Posted 24th Sep 2015
Now we're officially in autumn it's time to start preparing the garden for winter as well as thinking ahead to next year's harvest – as we find out in the second part of Scotts Miracle-Gro's gardening diary
Grow your own
Although the main vegetable seed sowing season has now passed, there’s still time to sow overwintering turnip, spinach, Oriental vegetables and overwintering onions.
In colder regions, or for a quicker harvest, sow seeds in pots or cell trays of seed sowing compost in a cold greenhouse or cold frame, and grow on and plant out the young plants.
You can plant overwintering onion sets to provide an early crop next year.
Continue to feed tomatoes still in crop with a liquid tomato food – as the days shorten, this liquid feed can be invaluable in helping ripen the last fruits of the season. This high potassium plant food will also speed up the ripening of sweet peppers, chillies and aubergines.
Main crop potatoes should be ready to harvest when the top growth starts to die down and has turned brown. Cut off the dead stem and then leave for 10 days before starting to dig up the tubers. Leave them on the surface for a couple of hours or so for the skins to set and then sort according to their storage potential. Perfect tubers can be placed in hessian sacks, paper bags or dry cardboard boxes for storage in a well-ventilated frost-free shed. Any potatoes that show damage, blemishes or slug or wireworm holes should be used in the kitchen as soon as possible.
Sow some winter lettuce, such as ‘Winter Density’, that can be grown outdoors with some protection from severe weather, or salad bowl types, non-hearting, cut-and-come-again varieties that can even be grown in pots on the kitchen windowsill.
Now is the perfect time to order and plant all new fruit trees, bushes and canes. The soil will still be quite warm, and the roots will benefit from this warmth. This is particularly important for peaches and nectarines. Other fruit trees may have a higher tolerance of cold at the roots, and can be planted later in autumn if necessary.
Make sure the soil is well prepared with plenty of organic matter, so dig in plenty of organic matter, such as well-rotted manure, garden compost or tree and shrub planting compost, and add bonemeal or a controlled-release plant food to help improve root growth and establishment.
Always plant at the same depth that the plant was originally growing and firm the soil around the roots.
Fruit trees will need to be staked with a good tree stake and secured with two tree ties.
After planting, give the plants a good soaking to settle the soil and roots and to ensure fast establishment. Mulch the soil with a 7.5-10cm (3-4in) thick layer of bark or similar material, which will help retain moisture around the roots as well as keeping weeds away.
Regularly pick all fruit as it becomes ready. Don’t leave it on the tree or bush to become over-ripe but, at the same time, don’t pick too early or the full flavour won’t have developed. Most fruit is ready when it comes away easily in the hand.
Apples and pears are generally ready to pick when they readily part from the tree when lifted gently in the palm and given a slight twist. Pears are best picked when slightly immature. They should then be left a couple of days at room temperature to reach full maturity. Eat bruised and damaged fruit first.
Cut out the old, fruited canes of summer raspberries, blackberries and hybrid berries after fruiting and tie in new ones that will fruit next year. Cut out and remove excess, weak or misplaced canes.
General gardening jobs
September is an ideal time to kill weeds, especially deep-rooted ones that can’t be dug out easily or grow so big that it would take too much effort to make it worthwhile.
For deep-rooted weeds, such as docks, stinging nettles, bindweed, thistles, brambles, couch grass and perennial ryegrass, you will get best results by spraying with a weedkiller containing glyphosate.
Japanese knotweed is a garden weed nightmare – in some areas its presence in gardens is preventing affected properties from being sold, because it’s so difficult to control effectively. You can find out more about this pernicious weed and how to deal with it at lovethegarden.com.
It’s not unusual to see extensive slug and snail damage at this time of year. When you see signs of attack, protect susceptible plants with slug pellets or a liquid slug killer.
Now’s a good time to install water butts and water-collection systems to make the most of all the autumn and winter rain. If you already have water butts, give them a good cleaning out to help keep the water fresh.
Use plant protection products and biocides safely. Always read the label and product information before use. Pay attention to the risk indications and follow the safety precautions on the label.
For full information on all Scotts Miracle-Gro products, visit lovethegarden.com.
By Geoff Hodge