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TheVillage Gardening

Time to plan & plant

Posted on August 30 2016 at 3:51:22 0 comments

Vebena through sedums

Hannah Genders explains why September is a perfect month.

After the relaxing summer months of July and August when we are holidaying and hopefully just tweaking the garden, I find that September is a time of re-assessing what has grown well during the summer and what plants might need moving or pruning.

It’s a month when many jobs can be done as the nights draw in and the weather gets a bit cooler.

My vegetable garden has done much better this year than last year. I think this was for two reasons: firstly I fed it much more with homemade compost, well-rotted manure and regular additions of blood, fish and bone before a rain storm, and secondly I managed to get rid of a family of mice that were just eating every seed I put in last year, by using humane traps.

Although generally the crops have done much better, I have had some successes and some failures and now is the time to make a note of what went well so I can plan for next year. I practise an organic crop rotation method – this is where you group the vegetables you grow according to what growing and feeding conditions best suit them, and then move (rotate) them around the different beds each year.

For example, the bed I’ve grown my beans and courgettes in has been heavily manured and composted, but once this has rested over the winter it will be ideal for salad crops next year as most of the compost will have been broken down into the soil by then.

It also makes sense to me that this practice helps keep control of pest and diseases, as you are not growing the same crop in the same soil position each year for anything to build up in the soil. A good gardening book on organic methods or a website for organic growing will outline how to group the vegetables and the best rotation to follow.

I grow my beans and courgettes together – although not strictly in the same group for crop rotation, they do require the same type of feeding, and as I have limited space it helps to grow the courgettes under the beans.

They seem very happy with this as it gives them some protection from the wind, which they like, and they grow well in the dappled shade created by the bean plants.

As we love to eat them I’ve grown two types of climbing beans this year. There’s the climbing French bean ‘Cosse Violette’, a purple podded French bean with violet flowers, which is such a favourite of mine for the way it looks and the flavour. I have grown it every year, and it’s done really well again this time.

On another framework in another bean and courgette bed, I’ve grown a different runner bean this year, one that I’ve not tried before, called ‘The Czar’. It has a white flower and long green pods which come much later than the French beans; I only started picking in August.

Despite this late cropping, it has produced lots of growth and flowers so I know we will have plenty of beans to pick right up to the first frosts. I also read that it will produce a white boiling bean if the pods are left on the plant long enough and evidently these are delicious too.

The courgette I’ve grown under the beans is a variety called Burpees Golden Zucchini – a great name – and it’s done well. I prefer the yellow-skinned courgettes I think they taste sweeter and the skins don’t get tough even when they grow large.

One of my failures this year was a yellow mangetout – it didn’t produce much crop and I have to say the pale yellow colour of the pods was not very appealing, but I did spot a purple mangetout in a friend’s garden so I thought I’d try that next year.

The bed I had set aside for salad growing has not done well – I usually get a lovely succession of “cut and come again” lettuce, rocket and salad leaves but this year it was a bit disappointing. I believe this was for two reasons; I should have watered more and I didn’t rest this bed over winter.

But even with a couple of setbacks, generally we have eaten vegetables and fruit from the garden for most of the summer again and I have to say it’s still my favourite way to eat – wander down the garden, pick something in season and cook it.

In reassessing my perennial garden border, the one I planted up for butterflies and bees a few years ago, I’m really happy with it this year and there is little that needs moving. It’s still holding on to to some late autumn colour which is lovely for us and good for the insects.

The Hellenium is a great plant for this and looks wonderful with the purple Verbena and Stipa fronds which are all still doing their thing. The only change I might make is to add some more clipped box balls into this border, just to give it some more structure in the winter when everything has died down.

I’ve had plenty of soft fruit again this year, and it won’t be long before I will need to prune again. The only change I will make here is to sort the autumn raspberries and the summer fruiting raspberries into separate beds, because they need different pruning and I get confused in the middle of winter when it needs doing.

For planting any fruit, dividing perennials that have grown too large or planting winter vegetable crops, September is the perfect month.

Above: Vebena growing through Sedums


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