September in the Backyard Vegetable Garden.

Well – finally – a glimpse of spring is in the air!  The sap is starting to rise in the trees and the urge to grow, sow and plant is rising in the hearts of gardeners all over the country.   It is still a little early for a lot of vegetable plants but there are some we can start off sowing indoors in the hope that we can get a headstart on nature and get some early crops.  There will still be cold days and frosts but take advantage of the lovely days and at least make sure your beds are all ready for the new season of planting!

September at a glance.

  • Prepare beds for planting summer crops.
  • Get early potatoes and peas in this month if you want them for Christmas eating.
  • Sow seeds under cover for planting when conditions warm up
  • Sow carrots direct and cover with a board until germination
  • Divide clumps of perennial herbs such as chives and plant ou
  • Sow or plant out onions and more garlic
  • Try early plantings of silver beet, spinach, lettuce, brassicas

I think of garlic planted in the dead of winter as the first of the new season and so that’s my gardening new year and the beginning of my crop rotation cycle.  Now that it is well up, its time to start giving it a liquid feed every couple of weeks or so. I still have to keep the ducks off it though – they have enjoyed the very wet July and August and love to get their naughty beaks underground to eat any cloves, corms or bulbs I have planted. 

My vegetable garden is divided up into 4 main beds which I rotate over a 4 yearly cycle.  I have always used the very traditional potager type layout but there are endless ways you can create a food garden that suits you and your space.  The vintage style crop rotation poster I sell is based on this design and actually provides a blueprint or a plan so anyone can use it to know what to plant where and when, and what sort of cultivation the soil and plants in each family need.

Group 4. Roots, tubers, alliums.

As it warms up this month you can start to direct sow root vegetables such as carrots, turnip, onions, etc into the ground.  The bed you use for these crops needs to be well dug over and lumps and bumps removed.  This year we actually dug over the garden in autumn, chucked in a little bit of lime and blood and bone, added ash from the stove over winter, and then covered it up so it is ready to go right now. The garlic is in this bed but of course that wasn’t covered except with netting to keep the pesky poultry off.

Get your seed potatoes chitting on the window sill in a warm light space to start them off and into the ground as soon as you can so you can have delicious new potatoes for Christmas. Those of us in the south may have to protect emerging growth from frosts still but it will be worth it!

Group 1. Legumes

Time to sow or plant peas as well. Make a tepee (or is that tee pea?) for them to climb up or some other kind of support.  Watties has been so efficient at providing us with frozen peas now that we don’t really need to grow them as a main crop but as a treat crop, again for Christmas, and for introducing children to the joys of gardening and eating they can’t be beaten!  

You might still be able to get some broad beans in or if you have autumn planted ones, you can pinch out the tops to make them bush up a bit.  They may need staking too.   You will still need to wait for warmer temperatures to sow the rest of the bean family.  French, dwarf, bush and runner beans require a warm soil to germinate so wait until early summer for them.  November here in the southern hemisphere.

Group 2. Leafy Greens and Brassicas.

Keep eating the last of the winter grown brassicas and green leafy crops where they are but for the new season planting, rotate to the next bed.  Start sowing indoors for planting out later but sneak in a few store bought plants to see if they will grow. Might be a bit early still but I know you are going to do it anyway because spring is in the air!   That is the beauty of gardening though – who knows what is going to work this season and trying new things is how we learn. Nature will tell us whether it’s a good idea or not but there’s no harm in trying to get in early.

Group 3. Heat Loving and Fruiting

It will still be too cold to plant out tomatoes and other heat loving plants plus you should still be harvesting your brassicas and silverbeet etc carried over in this bed from winter.  You can start preparing for those fruiting crops though by adding compost and whatever you choose to fertilise with as you take out the old plants. Avoid adding lime to this bed – these plants prefer more acidic soil and the lime from the previous seasons should be enough.

For the perennial crops such as asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb, you can start feeding and mulching.   Keep that asparagus bed free of weeds and get new plants in now.  Rhubarb famously likes plenty of animal manure so now is a good time to do that.  Ours dies right down in our colder southern winter but strong new shoots are emerging now. 

So the time is nigh when we will start to get busy and productive in our gardens but the weather will become more and more conducive to being out there amongst it.  So get out there and get growing!

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