Tuesday, 6 September 2016

September Garden Ramblings

I can hardly believe is September already. August just fairly flew by as I prepped for the garden tour and wedding, and here we are with summer near over!

Lots to do in the garden this month with the harvest season upon us!

Late Flat Dutch Cabbage

What to do this month?

September is the one of the busiest months of the year for gardeners. Fall harvest, canning, freezing, drying, storing, and fall planting, too.

What to harvest...

Tomatoes - They are ripening before our very eyes this month. Freeze them, dry them, sauce or salsa them for canning, and slow roast the rest.

You may find yourself with splitting tomatoes with all this rain we've had lately. Splitting fruit is just the meat of the tomato growing faster than the skin can keep up with. They are fully edible, just will not store well... and are terrific for stewing ; )

Green tomatoes can be made into a lovely Chow Chow, a green tomato relish that tastes fantastic. I know that a lot of places will recommend that you ripen green tomatoes in boxes, under your bed, on the windowsill, etc... however, they become pretty tasteless, just like winter time, grocery store tomatoes. Vine ripened in sunshine is always the best. Hence the green chow chow recipe, something to make with any left overs that still tastes really good!

Healthy vines can be composted, or tossed into garden waste pick up, should you be lucky enough to have that in your area. Blossom end rot is purely physiological and not a disease, so not to worry, both fruits and vines can be composted.
Blighted vines need to go out with the garbage though, so as not to spread those spores around.

Peppers - Will continue to ripen from now through till November.  Harvest at any stage, green or red, you do not need to wait. Hot ones are hot at all stages.

Toss plants into the compost bin when done. I grow my peppers in pots, so will tip the soil onto the garden beds, but they can also be dumped in the compost if you need more 'browns' to start things cooking down faster.

What to do with all those peppers? We use the sweets in salsa and sauces, or just raw. I eat them like apples as I work in the garden ; )

 Crushed Hot Peppers

We grow more hots than sweets though, as hubby likes to dry them for blended spice mixes. The cayenne and paprika peppers get ground into powders, as do some of the chili's. The others are mostly dehydrated and made into hot crushed pepper mixes. You can also make some great hot sauces! 

Mini Jacks

Squash - Leave your squash plants until the fruits are fully ripened, even if the leaves are mildewed. 

How to know when to harvest squash? Push your thumbnail into the side. If you can easily puncture the skin, it is not yet ready to pick. When you can no longer push your nail through the skin, lift them to cure. All squash except acorns will store well and for a long time. For more information about curing squash, see last years post HERE!

After harvesting your squash, toss the vines into the compost bin, even if they are mildewed. Chop into short pieces if you want faster compost.  

Tri-coloured bush beans

Beans and cucumbers should be harvested weekly, or even more often. The more you pick, the more they make. As the vines stop producing and begin to look peaked, pull them out and toss into the compost. 

If you are growing drying beans, leave them on the vine till yellow and dry, then pick, crack open and store the beans.


Asparagus - Cut down the fronds down to the ground when they have turned brown/yellow. Top dress with manure or compost.

Sunflowers... How to know when to harvest your sunflowers?

They will have lost their flower petals, and the backs will have changed to golden instead of green.

Most importantly, the seeds will be black when you run your fingers across the front of the flower. 

These seeds are not yet ready to harvest as they are still white

Harvest your finished flowers, cure them to feed the birds, your gerbils, hamsters, or rabbits. Apparently chickens like them, too. 

What to leave in the garden ...   

Not all veggies need to be lifted now though, many will easily store all winter in the garden, to be harvested as needed. 

 Lacinato aka Dinosaur Kale 

Which veggies can you leave without fear in the beds all winter long? 

Kale, all kinds. Needs no cover, even in snow, will be fine all winter long. Harvest leaves as needed. Maybe toss in a few extra plants this fall if you want lots of leaves to take you through the winter.

Kale will bolt in early spring, to be replaced with new starters plants or seeds. If you let it go to seed, you will have perennial kale and never have to plant again. 

Brussels sprouts - You should have lovely sprouts starting to grow now, to be harvest at Thanksgiving and all winter long. Provide supports for tall and heavy plants so they do not topple in winter. 

Carrots - Harvest throughout the fall and winter, needs no cover. Try to use them all up by spring or they will get woody, stringy, and start to go to seed. 

Beets - Taste better small, of course, but can be left in the garden and harvested as needed. Try to use beetroots up before winter hits, but they will be fine all fall. Plant new starters now for many months of fresh beet greens.  

Turnips, kohlrabi, rutabagas - These guys can handle some pretty severe frost, as well, though turnips are the least hardy of the three and may go soft in hard frosts. Harvest as needed.   

Broccoli - The winter ones will be harvested in February/March next year, while fall ones are harvested this year as they make heads. 

Cabbage - To keep the big ones you have in the garden now from splitting in the rain, please give them a quarter turn. Just enough to uproot the feeder roots a wee bit. New starter plants will continue to size up till late fall. 

Leeks - Harvest as you need, these guys are tough and need no cover. Try to use them up by late spring though, or they get kind of woody and unappealing. 

Onions - If you planted over-wintering onions (Walla Walla's, scallions, or bunching) they will do great in the garden all winter. I would cover with white frost fabric or low hoops. Lift summer onions when the tops start to fold over.

Peas- Fall peas should be starting to produce soon. They will keep going till winter. Chop up their vines into the garden or compost afterwards. 

'Lettuce Bowl' of mixed greens

What to plant now from seed?

Most fall and winter crops needed to be seeded in July or August. However, you can still get away with some of the fast growers, like ...
- Arugula
- Mache
- Lettuce
- Radicchio
- Spinach
- Scallions, bunching onions, and shallots
- Oriental greens like Pak Choi, Bok Choi...
- Radishes


 What to plant from starter plants?
- Spinach
- Lettuce
- Kale
- Rutabagas
- Turnips
- Beets
- Leeks
- Celery
- Broccoli
- Cauliflower
- Cabbage
- Swiss Chard

... and GARLIC, of course!

As garlic is planted between mid-September and late October on the west coast, we have lots of time yet to clean out our beds and amend the soil.

Garlic is a heavy feeder. If you want fabulous bulbs, you need fabulous soil.

If your soil is already really fantastic, add a bit of compost or manure and lightly scratch it into the top few inches. If you are not sure, this is a great time to do a soil test.

If your soil is a bit tired and depleted, scratch in compost or manure, plus nitrogen and phosphorous. The nitrogen feeds the green top growth to help your plant grow well, while phosphorous feeds the bulb. I use bloodmeal and bonemeal, but you can also use alfalfa meal and rock phosphates, too.

If possible, add your amendments 2 to 3 weeks before planting. For garlic planting instructions, please see HERE!

Ivy geranium

Happy gardening!
... and harvesting! 

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