The National Allotment Society - National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Ltd

September on the plot

The end of the ‘meteorological summer’ was accompanied by some very low night temperatures bordering on a frost. The weather forecasters are already issuing grass frost warnings for early September. Hopefully we can still look forward to warmer, sunny days but always check your local forecast before risking leaving vulnerable crops unpicked or unprotected like the squash in the home page image. Cucumbers and courgettes also immediately spring to mind, and the runner beans may become a little tougher skinned. Cut the squashes and begin to dry their skins ready for winter storage. Greenhouse tomatoes will keep ripening as long as the weather is warm. You may see little white spots on the tomato skins, this is a condition known as ghost spotting. It looks bad but is harmless and doesn’t affect the quality of the crop. It can be wiped off using a soft cloth. You need to take great care when managing the ventilation by opening and closing it early to dry out the atmosphere. Strip all of the foliage from the plants to allow maximum sunlight, warmth and air circulation around the fruits.

It has been an up and down sort of summer but a bit of TLC on the winter crops at this time of the year will bring it rewards later on. Inspect the brassicas, removing any yellowing leaves, clear the soil around them of weeds and draw soil up over their roots to give the plants extra support against winter gales. Stake and tie in tall growing crops such as kale, broccoli and of course Brussels sprouts. Hoe between the carrots and parsnips again drawing soil over the shoulders of the roots to prevent greening. Give all of the crops feed with a liquid general fertiliser to help build them up to withstand the rougher weather. Check over cloches and fleece to make sure they are fit to use if required. Cold, wet soil will be more of a danger to winter crops than frost and snow.

Sow outdoor winter hardy lettuce to harvest next spring and greenhouse lettuce to harvest over the winter months. Order garlic, planning to get it planted as soon as possible. If you garden on a heavy soil it may be safer to postpone the job until next February. Onion sets will be available, they can be planted well in to October but delay planting shallots until late October early November.

September is the major lifting, picking, harvesting and storing time on the allotment. Prioritise jobs according to the crop and weather conditions. Definitely try and get the potatoes and onions lifted as soon as possible. Any spare ground can be sown with winter tares to protect the soil from heavy winter rain.