September 2020 – Time To Plan

The rich smell of the last fermented blackberries dropping into the dried sweet summer grass lingers in the air as the mornings start to get cool and the “To-do Lists” start up again. In light of the pandemic, it was a record year for new gardeners, who faced the reality of everything from bugs and slugs to cabbage moths and powdery mildew. Yet we all managed to harvest something, and nothing can replace that feeling of pride and accomplishment! You may think it is all over now that summer is wrapping up, but September is one of the most important months for gardening!

We start to prepare for the fall by cleaning up our harvests, turning compost and saving seeds. Herbs can be harvested and hung in bunches from the ceiling, placed in open tray baskets for drying, or chopped and put in the freezer for storing. You can keep all of your stems for soup stock. Cucumbers can be pickled in jars, or quickly as refrigerator pickles or fermented pickles. It’s very important to make sure not to deadhead any perennials, biennials and/or annuals that you want to harvest seeds from! Squash, tomato, cucumber and eggplant seeds can be harvested and dried for next spring.

Everyone has had just about enough of the weeds at this point, but honestly if you put in that extra bit of time now before the frost, you will save yourself countless hours of frustration next year. Don’t let them go to seed!!! Cut, pick, pluck all that you can, to starve them of light and nutrients for the winter. Fall can be the best time to control some of your most difficult weeds, including the most dreadful bindweed!

One of the most important lessons I have learned is that if you do not cover the soil with your choice of plants, Mother Nature will do it for you! Red clover can be planted as a cover crop for the winter and will repair the nitrogen levels in your garden beds. Crop rotation is also something important to consider for making your soil more fertile, helping control weeds and reducing the risk of crop failure. It is important to take into consideration where to plant what, and for how long, to keep balance and nutrients.

It is highly recommended to have your soil tested before adding any additional fertilizers, manure or lime. MB laboratories Ltd. In Sydney, BC will do a basic test of your soil (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium levels) for $50, or a complete soil analysis for $85, which will provide the details of what nutrients are lacking. They will actually ask you what you want to grow, and help you interpret the numbers to tailor a plan for fertilizing your garden accordingly. They can be reached at 250-656-1334 or by email:

The most exciting part of September is that it’s time to take inventory of our yards, gardens and spaces. Be honest with yourself. What worked and what didn’t work? If there was something you could change what would it be? It is time to think about next year – do you want to focus on an array of colours, or attracting birds, or feeding your family, or feeding pollinators? Take inventory of the plants that you have that did well, and those that did not. I highly recommend walking around your yard, taking notes and sketching ideas – it can actually be very therapeutic.

Once you have an inventory of plants, and split your perennials, decide where they will go. Take note of how to better utilize your plants for what you need. For example, we have lots of deer frequenting our property, so our gardens and are framed with a variety of garlic, potted mint and fragrant and fuzzy herbs to deter them from stopping to graze. Use the plants you have, that grow well in your area, to create the garden spaces you want. By setting goals and planning now, you will have an amazing yard/garden next year with healthier soil, more resilient plants and less weeds and maintenance!

Angela Hicke – Van Isle Wild

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