Onions about to come out of the ground and be turned into fetching kitchen ornaments
Here’s a thing. I like September. August is either sweaty or disappointingly rainy (the former, this year); and there’s not much going on in the garden. September, on the other hand, is usually balmy and gentle, with just enough rain; the veg garden is pumping out produce and there’s a new energy about my gardening what with the start of the autumn – and so the end of one gardening season and the beginning of another. So here’s where you’ll find me this month:
Picking beans: and how. I think I may have slightly overdone it this year. Six wigwams, three French (Blue Lake, Cobra and a heritage variety with pink seeds) and three runner (Moonlight, Lingua di Fuoco and a rather badly misjudged variety of bog-standard stringy). I am picking Every. Single. Day.
Removing caterpillars: there is – again – a plague. Great rows of them on the nasturtiums I so thoughtfully supplied as decoy plants: well all I can say is that they eat the nasturtiums, then move on cheerfully to my kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. So that’s one companion planting idea that doesn’t work, then.
Planting onions: specifically, autumn-sown, Japanese or overwintering onions (you’ll find them under all three names). There used to be a very limited selection of these but I’m gratified to see that’s now changing. I look forward to sampling a few new varieties this year.
Drying onions: and as the next crop goes in, the previous crop comes out. My maincrops have done pretty well this year and have died back nicely – time to hoick them out of the ground and plait them prettily to hang in the kitchen.
Now these I will never tire of. Pick and pop in the freezer straight away and they come out as good as the day you picked them.
Picking raspberries: see beans. I am not meant to be able to grow raspberries in my chalky soil, but my rampant ‘Autumn Bliss’ have clearly failed to read the rule book. They look a little yellow around the gills in places, but it hasn’t affected the harvest one jot.
Pinching out tomato sideshoots: I think they get a bit annoyed at the constant pinching out earlier in the year and start redoubling their efforts, sending up stems straight from the base of the plant. It feels mean – but I want toms, not green growth.
Weeding: it ain’t over till the fat lady sings, you know. And she seems to have lost her voice just at the moment. I am fighting a losing battle that only cold weather will end.
Processing apples: I can’t help feeling slightly resentful at this time of year that I spend more time in the kitchen than in the garden. But so be it: the apple crop is particularly good this season so I’m making stewed apples, juice and crumbles.
Summer pruning cherries: It’s a bit past summer but actually this is the very best time to summer-prune fans and espaliers as they don’t have as much time to grow sappy new frost-prone growth. Just don’t leave it too close to October. My fans have got away a bit, but I’m hoping to wrestle them back into order.
Hedges: We have half a mile of wild Somerset hedgerow around our garden, loaded with brambles, hawthorn, blackthorn and just about anything else with a prickle. ‘Nuff said. I try to do it just once a year: more often and I think I’d just move.