The BEST Thing About a September Garden are the Secrets it Holds.

“Oh! It’s the end of the summer. You must have a lot more time on your hands now that the garden is winding down.”  Anyone who says these words to me will see me snap, gurgle out a few swear words and then shove them into a puddle.

Karen Bertelsen wearing a brown t-shirt and shorts walking through her community vegetable garden.

No. No, September doesn’t mean the garden is winding down. September means EVERYTHING has to be picked before it either rots in the ground or gets eaten by something with fur, feathers and a very low IQ; yet still proves to be smarter than me. THAT is the truth of the September vegetable garden. 

A rabbit with her babies sleeping in a burrow in Karen's vegetable garden.

 

September means picking, digging, washing, processing, canning, freezing, pickling, threshing, storing and wondering what’s sticky under your feet in the kitchen ALL MONTH LONG. 

A clear glass bowl and clear glass jars filled with Classic Bread & Butter Pickles sitting on a marble counter top.

Classic Bread & Butter pickle recipe

And I love it.

 

A shot of Karen Bertelsen's community vegetable garden showing various greenery and two cold frames. A hoop house and straw garden umbrella can be seen in the background.

I love every single bit of it.

An overhead shot of green (left) and red (right) cabbages growing in Karen's vegetable garden.

I love the colour and the sounds and the quiet of a September garden.  

 

A corn cob that's ready to be picked growing in the garden.

There’s the last of the corn to be picked and eaten fresh off the cob right in the garden. Tomatoes spilling everywhere. Walking past the melon patch, you can smell the sweet fruit fragrance in the air.

An overhead shot of four cantaloupes and their abundant greenery growing in the garden.

I just harvested my wheat. Let me say that again because it’s a sentence I’ve never uttered before and it’s a LOT of fun to say …

I JUST HARVESTED MY WHEAT!

Wheat stalks that Karen Bertelsen grew in her garden.

I used this cute little book called Homegrown Whole Grains that focuses on small scale wheat growing to help me through my first year of wheat growing.

The front cover of the book "Homegrown Whole Grains" by Sara Pitzer shows a hand-drawn image of a woman harvesting wheat in her garden.

The second crop of peas are making their way to the trellis.

Late-summer pea plants starting to grow against a trellis in Karen's vegetable garden.

Dahlias are coming into their most abundant blooming time, their heads nodding with the weight of their beauty.

A blush-coloured dahlia bloom in the foreground with unopened dahlia blooms and greenery in the background.

I’m even  happy to look at the Brussels sprouts.  So long as there’s some sort of protective layer between them and me.

Brussels sprouts growing in a hoop house in Karen's garden. Part of a chain-link fence and various greenery can be seen in the background.

 

But the best, the very BEST thing about a September garden are the secrets it holds. 

An overhead drone shot of Karen Bertelsen's community vegetable plot in the foreground with mature trees growing in the conservation area behind her plot in the background.

Below the ground, hidden from view are all the root crops that were planted months ago. Quietly growing away under the cover of soil. The only hint of what’s going on can be seen in the carrot bed where their shoulders flirt with the sun.

The orange "shoulders" of carrots can be seen popping through the ground with their green tops dappled with sunlight.

 

Saucy little things.

A row of mature onions with their tops turned down beside a row of onions still growing in the ground.

 

Things get dug up when I have time, but I try to leave anything that grows underground in the dirt as long as I can because it’s the perfect conditions for preserving them.


VEGETABLE STORAGE TIP

Once you pull up a carrot or potato, you have to find somewhere cool to store it with the right humidity.  Once October hits, finding a spot inside to store root crops is easier because the outside has cooled down. Once that happens it makes vegetable storage areas like mudrooms, garages, basements or kitchen cupboards cooler as well. (Kitchen cupboards that are on outside walls are always cooler than regular cupboards. So if you have nowhere else to put them, store your root vegetables in that cupboard, in a cardboard box, as close to the exterior wall as possible.


The top of a red beet popping out of the ground in Karen Bertelsen's vegetable garden.

Beets, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and carrots are all hidden under the soil but it’s the potato crops that keep their development a complete secret.  Beets and carrots peek up a bit.  Potatoes do not. Potatoes are incredibly secretive.  Everybody says so.

Harvested potatoes in various containers against a rustic wooden background.

Potato harvest day is like Christmas morning for adults.  At least it is for adults who have an uncommon love of tubers.

That would be me. I am that uncommon person. I love my potatoes with the fierceness of a mother. If they’re big enough I’ll put them in a frilly dress like a mother too. So that’s something to ponder. 

Overhead drone shot of Karen Bertelsen's community vegetable plot.

So no, dear friends. September isn’t a month that turns your garden into a relaxing breeze; rather it turns you into a bit of a hurricane.

And a puddle pusher.

And a revealer of secrets.

Karen Bertelsen walking away from the camera with her head turned toward the camera in her community vegetable plot.

That’s the September vegetable garden. 

The main secret the September garden seems to hold is the crap load of work a September garden is, lol.  EVERYONE asks me if I have more time on my hands since the garden is winding down.  Winding down?? No. No that\'s not what\'s going on in September.  A September garden means picking, canning, processing, cleaning, sweating and maybe a little bit of crying ...  And I love it. Here\'s what goes on in a September garden. #vegetablegarden #gardening #autumn

43 Comments

  1. Tina says:

    Beautiful, almost poetic! I’m going to forward it to my DIL.

  2. Tamara Stromquist says:

    YES, Fall means a TON of garden work–& I don’t grow vegetables. I have armloads of old daylily leaves to gather up, umpteen ferns, irises and hostas that have overgrown their beds & need to be dug up & moved or divided. And fruit–sheesh, berries, grapes, peaches & apples.
    Climbing roses are up into the trees. Wisteria is crawling over the greenhouse…jasmine is heading for the Coast. Watering, pruning, deadheading…thank goodness the sun goes down so I can get a bit of rest.

    • Jen says:

      i’d love to see YOU garden, Tamara!

    • Joan Tennant says:

      Wow, can I relate! Iris and hosta on the rampage! Kind of looks like giant green spiders trying to crawl out. This is about 8’x8’ and 150# of thinned Siberian. I was hoping to bag them and put them on the front curb for people to take for free, but who has time to do that?

  3. Deb says:

    You really are an incredible writer. I see a picture in your words. Oh, and in your pictures! Haha. The garden is beautiful.

  4. Glenda says:

    The smell of melons? Heaven.

  5. Donna says:

    September is certainly not a quiet time in the garden even if you don’t grow vegetables. Now is the time I divide plants, develop new beds and move plants around to create a more pleasing grouping of texture and colour. All this done after starring at my garden all summer long both to enjoy the beauty of it as well as considering improvement. Early fall is the best time to divide and shift plants because in our area they will have a month to settle in and develop a good root system for next year. October is bulb planting and garden clean up and all those leaves! I love my garden, and I so enjoy reading about yours!

    • Karen says:

      Ug, I’m going to have to do all of that too in my front yard. Digging up and dividing plants is the WORST. By that time of the season I’m sooooo done with heavy garden work, lol. ~ karen!

  6. Jennifer says:

    Love this…almost as much as I love September. 🙂

  7. Elaine says:

    …. “in the carrot bed where their shoulders flirt with the sun”. How perfect is that description!

    I no longer tend to a garden as I’m old and now live in a condo but I still garden vicariously through you, Karen! Thank you for walking me through your beautiful garden!

    You “do” everything under the sun with such passion and enthusiasm and are such a skilled writer, that I read all of your posts (no matter the subject) and I recommend your blog to every one I meet.

  8. Julie says:

    September is the time we plant our fall garden!! Absolutely adore your garden.

  9. Jim says:

    Excellent harvest. Especially enjoy the drone photos. Adds a nice new perspective.

  10. Jane says:

    Wait a sec! Second crop of peas?! My understanding is that peas need cool temperature to sprout and warm temperatures to grow. So when and how do you plant a second crop of peas? We’re just finishing the last of the snow peas (the only kind of peas my husband would eat, after a mother who only served mushy peas) and would love to have a second crop.

    • Karen says:

      Yep, second crop of peas, lol. I start them in cells with the seeds from the spring crop and once they’re 4″ high or so I plant them out. They like nights that are on the cool”ish” side and warm but not hot days. So fall, like spring is perfect. They won’t produce as much as spring peas but providing the weather cooperates I’ll still get peas. ~ karen!

  11. Suzanne Reith says:

    Thank you for giving my healthy brain a workout while my poorly aged body rests during your September workout. Ah, gardening …. the happiest years of my life. Keep on hoeing.

  12. Jen says:

    Every Sunday lately I’ve been canning and I absolutely love it.

  13. Susan R says:

    I’m at the point where I want to start shoving zucchini in people’s open car windows – and now I’ve got eggplant coming. Your garden is AMAZING and huge! I have a much, much smaller plot – and it keeps me going. Ah … September and the riches it holds!

    Karen – I would like to request a blog on composting. I just got rid of 3 ugly black plastic composters that are kind of useless (for me) – and I am getting ready to build a composter from scrap wood. I am using a design that I am trying to remember from my dad’s garden from way “back in the day”. The good thing about his composter was that it was easy to get into to turn the compost. Much more difficult in those black plastic thingys. Anyway – if you have some ideas or recommendations on composting – I would love to hear about it!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Susan. I have several posts on composting. 🙂 Some of them are at the top of this page. The bigger the pile the faster it will compost usually. And YES turning it is key! To make access to your compost easy, build a 3 sided box structure out of wood slats where the front is completely open. It doesn’t need to have 4 sides. If you’re worried your pile will be so big it spills out the front, just add a removable “door” attached with hook and eyes or even hinges. ~ karen!

  14. Oh, I love the shape of those melons, (that sounds a little weird) what kind are they? I’ve been making your roasted tomato sauce and freezing it. It was one of the things I used the most last year. I’ve tried to focus my growing and preserving on only what gets eaten in one winter, no freezer leftovers.

    • Karen says:

      They’re cantaloupe, but I can’t remember which variety. Nothing fancy, just standard. I’m overrun with cantaloupe! ~ karen

      • TucsonPatty says:

        Karen, what else can you do with the all those beautiful melons besides just eating them? I know you share a lot of your garden, but even though ripe wonderfully delicious cantaloupe is about my favorite fruit, I don’t think I would be able to eat fast enough to use all your melons. I can’t think of anything else except maybe fruit leather.
        Such beautiful abundance – in your garden and in your words.
        Thank you for letting us see all of it, even the cute (?!) soft sleeping little bunnies. How did you sneak up on them?

  15. Darlene E Meyers says:

    Letting your hair grow I see…

  16. Mary W says:

    I forgot about your wheat – can’t wait for further info. I adore that last picture – you and your wheat look so good in that garden. I have 12 little sugar pea plants ready to set out – after Dorian passes! They are suppose to be dwarf plants that bush but they are stretching their little vines upward over the chop sticks and now reach past the skewers and I feel like Jack with his bean stalk. They are currently waving at me to give them more to climb upon but I have to wait until today is over before I can stick them in the ground. Then I need to think of what in the world I can give them to grow. I guess I’ll try a wire strung between two trees with strings hanging down for each plant. These sure are tall skinny bushes!

  17. Susan says:

    Karen,
    Love your garden!!!
    I thought I was the only person out there that has the same passion that you do when it comes to gardening. Maybe some kind of obsession with what we do but sure better than being a drug addict or gambler dont you think. I just love this time of the year just walking around and listening to the sounds and smelling the different scents. I as well have so much to freeze, dry, can or pickle. Non stop but I LOVE IT!~!
    What are the plants in front of the carrots? Almost looks like basil. My basil suddenly got hit by the powdery mildew about a month ago and killed most of my plants. Lots of wet August nights in southern Ontario was the culprit I am sure!

  18. Lynn says:

    LOVE this post so much! And I agree with another reader… your writing is amazing and poetic. I can smell the melons!

  19. celestial says:

    I think this is your most beautifully written post yet. And the drone shots of the garden are exquisite. Gather on…!

  20. V says:

    Beautiful photos, beautiful words!

  21. Vikki says:

    Wow! looks like Potato Claus was really good to you this year! Love those dahlias.

  22. Melissa Keyser says:

    Oh yeah, I’m glad you got that book! I know I mentioned it to you. 🙂

  23. Ardith says:

    Hello, Karen. Your gardening posts are always magical, so thank you for sharing another beauty here. Cheers, Ardith

  24. carswell says:

    Nice post Karen. Seeing your garden in the aerial shot – wow!!

  25. Celia says:

    Someday I hope to have a bit of land for roses, fruit trees and a vegetable garden. Until then, I can dream!

    I love this post. Please remind me how big your garden plot is? It certainly seems more than enough for one person. Thank you,

  26. Alexandra says:

    That’s the loveliest bit of writing I’ve read in quite some time. Thank you, it was much needed.

  27. Suzanne says:

    To echo everyone else, this post is written in a particularly musical way, so lovely to read on a Sunday morning on the front porch with my first cup of tea!

    And these photos are really awesome! Do you ever use that drone for nefarious purposes? 😉

    Have fun storing, pickling, canning, drying, etc. !

    • Karen says:

      I do not. 🙂 The drone battery only lasts 15 minutes and I’m not very skilled at it yet so I don’t think the drone and I are talented enough to act nefariously, lol. ~ karen!

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