September, and gardening fever has been overtaken by hurling and football fever! The only grass being talked about is that in Croke Park and the fantastic double is not the beautiful magnolias that flower now but that of the Sam Maguire and Liam McCarthy cups. So best wishes to the hurlers and footballers that, like the garden, they have burst into bud, blossomed and that they may reap their final harvest in September!
On the subject of the hallowed grass of Croke Park, on which you can no longer tread, Croke Park has its own greenkeeper and maintenance crew. Their job is to keep it looking meticulously, a tough job with wear and tear of games and the ongoing uprooting and construction taking place on the new Hogan stand. Greenkeepers have a tough task and there is more to it than meets the eye. Claregalway has one such successful greenkeeper, Billy Connell and you can see his meticulous work on the putting greens of Galway Golf Club in Salthill.
So Croke Park aside, September is a month where one of the main tasks is to give plants a general tidy up. Hedges may require a seasonal trim if not already done, while many plants that have finished flowering or fruiting will need pruning, You should also be thinking about buying bulbs for autumn planting. As the days shorten, temperature levels fall, especially at night. There will be a general slow down in growth. There can be an increase in soil moisture levels and this triggers a late surge of growth from many plants especially lawns. You can occasionally get an early frost in the coldest localities so be warned as memories of last December frost (our coldest in nineteen years) are still vivid. Be ready to bring in plants in parts that are susceptible, mulch over herbaceous perennials and bulbs that die back and cover over susceptible plants with fleece covers when frost is forecast!
September is a good time to start a new lawn or replace an old one. Make sure the site of a new lawn is prepared well, ensuring it is weed free, firmed and levelled and seeded with a No. 2 lawn seed mix. Apply an Autumn lawn feed to established lawns and continue with weekly cutting and edging. Over sow worn areas with lawn seed, lightly rake the soil and sow.
This is a very good month to plant evergreen trees and shrubs with nice active root growth, they get established before winter. Summer bedding plants and containers can be kept going until the first frosts. Liquid feeding and regular watering can trigger off a great surge in growth if the weather is reasonable.
All winter colour can be sown now, winter pansies, violas, winter flowering heathers, skimmia varieties, variegated ivies, polyanthus, chrysanthemums, and spring flowering bulbs. The cool moist weather of Autumn triggers off the root growth of bulbs that have been dormant. Hyacinths for Christmas need to be potted before the end of September.
Storing bulbs: It’s possible to pick and store many herbs. Leaves of sage, bay, thyme, and rosemary can be picked and dried for storing in airtight jars. Fresher leaved herbs like mint or basil can be washed, put in an ice cube tray, covered with water and frozen. Washed parsley can be drained, chopped and frozen in freezer bags.
Lastly, garlic cloves, becoming more popular in today’s kitchens is planted in cloves in Autumn and is very easy to grow. Unwins have a clove that is especially suited to our climate.
Flowering bulbs grown in bowls or pots can provide an attractive indoor display. Several kinds of bulbs can be used in this way—Tulips, Narcissii, Crocuses, Iris and the most popular, the Hyacinth (not Mrs. Bouquet!).
If the objective is to have the bulbs in flower for Christmas only specially prepared bulbs should be used. These have been heat treated to trigger earlier development when they are forced. The procedure for forcing hyacinths is simple—pot up the bulbs in bulb fibre or potting compost. Water lightly. Place the bowl or put on the shady side of a wall or in the ground and dover over with sand or old ashes. Leave the pot or bowl there for eight to ten weeks and then remove. The new shoots will be about a ½ to 1 inch long and pale yellow in colours. Place the bowl in a greenhouse or unheated room. After a week or so, the bulb shoots will have turned green and the bowl can be brought into a warm room at the beginning of December. If the temperatures are high enough the plants will flower for Christmas. Lastly, the planting depths for bulbs, the rule of thumb is for any bulb the planting depth should be roughly three times its own size from tip to base. More on bulbs next month.
That’s it for now, happy gardening,
P.S. UP GALWAY!
Bosco McDermott, Jnr,
Glynn’s Garden Centre.