September 2013


Oh dear, a genuine bit of big bad news, brace yourself, for one of my trusty helpers is well and truly braced.  Poor Terry fell a long way down off the Crystal Palace Park foundations on a night out and has really hurt himself, he is very broken, a whole vertebra and, not happy with just that he managed to fracture his pelvis in four places…..ouch!  Sorry for such a nasty bit of news to open with, but thought you should know, he is very very sore and broken but in good  spirits and hoping to be back gardening in about three months. I was actually bubbling over with news, wanting to tell you all about my great time in Devon, the Samphire I found, the amazing walks, the seaweed I brought back for the vegetable beds. The ‘Mikado’ winter spinach I’ve sown to replace my potato harvest, the amazing tomatoes in our greenhouse and the new dinosaurs I’m about to make out of willow for a school, but I feel the exuberance I’d bring to any of that would be a bit wrong and galling for Terry who gives a very good dead leg, so shhhh….  Instead lets all send our best thoughts to him and then creep, into our gardens and tackle some of this months jobs.  As for my burble bit I have gone all out for capturing wasps. This is a bumper year for wasps and it is typical that in the month when we want to sit out and enjoy our gardens it is also the month that the wasps go from annoying to an absolute pest, so let me suggest a few ways of dealing with them.  September is a brilliant time for gardening outings, the summer holiday pressure is off, the days are long but the weather is mellowing and as our own gardens don’t need as much attention we can glide off and enjoy other gardens.

Seasonal Jobs

This is the month for gentle gardening, a bit of watering, wandering, dreaming and planing but if you’re out in the garden let us tackle some of these jobs:

  • This month we can look forward to choosing and planting our bulbs, sorting out the lawn and dig, dig, digging.  
  • Keep mowing lawns, but less frequently and raise the height on your mower.  As autumn roars up behind us then I’d suggest getting a compost bin . Build one, buy one or call me in and I’ll sort one out for you. 
  • Great time of year to give your lawn some t.l.c. A feed, scarify and add a bit of seed to bare patches.
  • Give your shrubs and hedges a high potash liquid fertilizer feed.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for earwigs on your dahlias. If you see any sign of nibbling then set up flower pots rammed with straw onto bamboo canes. This traps the earwigs, so you can burn, squash or gently re-home the blighters every morning. 
  • This is the best time to plant some evergreen shrubs. 
  • Once your beans and peas have exhausted themselves providing food for your tummy, cut them to ground level but leave the roots in the soil. Don’t pull them out as the roots fix nitrogen into the soil and provide fabulous nourishment for your greedy brassica crop that you’ll be putting in next! 
  • Pick apples. Don’t force the apple off by twisting. Just cupping a hand underneath will show if an apple is ready or not. 
  • Dig up the last of your potatoes before the slugs get them.
  • Pot up and bring in tender herbs such as basil.
  • Hang wasp traps onto your fruit trees to prevent the wasps damaging your fruit, have a look below for a few suggestions.
  • If you have a problem with vine weevil then now is a wonderful time to set the nemetodes free and get some biological help.
  • Take cuttings, it’s easy.
  • Order rooted fruit trees and bushes for planting later in the autumn, I can recommend Ashridge Trees and Keepers Nursery.
  • Prune rambler roses, tidying and tying in. 
  • Have a look at your pots and hanging baskets and be brutal. If things are looking sad and limp take drastic action and pull out and revamp for the autumn. 
  • Sow some hardy annuals outdoors for some early spring colour. Some that you might like to scatter are alyssum, calendular, candytuft, clarkia, coreopsis, cornflower, godetia, larkspur, limnanthes, nigella, poppies, scabious, viscaria. 
  • Any spare pot fill with bulbs. Come spring these can be placed into bare patches in your garden giving an instant lift to your borders. Choosing one variety of flower often works well, but I’ll leave the decision up to your artistic temperament (don’t plant tulips yet – wait until November). 
  • Put a net over your pond to catch falling leaves.
  • Start to think about buying your garlic to plant next month.
  • In your veg beds get sowing some lamb’s lettuce, land cress, winterpurslan and some shallots.  
  • Turnip’s traditionally aren’t worth growing unless you have a field – but I have a bit of empty space in my vegetable patch that isn’t holding any crops so I’m going to give it a go. 
  • Get your vegetable plot sorted for next year. Dig in well rotted manure and fertilizer and if you dare, add some green manure.
  • Blimey that was a list and a half, and we are looking to wind down for the year! As always if you need any help or advice then please get in touch.


For the entomologists: Vespidae – those ones.
For the rest of us: I’m not talking about gall wasps or any of the many parasitic wasps or even white anglo saxon protestants. This little bit of blurb is about the common or garden wasp – the annoying stinging ones.

Why are they getting so waspish? It is about now that the happy wasp colony starts to break down.  There is a hormone that the queen uses to keep her colony functioning merrily and staying focused and productive throughout the spring and summer then towards the end of summer she just gives up, there is enough food for her to survive the winter and all her male worker wasps are going die in autumn so the hormone isn’t needed anymore.  So the worker wasps get really disorientated, they go on the hunt for sweet stuff which is there weakness, and where is the majority of sweet stuff?  In our homes, in our glasses, on our plates and generally near a human.  So these wasps are the ones that end up stinging us, they can’t remember what else they are meant to be doing except wanting what we have, and we are usually in the way batting at them with a rolled up newspaper – so the battle commences.

The good press – Wasps are carnivores and actually kill lots of pests.  They are usually busy, focused little fellas.  Before the colony begins to breakdown, if you are bothered by a wasp then you are best to stay calm, sit still and let the stripy fella go about it’s business.  Wasps don’t build nests or return to their old nests so if they are in an out of the way place that you are happy to let them be for a season then just hang wasp traps in the places you aren’t happy to have them and let them get on with their lives.

Kill kill kill –  The best method to kill wasps is to spray them with soapy water, it clogs up their spiracles and suffocates them.  This is also the best way to get rid of a whole nest, go out in the evening when all the wasps have settled down for the night, make sure you wear long sleeves and trousers and I’d even put on hat then soak the nest and let them all die, oh here you go I’ve found a website that tells you how someones husband did it….presumably he is still rocking in a corner mumbling about the foaming carnage and so unable to write us his own account. If you do feel like calling in the council or a pest control firm please remember they will use loads of chemicals which may also kill superbly beneficial insects that we all need and that you may like, such as bees, butterflies and fairies.

Trap and kill – wasp catchers are out there. You can buy them, we all know this!  I like the Jasper Grasper Wasp Catcher mainly because I have been having an ongoing discussion that wasps are known as Jaspers and it isn’t just some backwards-Oxford-term.  As for gardeners doing gardening and not being lazy and just sitting enjoying their hard work then there is Waspbane which says it is chemical free, but then says it is entirely disposable so you chuck away a great big bit of plastic which isn’t environmentally great is it?  But have a look and make up your own mind.  I have made my own trap and put in fruit juice, it works wonderfully.

No death just repel – Pop a bit of fruit, a dollop of jam or a tumbler of juice to entice the wasps to a different part of the garden from where you are.  Wear a lemony fragrance I’ve been told Unstung hero (great name!) works on wasps as well as mosquitoes. I’ve heard they hate the smell of mint and also of cucumber but both of these seem to be neutralised if you pop them in a Pimms.

Days Out

Be warned this month oak trees are shedding acorns, and a walk in a wood can lead to multiple bruising.  I’d stay in the open or visit a cultivated garden.  I have just found a Riddlesdown Common in Croydon, shame on me, an amazing open space right in my borough, but better late than never and it is pretty much oak free, and bursting with blackberries so safe and tasty.

From 12th to 15th of September it is heritage open day. The nearest event to my home, so maybe your home too,  is Carshalton Water Tower which leaves it to the last day and opens from 1pm to 5pm on the Sunday.

For London Design week there is the endless stairs outside the Tate modern this month from the 13th. Very Escher it looks superbly awkward but with lovely views of the heniously planted birch trees and bit of river and just the delight of being up high, heading nowhere……

Sunday 29th September from 10am until 12 noon on Riddlesdown there it the Fruit and Fungi hunt.  We will need to book a place but it is well worth it.