Darker nights and cooler temperatures can only mean one thing – summer is all but over and autumn is here, says John Stoa.
September is a very busy time in the garden as so many crops are in need of harvesting, then cleaning, processing and storing.
The tropical summer weather has given everything a huge boost but now we have more produce than we can use so we have to find a home for our surplus once the freezer is full. Peas, Dwarf French beans, broad beans, raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, figs, brambles, blueberries, sweet corn and gooseberries are all packing out the freezer.
So wine brewing and jam making are in full throttle to reduce surplus berries.
This year I tried to vary sowing dates for cabbage and cauliflower by a couple of months to avoid a massive surplus as they all ripen together, but the later sowings did their best to catch up so we still got twenty cabbage and twenty cauliflower all ready to eat over a few short weeks.
Two small Scots people can only eat so much. We have a bad clubroot problem so it is not possible to use different varieties other than clubroot resistant, and they are all summer crops. Both cabbage Kilaton and cauliflower Clapton have had huge heads this year.
It took us a fortnight to eat one cabbage.
Potatoes are also cropping very heavily. We are still trying to eat our way through the first early Casablanca before we start on second early Charlotte, but maincrop Maris Piper has been lifted and awaits our attention in store.
Setanta, our other maincrop, is still in the ground but ready to lift as the foliage is going over. Land cleared of potatoes, onions, peas, French beans, sweet corn, cabbage and cauliflower and salads all coming early and getting harvested ahead of normal times has seen a lot of land left vacant, so it has left me plenty scope for sowing some late summer and early winter salads such as lettuce, spring onion, beetroot, rocket and cress.
However other spare land without a late catch crop has been sown down with a green manure of clover and tares.
Tomatoes have also gone into surplus harvest mode as they responded brilliantly to the summer heat wave.
Fortunately the wee cherry types are sweet and easy to eat fresh at all times of the day, but at some point soon the larger Alicante and Marmande will need to head into the freezer.
Summer raspberries are now finished, but autumn raspberries, Autumn Bliss and Polka are in great form with huge raspberries.
Autumn Treasure is also a great cropper and comes in a few weeks after Polka so giving a longer cropping period.
Apples are going through a weird phase. Spring blossom was brilliant except Fiesta which shows biennial bearing behaviour with no blossom, and not one single apple this year.
Others showed a huge crop, but then the June drop in July took out a fair bit, followed by my thinning to a manageable crop.
However in August the trees started to drop even more apples long before they were ready, though Discovery and Red Devil seem fine both with a great crop of huge apples.
Grapes under glass matured early so I was picking small bunches of Siegerrebe in late August and Solaris in early September.
Black Hamburg is well coloured up but I will leave these till early October apart from sampling a few grapes that look ready from time to time.
Outdoors my three other vines, Rondo, Regent and Phoenix are all laden down with numerous bunches of large grapes, and now all beginning to show colour as I removed a fair bit of foliage to let the sun shine on them.
Flowering plants have followed the sun and been at their best from spring till mid-summer, but the wet spell in late summer spoiled the show.
Dahlias and the annual Cosmos failed to show any flowers but put on a lot of growth.
Both got dug out as it is too late now to expect a decent show of blooms.
Chrysanthemums, gladioli, roses and sweet peas were all just fine so long as regular dead heading was practised.
You know summer is just about gone when the cyclamen hederifolium comes into flower and the foliage of Nerine bowdenii the Guernsey Lily dies down soon to be replaced by the mauve pink flowers in September.
Wee jobs to do this week
Onions that have been lifted and laid out to dry off can now be cleaned up ready to store either in onion sacks or if the withered stems are long enough pleat them into a rope. This makes storage a lot simpler as they do not take up so much room.