September may seem like the time where things slow down in the garden, as the weather begins to get colder and leaves begin to turn golden, however this is a crucial month to get on top of tasks to save time next Spring. Gardening expert Sarah Raven offers her best tips for preparing your garden for the onset of winter and preventing the need to work in harsher conditions...
Sowing & Growing
Sowing some hardy annuals for early flowering next year will ensure bigger and better plants, which can flower up to six weeks earlier than those sown in Spring. Sowing some Viola ‘Heartsease’ will bring a beautiful pop of colour in as little as eight weeks’ time. Biennials which were sown in summer, such as wallflowers, foxgloves and sweet William need to get their roots down now while the ground is still warm for good flowering next year, so get these planted now.
Now is also the time to plant your spring bulbs. Have a go at planting a “bulb lasagne”, a layered pot of bulbs with the largest and latest flowering bulbs at the lowest level. Watch Sarah make a bulb lasagne here for a symphony of colour in Spring.
Pick some hydrangea heads before they’re damaged by the wind and rain – floating them overnight in cold water helps them last as long as possible indoors, then arrange in a vase with only an inch or two of water. As this evaporates, the flower heads will keep their colour as they dry. Before they brown, pick a last bunch of roses and sear the stem ends in boiling water before you arrange to prolong vase life.
Pruning & Tidying
Continue to deadhead, weed and collect seeds from perennials and annuals and store somewhere cool and dry. Deadheading dahlias by cutting the spent flowers off to the buds below them will keep flowering until the first hard frosts.
Fruit & Veg
Now is the last chance to sow spring onions, spinach, broad beans, salads and radish and a good time to start hardy peas and broad beans off for next spring. Rocket is especially tolerant of cold and wet, so direct sowing a row will give you a bountiful harvest of peppery goodness.
Cut and hang herbs to dry for using in the kitchen over winter. You can also try bringing any perennial herbs growing in pots such as mint, parsley and French tarragon into the porch or greenhouse to keep them growing through the winter.
Pot up strawberry runners to make new plants for next year, and cut back the fruited canes of summer raspberries, trying in the new young canes for next year’s crop.
Wildlife & Birds
It’s important to give the birds food to stock up for the colder months, to begin to regularly top up food – before you do so, give everything a thorough clean. Many birds die each year from parasites and toxic bacteria that can build up in feeders and water containers if not cleaned.
For more gardening advice, head to the refreshed Sarah Raven website, complete with brand new gardening guides and more; sarahraven.com/advice