September In My San Diego Garden

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September is absolutely the most challenging month for me as a gardener here in hot, dry San Diego. Temperatures are typically as high as any summer month, with no rain in the forecast. It’s a time for me to just try and keep everything alive in the garden.

I’m outside most days, watering, pruning, clipping and/or weeding. The entire yard requires hand-watering every other day, a real challenge during California’s worst drought in its history. On one hand, I feel guilty to water, however conservatively, yet without frequent “drinks”, there would be no citrus, roses, herbs, shrubs or vegetables.

This being early fall means that my beloved Meyer lemon trees, one thirty years old and one only a year old, have been picked clean with a new crop of green golfball-sized lemons due to ripen by early winter.

New Meyer Lemon tree

Likewise, our ancient navel orange tree, which produces fruit only every other year now, is covered with fruit that won’t be ready until late February. I can be patient and wait for the oranges (fresh juice every morning) but really miss those Meyer lemons. Because we watch salt in our diet, Meyers are a fabulous substitute and I pick a lemon pretty much every day to use in the kitchen.

Orange tree

My little herb garden is overgrown the basil has become “leggy” and needs its blossoms snipped. The chives are crowded by a bumper crop of flat-leaved parsley and the thyme needs to be weeded. Only the rosemary (not shown) thrives on heat, no water and, frankly, neglect.

herb garden

Meanwhile, the butterfly weed, similar to milk weed, has prospered and spread all over the front and back yard, the raised bed and even on the front deck. It attracts Monarch butterflies, who lay their eggs under the leaves. Even during the current heatwave, you can step into the garden and count on seeing several beautiful Monarchs.

Last week, I found a ton of caterpillars on the butterfly weed, so I was excited to anticipate seeing them develop into butterflies. Unfortunately, they all disappeared overnight – some hungry birds, perhaps?


An army of crickets gobbled up my beautiful borage, its blue flowers a perfect garnish for summer salads. Here it is in all its glory last month.


What’s happening in your garden?


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18 Responses to September In My San Diego Garden

  1. Suzanne September 19, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    Wow Liz, gorgeous garden and I am so jealous of your orange tree. Why only every other year to produce fruit, is that the way it’s supposed to be? Your photo’s are amazing.

    • Liz September 19, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

      The tree is about 50 years old and they just don’t produce as often, despite lots of fertilizer and TLC.

  2. Wendy Read September 19, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    Oh Liz, loved seeing your garden ๐Ÿ™‚ Gorgeous citrus trees, can’t believe how many lemons your baby tree has! I so want another Meyer Lemon tree myself…(along with a kumquat, avocado and mango tree…). Wished we lived closer. Gorgeous photos too!

    • Liz September 19, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

      I know, Wendy, our yard is so tiny but I continue to cram plants in with a shoe horn – or a shovel ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Barbara | Creative Culinary September 19, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    My garden this year has been bittersweet. Love my new house but miss my old garden; 23 years of a labor of love in that garden was harder to leave than the house that had become too big and too much work.

    This year was all about the basics; the builder puts in sod, a tree and some innocuous bushes in the front yard. Barb dug up all the bushes and either re-arranged or put in some I had bought and the front yard is semi on it’s way.

    The back yard will have to wait until next year but I did surround the grass with 8 huge pots and planted flowers, tomatoes and a big pot of herbs and have to admit it did help me not miss my old space so much. I miss my herbs the most so hope that next summer I will have figured out where to put in a garden for perennial herbs…that will help to get something started that will make it all worthwhile. ๐Ÿ™‚

    If you don’t have sage Liz, it’s a super hardy and pretty plant and though our conditions here in Colorado are much different than yours in November, I loved that it was still thriving enough to use for Thanksgiving; seems the reason it’s so prevalent in holiday foods might have something to do with the fact that the plant doesn’t really die back until the cold of December or January? SUPER drought tolerant too.

    Thanks for sharing your garden…it is truly one of life’s simple pleasures isn’t it?

    • Liz September 19, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

      I need to add some sage, Barb – mine took over a corner of the raised bed and I yanked it out a while ago – good luck on your new garden. I can’t imagine leaving mine, although I am slowly replacing the plants in my 30-year-old rose garden.

  4. valentina September 19, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

    I’m loving the glimpse into your garden. Just pinned that beautiful butterfly picture. Now, let’s do a rain dance, shall we? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Liz September 19, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

      Dancing with you, indeed ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Toni September 19, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

    The nursery’s chickens love crickets if you catch them.

    • Liz September 19, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

      OK – my garden is full of them, chomping on everything!

  6. Carol Sacks September 20, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    Loved reading about your garden, Liz! Look forward to seasonal updates. Hope your heat broke. We’re having a welcome overcast morning.

    • Liz September 20, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

      Yes, Carol, it has been cool the past two days, albeit quite humid.

  7. Gisele aka LA2LAChef September 21, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    Gosh, I just keep meaning to learn how to garden well. Especially important now, since the farmers’ markets here are so meager compared to those in SoCal.

    • Liz September 21, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

      With all your rain, I would bet a cool weather garden would be terrific this fall.

  8. Stephanie Weaver, The Recipe Renovator September 22, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Such a great post Liz, it’s wonderful to see exactly what you are growing. B has been out every day checking the plants and giving them extra water too. I know what you mean about feeling a little guilty, but if you let everything die, then what’s the point? We have some new butterfly bushes and I love how many butterflies we have again, in addition to the hummingbirds.

    • Liz September 23, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

      Praying for a rainy winter…

  9. Sippitysup September 23, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    My herbs are the only things thriving right now. Even some of my large landscape plants (New Zealand Tree Ferns 25 years old and 12 feet tall!) have expired in this drought. I’m trying to look at it as an opportunity to plant things more sensible to dry, dry Los Angeles come fall. GREG

    • Liz September 25, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

      Your comment gives me heart, Greg – what a time of it for gardeners here in SoCAL.

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