Jobs for the month: September 2012
By: Web Editor
September is usually a productive month in many ways. Hopefully you are busy harvesting, cooking and eating the fruits of your labours and perhaps preserving the excess. The soil is at its warmest and most active, with fungi and bacteria breaking down organic matter and releasing plenty of nutrients. In such prime conditions, growth can be almost too fast.
Harvesting of apples and pears should be in full swing now, and although the often difficult conditions this year have led to reduced crops in many areas, you should still have some fruit to pick over the coming weeks.
Remember to grade the fruit as you harvest, keeping only completely sound apples and pears for storage purposes. It is also very important not to cause any accidental damage while picking – fruit is so easily bruised and even the slightest blemish will reduce the shelf life. If possible pick into canvas bags rather than baskets or other containers with hard surfaces and don’t overload containers.
Place each fruit into your collecting bag carefully and remember to be just as careful at the other end when placing the fruit into storage trays.
Early varieties should not be stored, but eaten as soon as possible as they quickly deteriorate – it is the later ripening varieties that make the best storers. Any gluts can be made into pies, jams or preserves or sliced and frozen. Alternatively squeeze the fresh fruit to extract the juice or use apples to make into a refreshing cider.
Plant autumn onions
Onions planted at this time of year often produce better crops than spring-planted bulbs unless on very heavy, cold soils. Once planted they will concentrate on producing roots rather than much top growth and this gives them a head start in the spring as conditions improve.
It is important to choose the right variety and the catalogues, which will be arriving now, will offer plenty of options. Look for varieties such as ‘Senshyu Yellow’, ‘Shakespeare’, red onion ‘Electric’, ‘Troy’ or ‘Radar’.
Prepare the soil well removing any weeds and fork over the bed to break up any hard surface layers and compaction before raking in 56g (2oz) of general fertiliser per sq m. Plant the bulbs about 10cm (4in) apart (leave enough space between each bulb to allow use of a hoe for speedy weeding without damaging the bulbs) in rows. Allow 23-25cm (9-10in) between rows.
Sow late productive pots
If your soil tends to lay wet over winter you could do what KG’s Joe Maiden does. Plant some onion sets into the top of a large pot instead and keep it under cover in a cold greenhouse, in a cold frame or simply in a sheltered spot in the garden. Plant them so they are just touching and harvest gradually first as spring onions and leaving the rest to mature into full-sized bulbs.
It is not too late to sow some salad leaves in pots and trays for a quick crop in about six weeks’ time. Try salad leaf mixtures, coriander, lettuce, peas (for the pea shoots), mustard, rocket, mizuna, spinach and pak choi. This is a great way to use up open packets and unwanted seeds.
This is a good time to plant up some pots of herbs to bring indoors or close to the kitchen for easy harvesting on cold winter days. You can sow some fresh pots of basil to keep on the kitchen windowsill now or lift some parsley plants from the garden and pot them on. Keeping them inside for a month or so will encourage some fresh growth for vitamin-packed salads and garnishes. The same can be done for mint.
Quick crop: Sow turnips
If you are reading this in August a quick sowing of turnips now should provide some small tender roots for harvesting in about six weeks’ time. Alternatively to be sure you could sow thinly into pots or tubs and give them some shelter rather than sow in the open garden and this will also help to protect them from hungry slugs. However, a sowing in September is not too late since the plants will overwinter (with cloche protection on cold or exposed sites) and will provide an early harvest of nutritious turnip greens in the spring.
For the latter, sow thinly in rows 1cm (1⁄2in) deep with rows 15cm (6in) apart. Rows can be spaced more closely in order to fit two under your cloches.
• Read the full article in Kitchen Garden magazine, August 2012!
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