What to do in your garden in September


Order camass. This little-known member of the lily familybears starlike flowers on 1- to 4-foot-tall spikes. Hardy in Sunset climate zones 1-3, camass bulbs require constantmoisture and full sun in the spring, when they leaf out and bloom,but they tolerate drought and shade in the summer, when they godormant. Camassia cusickii has pale blue flowers. C. leichtlinii comes in deep violet, dark blue, and creamywhite forms. C. quamash has blue flowers. You can mail-order any of thesefrom JohnScheepers (860/567-0838).

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

Sow spinach. Started this month from seed, spinach plantswill overwinter and be ready to harvest next spring. Extra-hardy’Tyee’ is a favorite for fall planting. Prepare the bed by diggingcompost into the top 6 inches of soil. Keep the soil moist untilseeds germinate, then cover with a loose mulch of pine needles orstraw to protect plants over the winter. Thin crowded seedlings andeat them at any time.


Bring tender plants inside. Take cuttings from coleus andgeraniums (Pelargonium) to propagate indoors; place the cut ends inmoist, 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 grownas houseplants over the winter; cut them back by a third,transplant into containers, fertilize, and place in a sunny windowor under lights.

Harvest vegetables. Before frost hits, pick all beans,eggplants, peppers, summer squash, and tomatoes. If a sudden frostthreatens, pull out the whole tomato plant and hang it upside downin the garage, or pick green tomatoes and store them in cardboardflats (take care they don’t touch) in a cool, dark place, wherethey’ll continue to ripen. Beets, carrots, parsnips, and turnipscan be left in the ground for winter harvest if they’re mulchedwith 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 orwood shavings. Or to get a head start next spring, replant them incontainers filled with fresh potting soil and put them in a cool,dry place. Next spring, the potted bulbs will be ready to force ina sunny window or under lights.