For­ward plan­ning

Living France - - À La Maison -

It won’t be long be­fore the trees put on their spec­tac­u­lar shows of au­tumn colour and the last sum­mer veg­eta­bles present them­selves for cut­ting, but there’s no need to write off the gar­den­ing year just yet.

In fact, Septem­ber is a prime month to sow var­i­ous hardy an­nu­als ready for a su­perb display next year.

Putting in seeds while the ground is still warm means that they’ll have a few weeks to get go­ing and make small plants ahead of the on­set of win­ter and, once the weather starts to warm up and the light lev­els in­crease in a few months’ time, they’ll have a head start over their spring­sown equiv­a­lents.

Hardy an­nu­als that do well when sown in au­tumn in­clude pot marigold, Cal­en­dula of­fic­i­nalis; love-in-a-mist, Nigella dam­a­s­cena; corn­flower, Cen­tau­rea cyanus; Cal­i­for­nian poppy, Eschscholzia cal­i­for­nica; and poached egg plant, Lim­nan­thes dou­glasii, the lat­ter be­ing great for at­tract­ing ben­e­fi­cial in­sects such as aphid-eat­ing hov­er­flies.

Other seeds to con­sider putting in now in­clude green ma­nures, which per­form a dou­ble role of pro­vid­ing nu­tri­ent-rich plant ma­te­rial to re­plen­ish de­pleted soils and pre­vent­ing soil ero­sion from win­ter rains and winds by hold­ing on to the ground with their roots.

Phacelia tanaceti­fo­lia is a par­tic­u­larly good ex­am­ple, pro­duc­ing plenty of leaves to dig in. It’s also a great flower to grow in the cut­ting gar­den, pro­duc­ing plenty of beau­ti­ful pur­ple flow­ers that are much loved by bees and hov­er­flies.

Along with seed sow­ing, a lit­tle ef­fort di­rected to­wards dig­ging up and split­ting peren­nial flow­ers will re­sult in bor­ders burst­ing with blooms the fol­low­ing year.

Do­ing this job now means crowded groups of plants will have room to breathe and di­vi­sions will get the chance to put down roots in their new lo­ca­tions be­fore they die back over win­ter.

Hardy gera­ni­ums, As­tran­tia, Cro­cos­mia, sea holly ( Eryn­gium), Euphor­bia, Hosta and day lily ( He­me­ro­cal­lis) can all be dug up, split and re-planted in Septem­ber ready for a su­per display the fol­low­ing year.

This month is a good time to dig up and di­vide bearded irises to en­sure flow­er­ing and in­crease stocks, although re­mem­ber to re-plant them so that a cer­tain amount of their rhi­zome is above the ground so that they can build them­selves up by soak­ing up the last re­main­ing rays of sun.

Mul­ti­ply­ing plants from ex­ist­ing stock isn’t an ac­tiv­ity that’s restricted to the flower bor­ders, how­ever.

The fruit gar­den is an­other good spot in which to be busy in Septem­ber, with var­i­ous plants pro­duc­ing run­ners for the fol­low­ing year.

This is a good time to trans­plant young straw­ber­ries and dig up emerg­ing sum­mer­fruit­ing rasp­berry plants and trans­fer them to fresh ground so they have less com­pe­ti­tion the fol­low­ing year. Re­mem­ber to en­sure that all di­vided plants get plenty of wa­ter to help them get es­tab­lished.

Septem­ber is a bit­ter-sweet month; still warm enough to en­joy the last days of sum­mer but loaded with the prospect of dark, colder days to come.

Spend­ing time in the gar­den now means there will be plenty to look for­ward to in the year ahead.

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