September Is Often Seen As The End Of Summer And The Time To Close The Garden Down For Winter. Nothing Could Be Further From The Truth.
In a sense, it’s the beginning of the year. A time to harvest many crops, to sow seeds that will mature before the winter sets in and a time to sow for overwintered spring crops. And a time to plan for the “rest of the year”.
September can be a busy month. Not least because there are few daylight hours to work in and for plants to grow. Every day is getting shorter.
For example, astronomically, on June 21 the day where I live was 16 hours 29 minutes and 45 seconds long. By September 21 it will be just 12 hours 14 minutes and 19 seconds long. That’s 4 hours 14 minutes and 26 seconds a day less daylight.
And if you think I’m a bit OTT focusing on the seconds you might be right, but every a day we lose a few more seconds of daylight and they aggregate. Think about it this way. We are now getting in excess of 28 hours more dark hours every week by the end of September. That’s like losing more than a day a week! Pedantic or not, the plants notice this.
Sowing Ideas As Light Diminishes
Having said that, it’s an ideal time to sow hardy greens such as Mustard, Mizuna, Pak Choi, Kale, and Land Cress. Plus you can sow radish and salad onions. In fact salad onions sown early in the month will harvest this year and this sown late in the month will harvest in early spending. September is a month when change happens.
One thing I’ll be doing is to sow in containers. I’ll start them outdoors and when my greenhouse is cleared of tomatoes I’ll move the containers in to give the extra protection and a bit more warmth.
Before I list all the other crops you can grow it’s important to understand the “rules”.
Firstly a lot depends on where you live, how far north you are, how high above sea level, what your microclimate is like, even your soil type. I’m near the coast in south Devon. It’s a mild climate, we have reasonably good soil and each of these are great advantages.
So you need to adapt what I say for your area and growing conditions.
Growing conditions will gradually deteriorate from now on. By November most things will stop growing here. But that means that crops such as leeks are going to keep growing until then. And many crops can mature in this time. For examples, radish normally takes around four weeks from seed to harvest. At this time of year, it might take 6 weeks or slightly longer. But we’ll get a crop in that time. Ditto lettuce. If they took 6-7 weeks in summer they’ll now take 9-10 weeks.
Growth rates will depend on sunshine and temperature. The above figures are guides. If it rains every day and is cold, growth will be much slower. And if we get loads of sun and warmth we’ll her much better growth and earlier harvest dates.
Veg to Sow in September
Overwintered broad beans give the earliest crops and they are very hardy plants once germinated. I’ll sow a few in September, more in October and again in November. The earlier sowings tend to suffer much less from “Black Army” aphid.
Sow now for baby leaves. Especially good if grown under a tunnel.
The real bonus when sowing now is you avoid the worse of the butterfly and caterpillar season! And that sounds good to me.
Sow now for harvesting outdoors all winter. Frost hardy.
There’s a whole post dedicated to How to Grow Lettuce. Just click the link.
When I say Pak choi I also mean many of the other Chinese leaves that can be grown now. Most are quite fast-growing and love the cooler weather. They are however frost susceptible so need to be harvested before the first frosts. But as you can eat them as leaves or as hearts, that makes life far easier.
This is a crop that’s great in salads or stir fries. Young plants can be harvested over a long period by removing just a few leaves to a time. You can extend the growing season with fleece or other protection.
Mizuna & Mibuna
Grown as a cut and come again crop these will grow into the winter and tolerate light frosts. Peppery leaves for salads and stir fries. I will be growing some in containers to put in the greenhouse as the weather cools down
Another cool weather brassica crop that is grown for its leaves and is frost tolerant. In fact, some people say they taste better after a frost.
Mustard is also a good green manure. Either dig it in or if you prefer No Dig, kill it by covering with a sheet of weed suppressant material or cardboard for a few weeks.
There are several onion varieties that can be sown in September. Sow into a well-prepared seedbed and don’t thin until the Spring.
It might also be worth considering sowing some in modules to be kept in a cold frame over winter and planted in early spring. I’ve never tried this but it ought to work provided the plants don’t suffer root damage when planted .. as this might induce bolting.
Now for a Surprise Seed For September Sowing
This one often surprises many gardeners. But you can sow peas anytime between September and November for early spring pods. Smooth seeded varieties do best as they are less inclined to rot and dwarf varieties are less prone to any spring storms. Meteor is a good variety as its very frost hardy and relatively short. Ensure you stick the peas early on to get them up out of the way of slugs. A bit of mesh can also help to keep the pigeons off .. they love tender succulent peas in mid-winter.
The alternative to growing over wintered pod peas is to grow pea shoots. They will grow in a container in a greenhouse, tunnel or cold frame. At a push you could even try them on a windowsill. Pea shoots could be yours all winter if you make successive sowings and harvest carefully.
Yet another brassica. A real fast grower that will soon be ready from a September sowing.
For harvesting this year to next. Sow thinly in rows about 10 cm apart. You could sow weekly for harvest succession
Early September is a good time to sow spinach. Sown now it extends the spinach season with fresh leaves throughout the winter.
Check the seed catalogues for autumn-sown varieties which tend to have thicker leaves and are less inclined to bolt.
Varieties such as April, Hispi, Savoy and Durham Early are good for earlier spring crops. But sow early in the month as many of these are at the end date for sowing … and could have been sown in July and August
The fast-growing Oriental white varieties mature quickly and are a good early winter veg to eat as a salad ingredient, stand-alone veg or in stews etc. They germinate within days and can ve sown in drills or broadcast.
The great thing about this type of turnip is that you can eat them as greens or roots. In fact, the white varieties can be harvested as young roots complete with greens. Two dishes from one plant.
Non-seed Activities … Rather Than What to Sow in September
Continue planting strawberry beds this month.
Plant overwintering onion sets during September. .