September in your edible garden.
I'm super excited it's officially spring!! The deciduous trees are budding up, my apricot tree is in blossom, birds are singing and the grass is starting to grow. The signs of spring are really starting to show. We are currently still harvesting broccoli, leafy winter greens, celery, the last of the leeks, rocket, coriander, thyme and parsley.
September is a busy month in the edible garden. For me, the main focus of September, especially the first half, is on preparing the garden and the soil as much as possible for an abundant growing season.
In this issue:
- Eat up the old, feed and protect.
- Secret seaweed weapon - don’t wear your whites for this job
- Warmer weather - don’t be fooled
- What to sow in trays in the glasshouse and directly outside
Eat the old, feed and protect
If you didn’t quite get to this in August, now is the time to eat up all the winter crops to make room for new spring plantings and not waste any goodness. Old rough, tough leaves and plants well past their best can be added to your compost or literally chopped and dropped onto the garden.
Feed me. Add to the existing soil the likes of compost, worm castings, old rotted- down horse manure and seaweed. We want this soil to be as nutrient-dense as possible to feed the edible plants we will grow this season.
Protect. Once you have fed the garden, add a layer of mulch to protect it while we wait for the earth to warm and the soil health to build up. It will also help lock in moisture when the drying spring winds arrive and suppress the weeds, which often get away on us in spring.
Secret-weapon seaweed. Now is also the perfect time to start regularly spraying the garden with soluble seaweed extract fertiliser. Filled with delicious nutrients, this is your secret weapon for a great growing season. It’s brilliant for helping plants to maximise nutritional uptake and is fabulous as a soil conditioner, promoting microbial activities and boosting soil fertility.
A word of warning before you spray this magic over your entire garden- please do check that the container you are using has not been used for spraying pesticides, etc. I label my spray container clearly saying ‘Seaweed’ only to avoid this . Oh and maybe don’t wear white… it does wash off but it’s a dirty brown colour and could possibly stain clothes.
Feed the Fruit. A layer of compost and seaweed, followed by mulch, is also a good regime to keep building the soil around your fruit trees to keep them performing at their very best.
Feed the lawn. I regularly spray my lawn from now on with soluble seaweed fertiliser. In fact, that’s all I use. Make sure you spray it a day before you mow, to alllow the nutrients to be fully absorbed.
What seeds to sow in September
It’s very easy to be fooled at this time of year by a false sense of warm days and to plant the whole spring garden out. But trust me on this. Finding an entire new garden decimated by frost is really heart-breaking, so let’s avoid it as much as we can.
I live in a cool mountain climate so I am planting my spring crop seeds in the glasshouse, as we will still get some hard frosts and cool temperatures. Super-cold soil doesn’t help with growing edible green goodness.
Some of you North Island folk will be in frost-free areas and your soil temperatures will be warming up for good growing conditions. Unless you live in a warm temperate or subtropical climate, I suggest you sow seeds in trays and keep them in a protected environment for now. A greenhouse, sunroom or similar are perfect.
Sow leafy greens such as spinach, coriander, mizuna, rocket and mesclun leaves. Beets, pak choi, kale, fennel and basil can all be sown as well. Peas can be sown inside.
Plant directly into the ground: broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, silver beet, spinach and bok choi. Here in Wānaka, growth will be slow, but why give not give it a go? Try by covering them cloche-style. Broad beans can also be sown outside.
If you love having new potatoes for Christmas, it’s time to get some seed potatoes sprouted and in the ground. Once they emerge, green shoots will need to be covered on nights when frost is possible.
Enjoy preparing your garden and giving back to the soil. I think it’s a time to be grateful for what we have grown and for what is to come. It really is worth putting the love into the edible garden now to set up well for a plentiful season.
Until next month.