Summer has worn out its welcome from the American Southwest, from low desert flooring to lofty foothills. But September is when cooler air starts to refresh all living things, beginning at greater elevations. As the monsoon season ends, our houses often get more soaking rain, and there’s often a little humidity to help plants maintain moisture. From zones 6b to 10a, there is a varying but equal variety of simple activities to maintain our outdoor spaces livable, depending on elevation.

The Southwest, all arid or almost so, is divided into three zones based on total and extreme temperatures:
The Minimal zone: The hottest areas without chilly; contains areas like Phoenix; Palm Springs, California; and Yuma, ArizonaThe center zone: Hot with Minimal winter; contains areas like Tucson, Arizona, and warm Regions of Las Vegas and Presidio, TexasThe large zone: Moderately hot with short winters; contains areas like El Paso, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and St. George, Utah


Following an overnight rain, a September morning dawns with a gentle fog — agreeable relief rom the drying desert warmth and sun.


Plant ornamentals and edibles. Most plants could be installed now, ornamental or raw, and all will be less stressed with warmer temperatures and greater moisture levels. The exceptions include warm-season veggies from the large zone and warm-season lawns such as Bermudagrass or Buffalograss in most zones, as neither is likely to get enough hours of warmth to properly grow before cold weather arrives later in the autumn.

Make plant choices that may reach their typical expression without dependence on fertilizers and heavy irrigation; the benefits of an attractive desert area are a terrific revival for easy conservation steps now. A fantastic start is to use lower water-use species native to your ecoregion, within 100 miles and 1,000 feet in elevation of your property; then you can extend further beyond as needed (and sensible ) for adapted plant choices.

Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis, zone 6b), Fall Sage (Salvia greggii, zone 7a) and Big Band Agave (Agave havardiana, zone 5b) provide varied plant forms in the backyard and are perfect to install for our warm, sunny autumns.


Handle water. Plants benefit when water is utilized efficiently. Check irrigation systems for leaks or broken parts; reset the timing on any controls you might have, because water need is decreased from cooler weather.

Evaluate water-harvesting earthworks for washouts and holding capability, and fix and fortify as needed using hand tools, especially if you were lucky with heavier, more frequent monsoon-season rain.

New decorative plantings must be grown with caution. Don’t overwater and promote an excessive amount of late-season growth, which is likely to get damaged in an earlier-than-typical freeze.


Watch for pests. Increased moisture levels in the air and soils, in addition to plant growth, mean there might be many more animals in your backyard — beneficial and not so beneficial. Become knowledgeable about the regional insects and animals. Rodents and their predators are facts of life, and their balance should be, too.

Visit your backyard at night to enjoy the cooler air or breeze, and be more conscious of your surroundings and local fauna. If you don’t have landscape light to illuminate your way, a flashlight may suffice to see whatever might be active. But you may also turn off the light, unwind on your patio and enjoy the fruits of your labour in a nocturnal way.


Pot and prune. We want healthy plants that grow to their best form. Keep away from tough pruning, which often causes plants to use more water, resulting in too-fast growth that’s often weak and may grow to be a magnet for insects and disease. It’s counterproductive to healthy plants.

Leaving weeds causes more problems than benefits. Weed roots may use limited soil moisture and nutrients that would normally benefit desired and native plants; maintain those under control by a balance of hands elimination and other natural weed-control approaches and cautious use of chemicals, in extreme cases.


Plan ahead. Beyond basic upkeep and watering activities, visualize which problems will need to be solved and areas that deserve enhancement. Review what is working in the backyard and what is not. Write down and also sketch what might realistically work better, with some of your time reducing your ideas to what is required.

It’s never a fantastic idea to purchase plants and other backyard items without knowing if they’ll function as the landscape matures. Maintain seasonal extremes, limited water and the need for summer shade and winter sun overriding.


Enjoy your own garden. Spend some time in it each week without working in it. At the low and middle zones of the American Southwest, this remains a hot exercisemost nights. On the other hand, the large zone is where the outdoors can become comfy, though many midday hours continue to be too warm.

More: Guides to your Southwest garden

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