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Desert Garden Maintenance Ideas for September

For many garden enthusiasts like me, September holds a special significance. It heralds the start of what feels more like a new year than January ever does. The relentless summer heat begins to wane, and the days offer warmth while the nights bring a refreshing coolness. 

As I prepare to plant my vegetable garden, I also find myself reassessing my entire yard, contemplating new additions, and planning changes. It's a time of renewal and rejuvenation, where creativity and nature's beauty intertwine.

September also serves as our final respite before the gardening whirlwind of October, the most pivotal time of the year for our desert gardens.

So, let's savor this moment, relish the anticipation, and prepare to dig in. September is here, and it's time to embrace the new beginnings it brings to our gardens.

Topics covered: Planting, Pruning, Flowering, Vegetables, Irrigation, Pests, Weeds, and Fertilizer

Flowering

There is always something in bloom in the desert! In my garden, I see blooms from Chuparosa, Globe Mallow, Desert Marigold, Indian Blanket, Golden Dogbane, Angelita Daisy, Datura, Milkweed, and more. Remarkably, even the Creosote has sprung to life again after the summer rain!

 

The art of prolonging their bloom lies in mindful deadheading. While I selectively remove spent blooms to encourage continuous flowering, I leave most to transform into seeds, providing essential sustenance for local wildlife.

For those considering a more hands-on approach, seed collection is another approach. As soon as seedpods begin to brown or dry, gather them and store in a paper bag. Allow them to air dry for a week or two in a cool, shady spot. Alternatively, for a more natural touch, let the seeds fall organically. Stay tuned; next month, we'll sow the seeds we've collected.

Planting

  1. Assess and Swap: Take a leisurely walk through your garden. Observe what plants have weathered the summer successfully and note those that struggled. Use this assessment to decide what to replace. Sometimes, a fresh start with resilient, heat-tolerant varieties can breathe new life into your garden.

  2. Go Native: If you love annuals for bursts of color, consider replacing them with native plants. Natives not only add beauty but also support local ecosystems and wildlife. They are often better adapted to the local climate, requiring less maintenance and resources.

  3. Optimal Planting Time: Patience is key as the temperatures gradually drop. While enthusiasm might tempt you to start planting early in the month, it's advisable to wait until temperatures consistently stay below 100 degrees. Typically, this occurs in the mid to late month, allowing your new plants to thrive.

Pruning

In the desert, we do major pruning in the fall, preferably in October so you shouldn't be doing anything significant this month.

 

  1. Observation is Key: Spend time observing your plants closely. Look for branches obstructing pathways or dead limbs that need removal. By addressing these issues now, you prevent them from escalating into more significant problems later.

  2. Targeted Trimming: Desert plants, especially legumes like Mesquite and Palo Verdes, can exhibit rapid growth during the summer. Address minor issues this month by trimming away unwanted suckers, thinning out an overgrown crown, or shaping young trees. Pruning with precision ensures healthy growth patterns and maintains the plant's structural integrity.

  3. Preventative Measures: Proactive pruning can prevent future complications. By eliminating potentially problematic branches early, you reduce the risk of diseases spreading and enhance the overall appearance of your landscape.

  4. Reduced Need for Major Pruning: Addressing issues promptly reduces the likelihood of major pruning requirements later on. By keeping growth patterns in check, you minimize the chances of plants becoming overgrown or misshapen, thereby reducing the need for extensive corrective measures in the future.

Vegetables

This is the beginning of our planting season! By the end of October, you should have all of your cool-season crops planted.

 

  1. Time for Tomatoes: If you're starting tomatoes from seeds, now is the time. Warm soil temperatures are crucial for germination. Ensure the top inch of soil stays consistently moist during this process. Mulching around the plants will not only conserve moisture but also keep the soil cool.

  2. Herbs in the Spotlight: October is perfect for starting most herbs. Their hardy nature makes them well-suited for this transitional period. Get ready to enjoy fresh, homegrown flavors in your culinary creations.

  3. Mindful Fertilization: One key to successful gardening is understanding your plants' needs. Root vegetables, for instance, require fertilization at the beginning and midway through their growth cycle. Overfertilizing can lead to excessive foliage growth at the expense of the roots. On the other hand, fast-growing plants like those you harvest for their leaves or flowers can benefit from regular feeding every 2-4 weeks. Consider natural options like fish emulsion or sea kelp for a healthy, organic boost.

  4. Winter Herb Care: Don’t forget about your winter-growing herbs. These hardy plants also benefit from a balanced, timely fertilizer. Nourish them properly, and they will reward you with robust growth even in the colder months.

Pests, Weeds, and Fertilizer

1. Preventative Pest Control: Embrace drip irrigation, a method that keeps plants healthy by watering them from below, minimizing disease by avoiding wet leaves. Healthy plants are naturally more resilient, hosting fewer pests.

2. Understand Your Foes: Identifying your garden's foes is essential. Not every bug is a threat, and understanding the natural life cycles of both plants and animals in your garden helps differentiate between normal processes and actual threats.

3. Gentle Intervention: At the first signs of infestation, opt for the least invasive control methods. A powerful jet from your hose or a soapy water solution can work wonders and is gentle on your garden's ecosystem. Timing matters too; treat infestations at dusk when bees and butterflies are at rest, ensuring their safety.

4. Weed Management: Weeds are insidious foes, so regular weeding is essential to prevent their spread. Don't delay; proactive maintenance saves you from hours of labor later on.

5. Fertilizing Strategy: While desert plants don't require regular fertilization, they can benefit from a generous layer of mulch (about 3-4 inches). This not only keeps the soil cool but also reduces water evaporation while providing essential nutrients.

For non-native plants in need of a nutrient boost, September is the month to fertilize. 

Irrigation

  1. Adjust Watering Levels: Decrease the amount of water to align with the cooler weather and shorter days. Remember, desert natives thrive with deep, infrequent waterings, allowing the soil to dry out between sessions.

  2. Deep and Infrequent Watering: Ensure your irrigation system delivers deep watering, encouraging plants to establish deep root systems. Infrequent watering intervals promote healthier, more drought-resistant plants.

  3. Inspect Water Basins and Mulch: Regularly check the water basins around your trees and plants. Refresh any mulch that may have eroded or thinned out. Adequate mulching conserves moisture, regulates soil temperature, and minimizes weed growth, ensuring your garden remains vibrant and well-nourished.

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