Selecting a Table Grape Variety for Your Area of New Mexico

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson UPCOMING: Grape Field Day at the NMSU Agricultural Science Center in Los Lunas **early September**  Question: Any suggestions on a good variety of table grapes to plant in my backyard? -Dennis V., Rio Rancho, NM Answer: With over 10,000 varieties of grapes in the world, you’re right to seek help when picking the best one for your garden. I sent your question to our NMSU Extension Viticulture Specialist, Dr. Gill Giese. Here’s what he has to say: Grapes are the most common deciduous fruit crop grown worldwide, and table grapes are popular and common in New Mexico home gardens. However, it is important to select varieties adapted to your local climatic conditions. The most significant climatic obstacle to successful grape production is low or extreme cold temperatures. Winter hardiness, the ability to survive low temperatures during dormancy, differs among major grape groups. Varieties derived from Vitis vinifera (European grapes) that origina…

Getting Your Orchids to Bloom Again and Again in New Mexico

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson Question:
The orchid I got in February has dropped all of its flowers. I clipped the flowering spike just above a lower node, but what else should I be doing to keep it alive and make it bloom again? -Mario M., Albuquerque, NM Answer: Google suggests watering orchids with three ice cubes per week. Guess what, that’s not going to cut it in New Mexico. In fact, that may be a quick way to kill an orchid in these parts. Like many plants, growing an orchid in our dry climate can be a little tricky, once you get the hang of it. People who have gotten theirs to rebloom will tell you it is worth the effort. When I visited Los Alamos County Extension Agent Carlos Valdez this week, I noticed he has several beautiful orchids blooming in his office. I asked Carlos to share his tips for getting various orchid species to bloom again. Recommendations: 1.Orchid pots with large holes in the sides work well. 2.The planting mix of bark bits and sphagnum moss d…

Gardening in New Mexico is different from the East Coast (REPRINT from April 2009 by Dr. Curtis Smith)

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson Written by Dr. Curtis Smith, retired NMSU Extension Horticulture Specialist. Dr. Smith, who authored this Southwest Yard & Garden column for 22+ years, has a new blog! Check it out: Southwest Garden Smith. I've especially enjoyed his recent posts about flowering phenology and soil moisture monitoring.

Question: I have just moved to the Rio Rancho area from the East Coast. What do I need to know about gardening in New Mexico? -J.T.S., Sandoval County, NM Answer: The first thing to learn about New Mexico gardening is that it will be different and difficult, but not impossible. Eastern gardeners are used to adding lime to their garden soil. Do not do that here. Our soil is already very calcareous (contains much calcium). Here you may need to add sulfur. Organic matter is often deficient in our soils. Our soils often contain other mineral salts that can cause problems, and our soils are often deficient in some nutrients. In some cases, t…

Peach Tree Borers are a Problem Worth Facing

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson Peaches harvested from a four-year old ‘Elberta’ peach tree in Las Cruces (photo credit: M. Thompson).
Question: I suspect that my peach tree died of borers a few years ago because when I took it out I found lesions way down low on the trunk, partially buried. I am finally ready to plant a tree and would like to plant a peach, but is it okay to plant in the same spot? -Wayne B., Los Lunas, NM
Answer: The greater peach tree borer (Synanthedon exitiosa) is known for causing oozing trunk wounds found at ground level or just below the soil line on stone fruit trees. The sap is often clear, but sawdust frass produced by the borer can be mixed in, giving it a darker color. Stone fruits are named for the pit, or “stone,” that encloses the seed; they include peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, almonds, and others. I’m focusing this column on the greater peach tree borer, but peach trees are susceptible to other pests as well as any damage to the t…

Mis-staking with Good Intentions

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson
Should I stake the new trees I plant this spring? I heard staking can be bad, but we have a very windy yard. -Matt C., Clovis, NM Answer: You heard right. Staking trees can be bad. You are also right that the spring winds in New Mexico can be extremely strong. The Albuquerque National Weather Service tweeted the high wind reports from March 18, with Curry County in the lead for highest wind speed on that day at 73 mph at Cannon AFB (@NWSAlbuquerque). Sustained winds of 74 mph define the lower speed limit for a category 1 hurricane. #nmtrue Staking a newly planted tree may seem like a kind thing to do for a new friend. The reality is that staked trees tend to generate weaker roots after planting, compared with un-staked trees. Trunk movement, like that caused by spring winds, actually increases the strength of tree wood and the size of the root system. According to the International Society of Arboriculture’s newest planting stand…

Don’t Let Rose Pruning Be a Thorn in Your Side

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson Figure 1. Forsythia in full bloom in 2015 (photo credit M. Renew). Question: I will prune my roses soon, but I’m confused about when is the best time to prune and what are the possible problems if I prune too early or too late? -Elizabeth T., Ruidoso, NM Answer: This is a great question, and the full answer includes all kinds of cool rose physiology information that could make a riveting book (nobody steal my idea, please). Unlike many other landscape species, many roses do not go dormant. Dormancy can be defined as a physiological condition in which growth is halted until internal switches are triggered, even if environmental conditions are otherwise perfect for growth. That is why roses may green up and start to grow in January with only a few days of warm temperatures. This is also why pruning too early in the winter can cause more harm than good. I heard that the proper time to prune roses is when forsythia (Fig. 1) are in bloom. This we…