In North America and Europe, people associate mid-September with Harvest Festival, a time for celebrating the past year’s crops and anticipating a barren winter. In Bermuda we certainly have our fall crops in time for Halloween. (See fall crops and recipes below.) But for us this period also marks the crucial time to plant. Even though the month might feel as hot as August, the temperatures are significantly lower so that both vegetable and flower seedlings can thrive. And after the summer’s heat, gardeners find the energy to revitalise their plots and containers. Here are some tips for useful gardening activities for the fall.
Preparing the Soil
Dig out and remove all vegetation from beds, including old plants, weeds and roots. Sift the soil, removing stones. Spread compost—home-made or bought—and peat in a two-inch layer over the soil. Fork it in and incorporate well-rotted cow or chicken manure. Leave for at least two weeks before planting.
Preparing Containers and Hanging Baskets
Remove all vegetation and soil. Thoroughly scrub out pots with washing-up detergent. Rinse. Add new potting soil.
Planting from seed directly into the ground
Plant seeds of beans, chard and tap-rooted vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, beets, rutabaga, turnips and parsnips, directly into the ground where you want them to grow because they do not transplant well. Follow directions on the seed packets for recommended sowing depths. Water them. Once they develop into seedlings, make sure they do not dry out. Thin them during the evening when the soil is moist. Old onions and seed potatoes can also be planted during this period.
It’s best to plant vegetables that grow above the ground from seedlings. Buy commercially grown packs from one of our nurseries or grow them from seed in seed trays or a small seed bed. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, cucumber, eggplant, kale, leeks, mustard greens, parsley, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and mustard can all be grown at this time.
It’s so much more satisfying to cut herbs fresh from the garden rather than buy them at the supermarket. The fall is the ideal time to plant them in the garden or in containers. Marjoram, thyme, oregano, sage, coriander or cilantro, lemon balm, dill and tarragon do well until the end of May. Provided they are kept in shade and regularly watered, different types of basil and parsley can be kept going all year. Rosemary bushes or hedges do well in Bermuda year round.
Once they start to develop, cut flowers from basil plants so that the leaves do not turn bitter.
Did you Know?
Rubbing lemon balm leaves on to your skin repels insects, such as mosquitoes, and soothes bites.
The fall in Bermuda is the time for planting annuals and bi-annuals such as impatiens, pansies, hopping john, violas, snapdragons, begonias, candytuft, petunias, phlox and many others. They can be grown from seed or planted as seedlings in garden plots or containers.
In late September, early October, grow white and red impatiens for colourful patio Christmas displays. Plant jonquil bulbs in late October and they will also flower in time for Christmas.
Did you know that gardening success can depend on what plants are grown together? In certain combinations some plants are good companions, others are allies and some are downright enemies. For example carrots benefit from being grown near beans, lettuce, onions, radishes and tomatoes. Allies are chives, which improve their growth and flavour, and rosemary and sage, which deter carrot fly. Dill, however, is an enemy as it retards the growth of carrots. For a chart of companions check out the Garden Club of Bermuda’s website at https://www.gardenclubbermuda.org/horticulture/
Watch Out for the Birds
This is a special time of year for bird-watching as the fall brings us migratory birds, both expected and accidental. Watch out for small vireos and warblers, especially in casuarina trees. Cuckoos, orioles, flycatchers, swifts and swallows, blue grosbeaks, tanagers, bobolinks and indigo buntings could also turn up in your garden by the end of September.s