September is a month that really divides opinion. If you’re of school age (or perhaps a teacher) its approach can be a mildly depressing one. You look forward to the summer for ages and then in a blink of an eye it’s gone and it’s back to school in an itchy new uniform. If summer is about freedom then September is all about buckling down.
If you’re a gardener however September has a very different quality. I often debate in my head which is my favourite month to be outside working. There’s attractions and drawbacks to all of them but what September generally has (in the UK) at least is a helpful lack of extremes.
There’s enough heat not to have to wrap up. More importantly there’s still heat in the soil meaning there’s still plenty going on. It’s a good time of year to oversow patches of lawn, scatter wildlower seeds and plant overwintering onion sets. More generally though it’s a good month to garden.
It feels like the foot has been taken off the pedal a bit. Weeds have begun to slow down. There’s less to do. In the high summer you can sometimes feel as if you’re running to stand still with lots of jobs demanding your attention. Add to that long dry spells and all the watering involved and it can feel like there’s little time to actually enjoy the garden.
September offers that window of time when there’s still warmth and colour but less pressure to keep on top of things. As well as dahlias, things like rudbeckia, eryngium and lavatera are all going strong. In my garden the cosmos patch keeps throwing up new flower buds, sedums are coming into their own and the geranium I gave a mid-summer tidy up are now offering a second flush of flowers. If you’re growing vegetables it’s a time of wondering what to do with all those squashes.
The light takes on a special quality in September too. If you’ve fruit trees the ground is scented with fermenting windfall, the insects seem to turn a little woozy as spiders spin dew scented webs everywhere I put my head.
It’s just a shame it’s all too fleeting. If the first half feels like summer’s final flourish, then the second half can be autumn’s entree.
It’s a good time to be outside and I always feel satisfied at having got through the demands of another horticultural summer.