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SEPTEMBER (EARLY AUTUMN) TO DO LIST

 In many ways this month can be regarded as the start of the new gardening year. Now is a good time to take stock of the successes and failures of this year and make plans to ensure that next year will be the best ever. Also, if you are starting out from scratch you will have plenty of time to prepare the ground whilst planning your dream garden/allotment.

 

1.  Remove thatch from Lawns.  This is a layer of dead grass and other debris .  Left in the lawn over the years it restricts air movement and can cause problems with surface drainage, and encourage moss and other weeds to colonise the lawn.  This can be done with a rake, or hiring a scarifier.  The lawn will look a mess but will soon recover.    Aerate the lawn to relieve compaction with a fork pushed into the ground, to a depth of 15 cm at 15-18 cm intervals over the whole area.  Top-dressing immediately after aerating keeps holes open and revitalises the upper layer of soil.  Use a mix of three parts of sieved soil, two parts of sharp sand, and one part garden compost.  Spread a 1-2 cm  layer over the lawn and work it in with a stiff broom, or the back of a rake.  It will soon look good again.

 

2. Stop feeding shrubs and trees in containers with general fertilisers, as if fed, they will produce soft growth now which will be damaged in winter.  One last feed of rock potash will benefit them by ripening the wood, building up their resilience to the rigours of winter.

 

3.  Pot up prepared hyacinths and other bulbs such as 'Paper White' narcissi for flowers at Christmas.  If planting in bulb bowls that have no drainage holes use bulb fibre; otherwise any potting compost will do.

 

4. Harvesting - Top of the list has to be onions and potatoes they need to be got out of the soil before the cold, damp days of autumn arrive. They have completely the opposite storage requirements. Onions must to be kept in the light and potatoes need to be stored in the dark to prevent them from turning green, but both have to be stored somewhere that will keep the frost out. Lift main crop potatoes on a warm sunny day, and leave them on the surface of the soil for an hour or two to dry out.  Store undamaged ones in paper sacks tied at the neck, in darkness.    Lift and dry any onions still in the ground, and bring them into a cool, dry storage area before damp weather steps in.  You'll know they are ready to store when the skins become papery and they make a rustling sound when handled.

 

5. Harvest apples and pears as they become ready and pick the late season strawberries and raspberries to keep them producing fruit. They will keep cropping right up until the first frost.

 

6. Now we have shorter, cooler days it is the perfect time to sow the seed of the Oriental vegetables. They will germinate quickly and are hardy enough to withstand the cold of winter and will provide a steady supply of fresh leaves well into the Spring of next year Also make a sowing of hardy winter lettuce and spinach. There is still time to sow an early variety of turnip to be able to use the tops as greens.

 

7.  Pick pumpkins, marrows and squashes; leave them in the sun for several days or put in a greenhouse if the weather is wet so that they can ripen and dry off before putting them in a cool, dark place.  They should keep until well after Christmas.

 

8.  Spring cabbages  sown last month can be planted 15 cm apart in rows 30 cm apart.  Harvest every other plant as spring greens, leaving the others to heart up.  Protect with netting or fleece.

 

9.  Plant Autumn onion sets the sooner the better.  Varieties to look for are 'Radar' and 'Swift'  Plant them 8 cm apart in drills deep enough to just cover the tip of the sets.  Apply a general organic fertiliser now, and again in spring to boost their growth.


RECIPE OF THE MONTH (to get in practice for the show!)

Pear and Almond Tart

For the pears

4 pears

300ml water

1 vanilla pod, split

1 cinnamon stick

250g caster sugar

For the pastry

80g unsalted butter

130g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

Pinch of salt

30g sugar

1 egg yolk

1 tbs water

 

For the almond cream

125g softened unsalted butter

125g caster sugar

125g almonds

3 medium eggs

2tbsp rum

 

To finish

Apricot jam warmed with a little water

1 tbsp sliced almonds

 

For the pears: pour 300ml of water into a large pan and add the vanilla pod, cinnamon, and sugar.  Bring to the boil, add the pears and simmer for 20mins.  Leave to cool then chop into slices.

 

For the pastry: sift the flour and a pinch of salt onto the work surface and make a well in the centre.  Add the butter and sugar and gently work together with your fingertips.  Add the egg yolk and gradually draw in the flour, adding a few drops of water as you go.  When all the flour has been incorporated, shape the dough into a ball, but do not overwork it.  Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 2 hours.

 

For the almond cream: whisk the butter and sugar until pale, then add the ground almonds.  Whisk in the eggs one at a time and finally the rum.

 

Preheat the oven to 200C/180fan.  Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to about 3mm thick and use it line a greased 28cm flan tin.  Prick the pastry base with a fork, line it with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans, then bake blind for 20mins.  Remove the paper and beans and put the pastry back in the oven for another 5 minutes or until the base has cooked but not taken on too much colour.  Leave the oven on.

 

Spoon the almond cream into the tart base, then arrange the sliced, drained pears on top, with the pointed ends towards the centre.  Bake in the preheated oven for 40 mins.  When the tart is cooked, warm some apricot jam with a little water and brush it over the surface.  Sprinkle the tart with toasted sliced almonds and serve warm.


Dates for your Diary

Chilli Festival (with live band - guess who?)  Sunday 23rd September from 12.00 at the Tea Hut in the Allotments.  Do come along it’s great fun to try the chillies, especially as it has been such a difficult year for growing them.  Please bring anything chilli related. 


In Memory of Dorina Supit.