The weather can be lovely in September, allowing us to carry on harvesting summer crops, which can make it difficult to pull them up and make room for winter ones! We may be able to put off thinking about winter, but one fact we can’t escape is the shortening days. They will soon be too short for most plants to put on any significant growth, which is why winter crops need to be in the ground as quickly as possible.
The number of frost-free nights is also decreasing, and it’s time to think about bringing in the crops that will be damaged by frost, storing and preserving them. And also about saving seeds for future seasons, which may require plants to be brought undercover so that seeds can mature and dry properly.
Vegetables to sow in September
- Overwintering/Japanese onions – not from seed now, but from sets. They can be planted in September and October.
- Lambs Lettuce (Corn Salad). A very hardy winter salad with soft, mild leaves.
- Land cress (American cress). Very similar to watercress, but extremely hardy.
- Oriental leaves, including mustards, pak choi and mizuna. You can get seed mixes, which are great for stir-fries or if you’re new to Oriental greens and want to try a few.
- Rocket and winter lettuces.
- Winter purslane (Claytonia or Miner’s lettuce). A hardy winter salad. With small, mild leaves.
- Spring cabbages.
What to harvest in September
September is one of the main months for harvesting apples, which can come in such abundance that juicing is the only solution! Some apples are best eaten fresh, while others can be carefully stored away for winter use, individually wrapped so that they don’t touch, and kept somewhere cool but frost-free. When storing any produce, it’s important to only store fruits and vegetables that show no sign of disease and to check your stores regularly to use any that are past their best and to remove any that are rotting.
Now is also an excellent time to dig out recipes for chutney, and some that make use of green tomatoes. The last of the soft fruit will be ripening now, even blueberries if you have a late variety. Figs need to be harvested before the end of the month. Peas and beans will still be cropping, and if you haven’t already, it’s really time to bring in the onions, shallots and garlic.
You may even find that some of the ‘winter’ crops are coming into harvest, which will give you a break from endless courgettes! Winter squash and pumpkins can be harvested and left to ‘cure’ in the sun for a while – once their skins are hard they’ll keep for months and provide many a winter dinner.
And it’s time to lift maincrop potatoes and give them the same treatment, letting them dry off in the sun before they’re packed into sacks for storage.
Herbs for the winter
If you’re used to popping out and picking fresh herbs for dinner, it’s hard to go back to paying for tiny bunches at the supermarket! Now is the time to ensure that you’ve got supplies on hand through the winter. Rosemary and bay trees are evergreen and can stay outside, but other perennials sage and mint tend to die back over the winter. Dig up the plant and divide it, replanting a section and potting up a section to bring inside for the windowsill.
You can still sow parsley, rocket and coriander now, but you’ll have more plentiful harvests if you can offer them some protection from winter weather, either in the greenhouse or polytunnel or with a cloche or tunnel.
The alternative to growing herbs over the winter is to make a point of preserving them, either by drying or freezing, during the height of the growing season.