Sadly there will be no Biddenham Show again this year when we can celebrate the productivity and beauty of our gardens by displaying our fruit, vegetables and flowers. All I can do is tell you some “anglers’ ” tales about the wonderful things I have grown this year and how they would have swept the board if there had been a competition. In practice, many things have been disappointing, small carrots, few French beans,slug-eaten lettuces and cabbages and poorly developed onions and leeks. It wasn’t all bad, though.
I have the longest runner beans I have ever grown (rain and the variety grown helps), there is a lot of sweet corn coming along nicely and I have a good display of dahlias from a collection I bought a couple of years ago …
Many people think of September as the start of the gardening year. After a lull in August there are a lot of things to think about, jobs to be done now and work or planning for next year …Spring bulbs will, perhaps, be at the top of the list. If you have pre-ordered they may well have arrived by now or will be coming soon and there will be plenty of bulbs in the garden centres. Many bulbs are good for naturalising; planting in grass or in borders, while anyone with limited space can grow bulbs in containers. Daffodils and most other spring bulbs can be planted now while Tulips and hyacinths are best left until November to reduce the risk of disease. If you want tulips for naturalising, check on their suitability as many varieties are at their best only in the first year and will need to be replaced every year. If you want to save money on bulbs you can often do so by waiting until late in the autumn when spare stock will be sold off cheaply. Flowering will be later than for things planted earlier but it will still happen. Choice may, of course, be limited by then.
While things are still showing well with foliage or flowers this is a good time for thinking about changes or additions, particularly for shrubs which are best planted in the dormant season. Many plants, and especially roses and fruit bushes or canes, are best bought bare rooted over winter. Most things can be bought in containers at any time of year but they are cheaper when sold bare rooted. They will be available on-line even if you can’t find them in a garden centre. David Austen is probably the best- known rose grower but Peter Beales is another big supplier. If you are planning a new area for grass, the second half of September is good time for sowing grass seed. Turfing a new area is best left until October. Any area of new grass, whether sown or turfed, needs to be kept well-watered until established and then mown only at a high setting.
Although this is a good time for thinking ahead there are plenty of jobs to be done now. It will still be a productive time with things ready for harvesting. Sweet corn should be ready now although it is sometimes difficult to be sure when the cobs are ripe. The fronds at the tip of the cobs will go brown and you can check readiness by peeling back the outer skin of a cob and squeezing a kernel between thumb and finger. If milky juice come out the cob will be ready. Sweet corn goes starchy quite soon after ripening so, if you have unused cobs, it is best to freeze them. They freeze well and will retain their sweetness. The freezer books recommend blanching but we find that it is enough to peel the cob and then freeze it without any other preparation; when eaten fresh, sweet corn should be picked as near as possible to cooking time to get it at its sweetest. Tomatoes will go on ripening for some time, especially if under glass, but remember that home-made chutney is one of the joys of growing tomatoes and it is a good idea to pick some green for chutney rather than waiting to see if there will be any unripe fruit later on.
Early varieties of plums, apples and pears may have ripened in August but September is the main start of their season, extending to October for apples and pears. I have hopes of a good crop of Victoria plums from our tree this year but the Bramley apple crop is looking very thin. Was that a late frost at their blooming time ? The Conference pear is also looking good. Apple and pear trees should be pruned during the dormant winter time but plums should be pruned as soon as possible after fruiting as winter pruning wounds can lead to the entry of disease.