Rocky Mountain states

What to do in your garden in September
Marcia Tatroe

PLANTING

Order camass. This little-known member of the lily family bears starlike flowers on 1- to 4-foot-tall spikes. Hardy in Sunset climate zones 1-3, camass bulbs require constant moisture and full sun in the spring, when they leaf out and bloom, but they tolerate drought and shade in the summer, when they go dormant. Camassia cusickii has pale blue flowers. C. leichtlinii comes in deep violet, dark blue, and creamy white forms. C. quamash has blue flowers. You can mail-order any of these from John Scheepers (860/567-0838).

Layer spring bulbs. To save time, try planting several kinds of spring-blooming bulbs in one large hole. Dig a hole 9 to 12 inches deep and 1 to 3 feet across, piling the soil to one side. At the bottom of the hole, place bulbs of larger daffodils, hyacinths, lilies, or tulips and cover with 3 to 4 inches of soil. Add a second layer, using medium-size alliums, daffodils, or tulips; cover with soil as described above. Plant the topmost layer with smaller bulbs of crocus, grape hyacinth (Muscari), Greek windflower (Anemone blanda), or iris, or miniature daffodils and tulips; cover with soil.

Sow spinach. Started this month from seed, spinach plants will overwinter and be ready to harvest next spring. Extra-hardy 'Tyee' is a favorite for fall planting. Prepare the bed by digging compost into the top 6 inches of soil. Keep the soil moist until seeds germinate, then cover with a loose mulch of pine needles or straw to protect plants over the winter. Thin crowded seedlings and eat them at any time.

MAINTENANCE

Bring tender plants inside. Take cuttings from coleus and geraniums (Pelargonium) to propagate indoors; place the cut ends in moist, sterile potting soil to form roots. Other tender perennials, including angel's trumpet (Brugmansia), bedding or wax begonia, caladium, heliotrope, impatiens, Madagascar periwinkle, New Zealand flax (Phormium), and plectranthus can be brought inside and grown as houseplants over the winter; cut them back by a third, transplant into containers, fertilize, and place in a sunny window or under lights.

Harvest vegetables. Before frost hits, pick all beans, eggplants, peppers, summer squash, and tomatoes. If a sudden frost threatens, pull out the whole tomato plant and hang it upside down in the garage, or pick green tomatoes and store them in cardboard flats (take care they don't touch) in a cool, dark place, where they'll continue to ripen. Beets, carrots, parsnips, and turnips can be left in the ground for winter harvest if they're mulched with 6 to 12 inches of straw or pine needles.

Lift and store summer bulbs. After frost kills the foliage, dig up tender bulbs and tubers of calla, canna, dahlia, gladiolus, and tuberous begonia. Store bulbs in boxes filled with peat moss or wood shavings. Or to get a head start next spring, replant them in containers filled with fresh potting soil and put them in a cool, dry place. Next spring, the potted bulbs will be ready to force in a sunny window or under lights.