Anna Taylor, owner of Anna’s Flower Farm in Audley End, shares what’s going on in the
garden this month
After 20 years of gardening, it still feels like alchemy that a tiny seed will grow to produce flowers and fruits. In fact, I defy anyone not to be enchanted by growing something.
Those of you who have experienced the joy of gardening for the first time during lockdown, you have a treat to come! Beginning in March or April, you might have started on the back foot, having a reduced choice of what you could grow and how. However, one can be right ahead for the coming year by beginning this month.
Following the natural order of ‘going up a year’ for our children at school, September is the beginning of the new gardening season for me also, although some tasks like sowing biennials are completed earlier in the summer for the following spring.
Your soil’s health is key to success. It is the foundation, and yours will have been depleted from a long, dry summer’s growth. If you haven’t already, start a compost heap. Essentially layers of carbon (paper, hedge trimmings, pet bedding, cardboard) and nitrogen (grass clippings, vegetable peelings, flower heads and weeds) in a bin, chicken wire cage or pallets tied together. Make sure layers are watered well. Turn the heap after a couple of weeks, ideally into another bin, beginning a new one. The turning reactivates the heap, raising the temperature and accelerating decomposition. Do this several times and compost can be yours in two months. Once the autumn rains come in, you can mulch and spread this precious material around your plants in a thick layer to suppress weeds, adding humus to the soil, retaining nutrients and moisture.
If you haven’t already, start a compost heap
Now is also the time to sow hardy annuals (those that can survive the winter cold, grow, flower and seed in one summer) to produce earlier and larger flowers late spring. These include larkspur, cornflowers, antirrhinums, ammi and nigella. To hedge my bets, I will do a mix of both direct sowing into the soil and undercover in pots, to grow on over winter then planting out in mid-spring.
In the kitchen garden, we continue to sow parsley and basil inside for winter, and winter leaves outside including kale, mustards and purslane for daily pickings.
But it’s not all about the next season. The party in the garden is just getting going for some of the most spectacular – of which dahlias and salvias rule supreme.
I’ve noticed that the dahlias improve as the season develops, and by the autumn equinox, on 22 September, they are producing flowers almost daily. I can’t cut them quick enough, ensuring that I am the most generous gardener in this month of harvest, when the year’s preparations crescendo. You don’t need to have a garden to see this: step out into parks, along rivers and hedgerows where the trees and scrub are dripping in berries and nuts. Gather as much as your pockets will hold (leaving plenty for the wildlife). Even the nettles have a second flush of new leaves now; highly nutritious and full of vitamin C, add them to soups, quiches and sauces, or make tea.
Like a gardener’s Last Night of the Proms, there is a fiesta of colour, flower and produce – true abundance all around and setting seed for the year to come.All this and more makes September my favourite month; I relish every moment.