Blooming Times – September: To Do…
by Flo Whitaker
Get your borders in order and your potatoes picked for a virtuous September in the garden, leaving you to look ahead to a colourful spring.
If your borders seem dull, take comfort in the fact that September is a notoriously tricky month for keeping a garden looking good. Try a different perspective and visit someone else’s garden to find inspiration for next year. You’ll discover exciting new plants you’ve never heard of, but don’t go forgetting the ‘old faithfuls’; tough, reliable, hardworking perennials that are the backbone of a successful autumn planting scheme.
Many heleniums, sedums and asters are looking fabulous now. Nurseries often stock pots of these beauties in full bloom – useful for quickly filling annoying gaps. Eupatorium, with its fluffy pink flower heads, will grow a mere 5ft high if miserable – 8ft if happy. No autumn border is complete without dahlias. With regular watering and deadheading, they’ll keep going until the first frosts. You don’t like dahlias? Nonsense! There are 100’s to choose from – you just haven’t met one you like yet.
Looking ahead to spring… (apologies), shrubs such as camellias and magnolias are easily overlooked when not in flower, but they’ve been busy making new flower buds throughout summer and are now quietly awaiting the arrival of spring. However, if the soil dries out, plants become stressed and those dormant buds will shrivel and die. Containerised specimens are particularly prone to drought. Be vigilant; if we have a dry autumn, give springtime shrubs a regular watering.
On the vegetable patch, lift all remaining potatoes. Pick a dry day for the job. Using a border fork, carefully lift them, shaking off loose soil, then spread them on the ground for a couple of hours for the skins to dry and ‘set’. Skins of freshly harvested potatoes are soft and can be rubbed away with ease; great if you’re taking them to the kitchen for immediate use, but no good if you want to store them. Once hardened, it’s the skin that holds in moisture and prevents mould spores damaging the interior.
Without any doubt, The Worst Smell in the World is a rotting potato. Once experienced, never forgotten – even the most olfactory-challenged person will be felled by the stench. Worse still, it only takes one rotten spud to quickly affect others, so, if you’re planning to store yours, carefully check every one for damage. Any that are blemished or bruised must be used up quickly. Only those with unbroken skins and a pleasant ‘earthy’ aroma should be stored. Keep them in a dark, cool place, stored in paper or hessian sacks. They also keep well in shallow cardboard boxes or trays. Never use plastic containers as this will create condensation; perfect conditions for mould spores to thrive in. And, as every politician knows, it only takes a few days for the rot to set in…