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What to do in your garden in September.

PLANTING

* Bulbs. Sunset climate zones 7-9, 14-17: Early fall is the time to plant spring-blooming bulbs. Less common types start appearing in nurseries this month, including baboon flower (Babiana), corn lily (Ixia), grape hyacinth (Muscari), harlequin flower (Sparaxis), Homeria, ranunculus, Tritonia, and species tulips such as Tulipa clusiana and T. saxatilis.

* Cabbage and kale. Zones 7-9, 14-17: Although not actually flowers, ornamental cabbage and kale provide striking midwinter color in the garden. Look for seedlings of the most popular kinds at nurseries. Or grow more unusual varieties from seed, such as Color-Up Mix cabbage (available from Park Seed, www.parkseed.com or 800/845-3369), a smooth-leafed type with pink, red, or white centers, and Pigeon Formula Mix kale (available from Johnny's Selected Seeds, www.johnnyseeds.com or 877/564-6697), which has slightly wavy green leaves accented with purple, white, or white and pink.

* Carrots. Zones 7-9, 14-17: If your soil is heavy clay, consider planting carrots in pots. Fill a 9- to 14-inch-deep container with potting soil, moisten the soil, then lightly scatter seeds on top; cover the seeds with 1/4 inch of potting soil, then gently sprinkle with water. Keep soil evenly moist. When seedlings have several leaves, carefully thin to 1-2 inches apart. 'Sweetness II' can be harvested at the baby stage (4 inches tall) or full size (8 inches). 'Thumbelina' is a small, round short-season variety. Both are available from Nichols Garden Nursery (www.nicholsgardennursery.com or 800/422-3985).

* Edible-pod peas. Zones 1-9, 14-17: If you can't get your kids to eat their green vegetables, plant snap peas; they're tasty enough to eat right off the vine. Trials in Sunset's test garden rated 5- to 6-foot-tall 'Super Sugar Snap' as one of the best for flavor, production, and mildew resistance. Seeds are available at nurseries or from Renee's Garden (www.reneesgarden.com). Train vines on a trellis.

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* Native plants. An unused corner of the garden, away from sprinklers, is often a good place to grow native plants. Try Arctostaphylos, blue-eyed grass, bush anemone, Fremontodendron, Heuchera, mahonia, monkey flower, Pacific Coast iris, Penstemon heterophyllus purdyi, Salvia clevelandii, and Western columbine. For plants or seeds, try these nurseries: Intermountain Nursery in Prather (559/855-3113), Larner Seeds in Bolinas (www.larnerseeds.com or 415/868-9407), Mostly Natives in Tomales (www.mostlynatives.com or 707/878-2009), and Yerba Buena Nursery in Woodside (www.yerbabuenanursery.com or 650/851-1668).

* A salad bowl. Zones 7-9, 14-17: In a low pot at least 18 inches wide, plant gourmet lettuces such as 'Lollo Rosso', 'Rouge d'Hiver', or 'Sweet Valentine'. Interplant greens (arugula, red mustard, spinach) and edible flowers (calendulas, violas).

MAINTENANCE

* Reseed lawns. Zones 7-9, 14-17: Late September is a good time to repair bare patches in cool-season grasses (such as fescue).

RELATED ARTICLE: TIP FROM THE TEST GARDEN

Quick compost

To produce coarse compost in one to two months, use a 50-50 mixture of green and brown materials. Green matter includes grass clippings and vegetable scraps. For brown matter, use dead leaves, wood chips, or straw (not hay). For finer-textured compost, keep the pile working for several more weeks.

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1 On open ground, build a pile roughly 3 feet in diameter with alternating 6-inch layers of green matter and brown matter.

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2 Once a week, mix and aerate the materials by moving the pile a few feet with a pitchfork. In dry weather, hose it down to keep the pile as moist as a wrung-out sponge.

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3 Dig compost into beds, or use it as a mulch.
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Title Annotation:Northrn California Checklist
Author:Swezey, Lauren Bonar
Publication:Sunset
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2004
Words:592
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