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Organic, no-dig, kitchen gardening in raised beds on Vancouver Island, Canada.

September In My Food Garden - Harvest and Fall Gardening

September In My Food Garden - Harvest and Fall Gardening


I am wondering how on earth it can already be the month of September? I am so not ready for autumn, seems almost like we skipped August altogether, it went by that fast!

There is so much on the go right now, I wonder how it will all get done. Yet I know it will. It always does : ) I will be doing up a few blog posts for this super busy month as there is just too much to do to say it all in one post.

So, for early September, this is what I have going on here at the acreage….


Front Yard…

Our front yard is a crazy construction zone at the moment. We have begun phase two of the front yard renovation. The goal is to get rid of as much lawn as possible, a bit more every few years. So this year, we are adding yet another large garden bed, a small patio in front of he house, a sidewalk (finally) with carefree, bordering beds and lighting so that you can find your way from the gate to the door.

Phase one was done almost exactly three years ago. If you, too, are contemplating adding more gardens, planting more perennials, roses, trees, shrubs, this is the time to do it. The cooler temps and coming fall rains make it an easy transition for the plants, less heat stress so that they establish a good root system.

In phase one, we added two extra large beds full of edibles and ornamentals. They have all rooted in nicely now and are looking so great. Remember the adage? Year one they sleep, year two they creep, year three they leap. This was our leap year ; )

The roses bloomed for most of the summer and the berries produced a goodly amount for the first time ever. My grandson and I were so chuffed. We picked daily, ate them fresh and made some into jam. Must say that blueberry jam has now become my newest favourite jam (Blueberry Jam Recipe).

The grapes, too, are well on their way. Last year, we picked them much too early and ended up with very tart grapes. It seems that colour is not everything ; ) So, this year they are being left on the vines till the end of the month for sweeter grapes to eat and preserve…. and, if nothing else, at least they cover 40 to 50 feet of the less than attractive deer fencing with gorgeous vines.


Back Yard - The Main Food Garden

Whew, well, boy are things ever super busy in the potager. Everything is happening pretty much all at the same time.

The goal is to get everything harvested, canned, frozen (or eaten) and the beds all cleared out and cleaned over the next few weeks, ideally before the fall rains begin.

Clean up as you go … harvest and then cut or remove the plant and toss it into your compost bin. The smaller you chop it down, the faster it composts. It does not matter if it has powdery mildew (more on that under the squash heading), it is fine to compost.

If you are able to cut the plant so that the roots remain in the ground rather than tearing it all out, this will become food for the soil life for even better, healthier soil next year.


Tomatoes - I have 92 tomato plants this year in the raised beds in the potager. One of the 40 foot long beds has just paste tomatoes in it, 40 of them, for all the saucing and canning that we like to do. Pastes (Roma style tomatoes) are meatier than regular slicer tomatoes, with less seeds and pulp, so they make a nice, thick sauce.

The tomatoes in this bed are all determinate types, so by rights, should all be ripening at about the same time. However, this year being such an anomaly, they are coming along much slower than usual, taking a couple of weeks between each (big) batch of tomatoes! We made tons in August and are getting ready to do up another big batch again in a week or two.

The goal is to get the tomatoes harvested and processed before the fall rains come, as we then have to worry about late blight, which can wipe out the entire crop in a matter of just days. If your tomatoes are growing in the greenhouse or under cover, you will be fine. If, like mine, they are all outdoors … hurry!


The rest of the tomatoes in the other two beds are a blend of colourful slicers, cherries, and beefsteaks, and a couple of indeterminate (vining) pastes, too. Some of these tomatoes are the new trials for this year, tomatoes that are new to me and being tested for productivity, taste, and overall hardiness. If they do well, they end up on next year’s grow list, if not, they are dropped and I try something else instead.

As these tomatoes ripen, we use them for fresh eating in salads and sandwiches. When they come on so fast and furious that we cannot keep up, they get slow roasted.

Roasted tomatoes - Chop the tomatoes in smaller pieces, toss with a bit of salt, olive oil, herbs, plus maybe some garlic or onions, and then roast at a low heat for several hours. This slow roasting makes them all melty and gooey, really brings out the flavour. You can then freeze and add to soups, stews, or your tomato sauce for that deep roasted, caramelized flavour. Others will roast them at a higher heat for half an hour, till they are soft and moist, then whiz them up into a roasted pasta sauce. Both ways are super delicious.

Some of these were meant to be for selling at the farm stand out front but things did not go quite as planned this year, to say the least ; ) First, I injured myself so planting did not happen as it should have, then we had a huge gust of wind that smashed the brand new farm stand so that it needed a major redo, then the timing was off. … but sharing the beautiful bounty of organically grown, beautiful, colourful, heirloom tomatoes and other organic veggies at the stand is my goal for next year. Good thing there is always next year ; )


Squash - The summer squash are pretty much finished for the year in my garden. There’s a couple of zucchini and one pattypan. I will be so glad to get rid of the plants as they are covered in powdery mildew and look horrible. Their time is done, they produced well all summer, time for the compost bin. There is no real cure for p/m on fuzzy leaves, so as soon as your veggies are ripe, pull out the plants and toss them into the compost bin. If yours are still producing, leave them in, even with the mildew, they will be fine.

Winter squash - I am leaving the pumpkins in till the very end of garden clean up time so that they have time to size up well, and finish ripening, of course. My spaghetti squash is a deep gold colour, ready for harvest. To know if winter squash is ripe, you will know by the colour and by doing the fingernail test. Most winter squashes will be a deep and dull colour, and when you push your thumbnail into the skin it will not easily puncture through the skin.

There is just a wee bit of powdery mildew starting on the older leaves of the winter squash, not enough to worry about at all, and the newer foliage is lush and green..

Cucumbers - I started a few cucumber in pots a few weeks back for the greenhouse. I am hoping that they will still give me fresh cucumbers till the days grow too short and cool, fingers crossed.


Root crops like beets and potatoes can stay in till about Thanksgiving but do not overwinter in the garden, whereas carrots and parsnips can be left in the ground and harvested as needed, even through the snow!

Celery - I take stalks from the outside as I need them and leave the celery plant itself in the garden. It stays crisp and green and healthy until a really hard frost knocks it down, even after that, the centre will begin to regrow new stalks when the weather warms up again.

Leeks - Leave them in, harvest as needed all winter long. They will be fine as long as you harvest before you plant new ones in 2020 ; )

Cabbages, Kale - Leave them be, too. They can stay in the garden till needed.


Peppers - Most all of the peppers will keep on producing till November, so if you can, leave them till then and harvest as needed. Homegrown peppers are amazing in your sauces and other canning, they also taste great pickled or dehydrated. Make your own paprika powder, cayenne powder, crushed chili flakes, or just a nice blend of medium hot or super hot peppers, depending on your tastes.

Yams - Leave them in till end month! They need more time. Remember when I sold them to you in spring, I said that they have a really long growing season and so would be the last plants you harvest from your garden.

Fruit trees - The pears and asian pears are just about ready to harvest. I have Bosc pears, my absolute favourites. Pears do not ripen on the tree, oddly enough, they need to be harvested and then stored for up to a week at room temperature to finish and be edible.


Fall and Winter Gardening

Brussel sprouts were planted in May and are starting to make their little sprouts along the stems. As you do your clean up this month, if you do not yet see sprouts coming along, twist or cut off the ‘cabbage-like’ tops.

Kale, too, is good left in for the winter. It can handle snow, frost, and anything else that Mother Nature throws at it. Leave it be, harvest as needed. Plant more if you need more : )

What veggies to plant from seed in September?
You can still plant some things from seed, as long as you plant soon.
- Beets (for the greens, not the roots)
- Collards
- Corn Salad aka Mache
- Greens, like arugula, mustards
- Lettuces
- Mesclun
- Pak Choi
- Radishes
- Spinach
- Turnips
- Winter radishes, like China rose, Daikon, Black Spanish

What to grow from transplants...
Is getting to be borderline time for some starter plants, but as one never knows how the fall is going to go, I say.. take a chance and plant all kinds of things. If we have an early winter, you will have lost just a few bucks, but if we have a nice, long Indian Summer, you have everything to gain! Last year, our fall here on the island was long and wonderful.

Sure bets from starter plants are..
- Arugula
- Cauliflower
- Collards
- Greens
- Kale
- Lettuce
- Leeks
- Mescluns
- Pak Choi
- Spinach
- Swiss Chard
- Turnips

Getting close but worth the chance...
- Broccoli
- Brussels sprouts
- Cabbage
- Kohlrabi
- Onions


Garlic time is coming up soon. It can be planted between mid-September and mid November, so you have a really long time planting window. I generally plant in mid-October, but have planted in November, as well. I never plant in September, am always too busy, and feel that it is just a titch too early for us here on the island.. but you certainly can!

I have a whole blog post about garlic coming up very soon. Sign up for the latest blog updates, if you have not already done so, so that you never miss a post : )


Pots and Planters - I know that all the Instagram and Facebook influencers are posting fall décor and fall plantings… but I am not quite there yet. Much too busy in the food garden. … but yes, I will have my fall planters done up by the end of the month and have even replaced a couple of the tired looking summer pots with mums and pansies already, but the others will have to wait a bit longer yet…

That said, if you see some lovely mums, pansies, ornamental cabbages, cyclamens, grasses, or other fall favourites, pick them up now or they may be gone when you are ready for them. I can tell you that the pink and purple mums go really fast!


There will be another post very soon as this is such a busy month. Till then…

Happy Late Summer Gardening!

 5 Easy Steps To Growing Great Garlic

5 Easy Steps To Growing Great Garlic

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Spicy Plum Sauce