September gardening tips
Keep picking! This is a month of lush abundance – so do make the most of it. Pick vegetables when they are young - as they mature both flavour and texture become coarser and some plants, such as courgettes, actually respond to harvesting by producing more flowers and fruits right into the autumn.
Harvest - everything! Your garden will be producing prolifically and the bounty should be stunning! Dig up root crops (apart from parsnips which taste better after a frost) and potatoes before slugs wreak their damage and dry thoroughly before storing in boxes or paper sacks; remember to evict any diseased or rotten tubers or they will spoil the rest of your crop. Fast maturing vegetables such as beans, courgettes, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes must be picked regularly or they lose their youthful freshness and become stringy, tough and bitter. Any outdoor tomatoes should be picked by the end of the month and ripened inside; keep them on their trusses for the 'on the vine' look and make chutney out of any that refuse to ripen. Marrows, pumpkins and squashes should be left in the sun for a few days to harden the skin and dry them off before storing in a cool, dark place.
Herbs - sow parsley, cut and freeze herbs in ice cube trays and pot up chives and mint for the winter. Lift a clump, divide and pot using multi-purpose compost. Cut back old foliage, water well and wait for your winter crop to appear.
Harvest - damsons, blackberries, autumn raspberries, loganberries, tayberries, nectarines, apricots, early apples and pears. You can tell when they are ripe if they come off the tree with an easy twist and there are a couple on the ground. Destroy any apples spotted with brown rot which will otherwise spread to healthy ones. Blackberry and apple pie must be one of Britain's greatest treats - now is the time to make it!
Protect your fruit - birds and wasps love fruit as much as you do; think about investing in a fruit cage for next year if your crop is disappearing in front of your eyes!
Prune - cut out fruited canes of summer raspberries and tie in any new canes for next year. Make sure you only keep the healthy canes and cut out weaker stems, especially rogues that appear in pathways and the like.
Plant - new fruit trees from mid September onwards once any really dry weather is over. New trees prefer warmish soil to establish their root systems, especially nectarines and peaches. Other fruit trees can be planted later as they are less cold sensitive.