Dig it

Gardening advice for the new (and not so new) gardener with Fulke Andel

My ambitions of winning a prize at the local Garden & Produce Show were thwarted by the heavy rain and high winds of August. My sweet peas and dahlias were bedraggled and the French beans had started to rot. Never mind, next year perhaps?! Whilst clearing up the damage though, I discovered a new visitor to the garden, a small brown newt (Norman the newt – see picture right). Not having a pond or water feature in the garden, and knowing none of the neighbours have one, this was somewhat of a surprise. However, as they eat small slugs, a newt is very welcome. Have since spotted another 2 black ones, so I now have some allies in my constant battle against slugs.

September is the month you should be busy reaping the rewards of your harvest in the veg and fruit garden. There’s not much to do in the flower garden, other than dead-heading and weeding. It is time though, to get out and start planting spring-flowering bulbs for next year. Make the most of the remaining warmth while you can!

I know that almost every seed and bulb producer provide on-line catalogues these days, but there’s nothing quite as good as pouring over a paper copy of a catalogue during the autumn and planning next year’s flower and vegetable garden. This is also that time of year when gardeners look back and review their successes and failures. They then look forward to next year and wonder what challenges the weather will throw at them.

Don’t be tempted to neglect hanging basket maintenance – a little deadheading, watering and feeding can keep them going until mid-autumn. Once they are past their best, re-plant as winter/spring hanging baskets with spring-flowering bulbs, winter heathers, trailing ivies and spring-flowering plants such as dwarf wallflowers.

Continue to deadhead plants such as dahlia, delphinium, rosa and penstemon to prolong the display and give colour well into the month.

Now is a good time to divide any overgrown or tired looking clumps of alpines and herbaceous perennials such as crocosmias. This will in-vigorate them, and improve flowering and overall shape, for next year.

Take cuttings of tender perennials, such as pelargonium and osteospermum. These plants often do better, grown from new cuttings each year. If you do not have a greenhouse, then use a well-lit windowsill to grow them on.

Bring inside any tender perennials, such as fuchsia, gazania, lantana and abutilon, before frosts cause damage. Wait for the first frosts to hit dahlias and cannas before lifting the tubers or rhizomes.

A top tip for the end of the month, when your runner beans have finished is to lift half a dozen of your strongest plants, cut off all growth bar 6 inches, place them in a trug and cover with moist compost. Place them somewhere dark and dry to overwinter. Come the spring, water them a little and plant them out once they start sprouting (protecting from frost). They will shoot up the poles and produce beans weeks before plants grown from seed.

Things to do in the garden – September

Sow / Plant

  • Spring onions (White Lisbon)
  • Lettuce (Arctic King)

Plant out

  • Garlic
  • Autumn onion sets
  • Spring cabbages


Depending on how your crops are maturing, you could be harvesting:-

  • Beetroot
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflowers
  • Courgettes
  • Globe artichokes
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Marrows
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Radishes
  • Runner beans
  • Spring onions
  • Spinach
  • Sweetcorn
  • Turnips


Tidy up cultivated blackberries: Cut off the stems that have borne fruit and tie in the new stems that will bear next year’s fruit. This also applies to summer fruiting raspberries. Strawberries also need attention: Cut off the foliage about 1″ from the ground, clearing and weeding as you go. Any runners can be planted up to replace 3-year old plants that are best replaced now.


  • Divide herbaceous perennials
  • Pick autumn raspberries
  • Collect and sow seed from perennials and hardy annuals
  • Dig up remaining potatoes before slug damage spoils them
  • Net ponds before leaf fall gets underway
  • Keep up with watering of new plants, using rain or grey water if possible
  • Start to reduce the frequency of houseplant watering
  • Clean out cold frames and greenhouses so that they are ready for use in the autumn
  • Cover leafy vegetable crops with bird-proof netting
  • Plant spring flowering bulbs
  • Plant new fruit trees
  • Check that tall plants have adequate support

Readers Tips

An old gardening saying is to plant garlic on the shortest day, and harvest it on the longest day. I.C. Pennard

Seasonal Recipe

As the Andel family are currently on a healthy eating program, I thought I’d share this recipe for Cauliflower rice. This has 25 calories per serving, compared with over 200 calories for boiled rice, and it’s far less stodgy. You will need a cauliflower, a cheese grater, frying pan with lid and a little oil. Remove the leaves, wash the cauliflower and pat dry. Cut into chunks and grate into a bowl. Once done, empty onto kitchen roll (or a clean teacloth) and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Heat around 1tbs of light cooking oil in a frying pan and add the grated cauliflower and sauté with the lid on over a medium heat, for 5 mins or so, stirring occasionally, until tender. Season with salt and pepper, or soy sauce if preferred.


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