What to do in September

September is usually one of the best months for harvests in the container garden (check out this graph showing month by month harvests from my old balcony).

Cooking a meal with freshly picked, home grown ingredients is so rewarding and the flavour can be knock out. Here are some curries I made last night with homegrown beans, tomatoes, aubergines, chillies and courgettes.

French bean, tomato and aubergine, and courgette curries – with the added flavour of homegrown veg!

As well as picking the bounty, other jobs this month include:

  • Saving seeds
  • Sowing for winter
  • Cutting back, removing tomato blossom.
  • Keep feeding fruiting crops.

2. Saving seeds

Now is seed saving time for many crops.

If you’ve never saved seeds before, it’s probably a lot easier than you think. And it is hugely rewarding to have some home saved seeds to grow next year and to give away or swap. Do try it.

The important thing to know is that some seeds are easier to save than others. The easiest are crops that self-pollinate. This is because you only need to grow one plant to save healthy, high quality seeds.  Self-pollinators include tomatoes, French beans, lettuce and chillies.

Cross-pollinating crops are more difficult to save healthy seeds from. You often need to grow a dozen plants or more (not often practical in a small space) – and you need to isolate them to stop them crossing with other varieties. Cross-pollinators include rocket, carrots, squash and beetroot.

Tomatoes are excellent one to start. Check out this video I made a while back with Peter Brinch of Open Pollinated Seeds on how to save tomato seeds.

Only save seeds from healthy plants. And be aware that seeds saved from F1 hybrid plants will not grow true (how do you know if your plant it is an F1? It should say on the side of the seed pack).

Patrons of Vertical Veg can watch more videos on seed saving with Peter Brinch in the Masterclasses – including how to save seeds from beans, chillies and rocket.

3. Sowing for autumn and winter

The slightly cooler weather makes it a good time of year to sow pea shoots and fava shoots for delicious autumn salads. Other good microgreens to sow now include rocket, landcress, sorrel, sunflower, and mustards.

It’s also still not to late to sow crops for late autumn, winter and spring. The faster growing winter crops like rocket, pak choi, mustards, Chinese cabbage can be sown this month – the sooner the better. Put them in a nice warm place if possible to help them off to good start.

4. Cutting back and pinching out

As in August, keep cutting back foliage to expose tomatoes to ripen, and remove large leaves (eg from courgettes) that cast shade over other crops.

Pinch out the growing tips on tomatoes and remove tomato blossom or small baby green tomatoes that are not going to have time to develop and ripen. This allows the energy of the plant to be channeled into ripening the existing fruit.

5. Feeding

Tomatoes, squash and other fruiting crops will still benefit from regular feeding with a potassium (K) rich feed like comfrey tea or a tomato liquid feed.

If you have a wormery, adding a mulch (a thin layer) of worm compost around your hungry crops – tomatoes, courgettes / zucchini, squash, runner beans – will help give them a final boost.

13 thoughts on “What to do in September”

  1. Hello Mark
    I planted two plant troughs with carrot seed this year and one trough has repaid me with decent size sweet carrots.
    My mistake on the 2nd trough I sowed seed too close and left them to grow. I now have clumps of tiny (2/3 cm) carrots…. but is it OK to scrub and cook these whole with the leaves attached? I must say they look attractive when pulled and I have read carrot leaves are edible? Thanks.

  2. Hi Mark,
    Soon to be autumn solstice (end of summer start of AUTUMN!)
    I erected a small greenhouse last year and growing aubergines and peppers there this summer. Is this against the point of this blog – greenhouse ??
    It is tiny and had a good crop of aubergines, now waiting for the peppers to turn orange/red.
    Iwanted to ask if tis is the time to cut down and dispose of the aubergine plants? Although still growing now not enough heat for them to produce, whilst the bell peppers are continuing I could do with the space the pots of aubergines took.
    Also has anyone a successful way of stopping sparrows eating bean flowers? I tried red flowered, then white flowered and this year added bicoloured flowered. Sparrows love them. I tried small netting when grown but that only makes picking sooo difficult.
    I have a pic of first crop of aubergines but not sure how to upload. .

    1. Yes, once the aubergines stop producing fruit productively, take them down to make space for something else. I usually check the advanced forecast first, just in case a heat wave is coming in the next couple of weeks!
      Mini greenhouses are a great idea – any ideas for growing in containers in a small space are most welcome in this blog.
      About sparrows, mmm, that is a tricky one. They nibble on my seedlings so I have to cover them with mesh – but that clearly isn’t so easy with beans. Luckily they don’t seem to have discovered my beans yet. Do you find you have same issue with French beans? If not, maybe you could focus more on them?

  3. Hello Mark,
    Your site is so inspiring!
    I’m moving at the end of August, to a place with a sunny yard (suitable for container growing), and which also has plenty of land, some of which has a small patch that was previously gardened, including a fruit cage.
    I’m inexperienced, but keen to start growing plenty of food as soon as I land!
    I would welcome any tips on getting started in a sustainable way, starting at the beginning of September..I’m even thinking of starting a blog to document the process, and encourage other people to give it a go!
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Geri, thanks for your kind comments, and my sincere apologies that it has taken me so long to reply.

      How exciting that you will have a sunny yard to grow on, that will be a great adventure. My advice would be to start growing something there this autumn if you can – not too much, just a few things to help you learn about the space. For example, yuo could sow a few pots of rocket, mustards and other winter salads now – and perhaps plant some garlic and broad beans. Keep observing the space, where the sun and wind is, and don’t worry if things don’t work out. You will learn quickly. Then slowly add to your container garden every year as you learn – and in a few years you will no doubt have a flourishing container garden. Also, if I may be so bold, I do recommend my book which is coming out at the end of March – this covers all aspects of container gardening!

  4. Hello
    I planted some heritage potatoes in late May . Should I be doing something now? Shaws are massive. Never grown potatoes!

    1. Keep watering and feeding. You might also want to check if they are ready to eat. Put your hand in to the soil and pull out a potato to see how big they have got – if they are ‘first earlies’ they may be ready already. (First earlies are the fast maturing potatoes, main crop potatoes take longer – if you know what variety you have, you should be able to find online how long it takes to mature on average). If the shaws are shading other plants, it won’t harm to trim them back a bit.

  5. I have just picked my first tromboncino squash. It’s massive, like a fat curly marrow! Anyone know how to cook it? I wondered as its this big if it no longer tastes courgette-like, and perhaps I have to make soup etc with it?

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