September is a fabulous time to amend & prep your soil for fall planting. You’ll want to start cleaning up areas for new plantings and making a list of things you’d like to start in October (don’t forget to compost any old plantings you pull out)! Things to think about when planning: Plants full mature size, sun/shade preferences, watering requirements, etc. You don’t want to end up with plants that are too crowded or don’t prefer the same watering. Plan a bed of spring and summer color such as hydrangeas, azaleas and gardenias (they love the same acidic soil). September tends to still have hot spells here so it may be best to wait until next month to plant.

Don’t forget to mulch! My rule of thumb for mulch is to spread a layer around tax time in April (before the summer heat) and after Labor Day (before some plants go dormant). Two easy times of the year to remember! Mulch helps prevent weeds from growing and helps to retain moisture in the soil.


  • For a splash of color (especially if your summer flowers are fading,) plant winter pansies, flowering kale, cabbage, primrose snapdragon and mums
  • Spring flowering bulbs such as tulips & daffodils will be available at nurseries
  • Early blooming varieties of sweet peas for flowers by Christmas.  Don’t forget to have provide a trellis and try and protect them from birds!


  • I prefer the more finely shredded mulch, which eventually breaks down and works as a compost. But you can use larger bark chips as well.
  • Use 2-3 inches all over your garden beds, but leave some space around the bottom of trees to prevent rotting.
  • Nature’s mulch. Don’t be afraid to allow fallen leaves to stay on the ground. This is nature’s way of mulching. The leaves decompose and are a fabulous organic fertilizer and mulch for trees and plants.

Soil Prep:

  • Add 2-3 inches of organic compost (preferable your own homemade compost), and mix into the soil. If the soil is in bad shape, mix in more.

Other To Do’s:

  • Divide irises (if needed)
  • Water citrus
  • Leave old hydrangea blooms on the plant, their colors change and look beautiful in the fall

Most of this information is from my personal gardening experiences in coastal Southern California. I refer to these basic ‘Monthly To Do’s’ as a basic guide as well as my garden journal notes. They are always evolving and continually updated.

I have also compiled some of this information from these highly recommended sources such as: Green Thumb Nursery, OC Register (Home & Garden section), Rogers Gardens (Ron Vanderhoff’s monthly checklists are extremely detailed), Sunset magazine, UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County and Pat Welsh’s ‘Southern California Gardening’ book (this book is a must have)!

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