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Time to wind down and bring in the harvest.

Savor Indian summer now: frosts can begin in earnest soon. Meanwhile, some plan-ahead chores need doing. The main job for gardeners in high-elevation and cold-winter parts of the West is preparint the soil for spring planting. Columbine from seed: easy care, lots of choices

If you sow seeds of columbine (Aquilegia) in the garden this month, in two years you can expect to enjoy tall-stemmed flowers with trailing spurs from May through August. These graceful but tough perennials will bloom for at least three summers.

Western native species to try include A. caerulea, which grows 1-1/2 to 3 feet high with blue-and-white flowers 2 inches across; A chrysantha, reaching 3 to 4 feet with 1-1/2-to 3-inch yellow flowers; and A. formosa, 1-1/2 to o feet high with 1-1/2 to 2-inch red-and-yellow flowers.

MCKana hybrids (to 2-1/2 feet high) come with sepals and petals in combinations of yellow, lavender, white, and red. Dwarf species and varieties range from 6 to 18 inches high.

If you live above 8,000 feet, choose a sunny location for your columbines. At lower elevations, partial shade is best. Work organic matter a foot deep into the soil. Scatter seed, and cover it thinly (it needs some light for germination) so it won't blow away or get eaten by birds. A thin mulch of pine needles also helps. Don't water; melting winter snows will provide moisture later.

Columbine seeds germinate during the first warm spring days. Wait until plants are up and growing to fertilize. Clay soils need work now

If your soil is slippery when wet, nighthard hwen dry, it's clay. It will be more workable and better aerated next spring if you dig in lots of organic matter now. In fact, this should be an annual routine.

Collect organic leftovers such as fallen leaves, compost, manure, moldy hay, pine needles, and sawdust until you have enough to spread at least 3 inches deep over beds. Or buy sphagnum peat most.

It's good idea to dig soon after you pull a summer crop out of the ground; soil will be loosened and still somewhat moist from summer watering. If you are starting a new plot, try pushing a spading fork into the soil. If that's very difficult to do, irrigate the plot with sprinklers. Wait a week, then gather a handful of soil from 6 inches below the surface and press it into a hall. Does the hall break easily when dropped? Then the soil is ready for digging. If it doesn't break, wait a few days and test again.

Rotary-till or roughly turn soil and amendment to a depth of 6 inches to a foot. For hand digging, use a spading fork, spade, or shovel.

A rough surface holds rain and snow, so don't break up clods or attempt to mix the organic matter thoroughly with the soil. Freezing and thawing help level and soften clods. Another tilling in spring will blend the soil and amendment. Add fertilizer at this time. Getting your potatoes out of the ground

Don't worry if potato vines start looking forlorn later this month. At this point, the tubers are as big as they are going to get. A couple of hard frosts will kill vines to the ground. Wait two weeks to allow tuber skins to thicken (so the potatoes will last longer in storage), then dig.

Using a shvel or four-tined spading fork, start a couple of feet away from the plant. Potatoes develop on stolons that extend in every direction, some 6 inches deep, some just at soil surface.

Potato skin exposed to sunlight turns green and tastes extremely bitter. Discard such potatoes or pare off the green part.

Lay tubers on the ground just long enough to dry. Rub off loose dirt, then store in a cool, dark place. If you've cut into any while digging, eat them at once. Newsletters for mountain gardeners

These two publications can help you meet the challenges of low humidity, limited rainfall, winter snows, and alkaline soil. Both recommend hardy plants and give good intermountain garden advice.

Rocky Mountain Gardening. George Kelly, long-time back-yard grower and author, emphasizes Colorado in this newsletter of about 12 pages. For a one-year (six-issue) subscription, send $12 to him at 15126 County Rd. G, Cortez, Colo. 81321.

Westscape Gardening Newsletter. Rick Hassett of Salt Lake City edits and publishes this six-page quarterly. It costs $10 per year, $1 for a sample; write to 369 East 900 South, Salt Lake City 84111.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Sep 1, 1984
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