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September in the Natural Garden

September in the Natural Garden

Hey summer, did you have to slam the door on your way out? We would have seen you off nicely, kissed you goodbye, wished you well, so long, farewell, alvederzane, good night, come again, see you next year, and all that… but you overstayed your welcome. Obviously you wanted to make sure we would never forget you. And we won’t. Record temps. Two weeks with highs over 105. Fires and more fires? Really? Summer 2022, the Hot One? Thanks, but no thanks and yes, see you next year. We do hope you will behave a little better on your next visit. Adios, already.

Hello fall. Can you hear me? You out there? Come on in.

Current events, history, review, and notes

By review, we recognize six seasons in a year’s natural cycles.

Fall – October, November – rains commence, many garden tasks, fall flowers.

Winter – December, January – rain, short cool days, calming dormancy, winter flowers.

Spring – February, March, April – more rain, birds, butterflies, life abounds, abundant flowers.

Pre-Summer – May – farewell cool and moist, hello hot and dry, transition month.

Summer – June, July, August – judicious watering, long hot days, seeds, summer blooms.

Post-Summer – September – farewell hot and dry, hello cool and moist, transition month.

Obviously we’re in our Post-Summer, September, one of two transition months.

The dynamic summer condition in the natural vegetation at Torrey Pines State Reserve


As soon as this Labor-Day-thru-early-September heatwave breaks, provide an early morning Deep Soak for your entire garden. Continue with your regular (daily is OK during the heatwave) Refreshing Sprinkles in the late afternoon or early evening. New to this newsletter and not sure about the terms Deep Soak and Refreshing Sprinkles? See the “Watering” section in last month’s installment August 2022 in the Natural Garden.
Note: Unless you need to play catch up on an extremely dry garden it is best to not do Deep Soaks during extreme heat events. Watering before (because you watched the weather forecast), and/or after (because both you and your garden made it) the heatwave makes for ideal timing.

Related to Watering

With all this knowledge and practice, you are becoming a native plant horticultural expert. Do not allow a water district, homeowners association, city, neighbor, or other jurisdiction to mandate how or when you water your natural garden. The Deep Soak with Refreshing Sprinkles Method will support  perfectly healthy landscapes and you are applying an annual total of only 5-8” in irrigation water in addition to the 10-12” of precipitation we get during a “normal” rainy season. And some natural gardens require zero irrigation. No other ornamental landscape can make this claim. For a comparison of the various water needs of different landscapes, see the “Related to Watering” section in last month’s installment August 2022 in the Natural Garden.

This wall and stairs have seen lots of summers come and go.


No pruning in September, especially during heatwaves.


Get rid of the last of the summer weeds. In the process, scratch the surface and get your ground ready for wildflower seeds to be sown in November.

Mulching/Top Dress

No need to import any foreign material, organic or mineral, into your garden this month.


It’s a bit too early, especially in light of this year’s extreme heat.

Troubleshooting – Varmints, Pests and Diseases

It’s even too hot for most plant pests! Desiccation and disease however may have shown their ugly heads with damaged or dying branches after the heatwave. Your job: to determine if the plant dried out completely in dry soil, or succumbed to a root rot fungus in shallow, warm, saturated soil. In either case, the dead branches have a similar appearance, but the dry plant will be toasty and the rotten plant will perhaps crisp, with the stems a little soggy. Inspect the soil. Pull up the plant if it’s dead. Smell the root ball. Learn a lesson for next time. 

Deep Soak irrigation works because it encourages the roots to explore soil deep where it stays cool and moist, hence no desiccation and no root rot. Refreshing Sprinkles relieve stress and help make Deep Soaks more effective, allowing Deep Soaks to be performed less frequently, which permits the soil to “breathe” for 3-4+ weeks between those major watering events.

Annual Wildflowers

Get ready. Seed sowing season is coming this fall.

Your natural garden is always a nice place to sit and watch pollinators, even in summer.

Adding New Plants

You can start planting later this month and for sure in October. To all our friends who visited us during the heatwave, thank you. But what a strange business model for you to have been greeted, “Welcome to Tree of Life, don’t buy any plants today.” The heat makes us crazy. We’re soon entering into the ideal season for planting native plants. Yay! Our cash reserves lasted (barely) as long as the summer weather. (Assuming summer truly makes an exit at some point.)


Literally translated “brotherly love of plants,” this new section in our monthly newsletter will specifically address the “sixth sense” we can develop in our relationship to plants in general, and specifically to plants in our gardens. This month, we see sheer endurance. Not only are our native plants taking care of themselves through extreme heat and drought, they remain the principal organisms upon which the entire ecosystem is built. Plants provide the basis for every other organism to take care of themselves in every season. 

So when I walk out and touch a holly-leaf cherry at 3pm and it’s 110 degrees in the shade, a plant that has not seen a drop of water on its soil for months, (and last year’s rains were scant), happily growing alongside a chamise, sage, coffee berry and scrub oak, all of whom are stressed, not only alive but also providing the elements of life for the lizard, the bird and the butterfly nearby, I am touching a survivor. When I hold the leaf and tell the plant (it seems it already knows this), “Just ahead, cooler days, longer nights, equinox only a couple weeks away, maybe some rain before too long,” I guess I’m trying to assure myself more than anyone else. “Could be,” answers brother cherry.

Shiny green in summer heat, holly-leaf cherry, Prunus ilicifolia

Important Review

Adios summer, you can leave now

September is Post-Summer transition month

Deep Soak ASAP in first cool spell

Refreshing Sprinkles save the day

Water the right way

As you weed, get the ground ready for wildflower seeds

No pruning, mulching or feeding

Dead or damaged from desiccation or disease? Sometimes a tough call. 

Sow seed six weeks from now

Start planting new plants in a couple weeks



Get out there, gently hold a few branches in your hand, talk to the plants, and listen carefully for their reply.

Hey, it’s the end of an old year and in fall we start all over! Big transition. We’re still makin’ it!

From the SEPTEMBER in the Natural Garden,

Mike Evans

Questions? Help is just one call or one email away. Call (949) 728-0685 or email (with pictures if you like) our special helpline: