Local Tips for Raised Beds and Other Gardening Styles: Irrigation Timing, Salty Crusts, and Growing Garlic

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson Questions: What time of day should I water my raised bed garden? Why is water pooling on the soil surface? When is the right time to pull garlic?
-Attendees of the “Summer Raised Bed Gardening” Workshop at the Larry P. Abraham Agri-Nature Center in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, hosted by Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent John Garlisch
Answers: Whether you’re gardening in raised beds or directly in the ground, deciding what time of day to water is worth some discussion. If you were to Google that question, you’ll find that watering in the morning is regarded as the best practice by many gardening sites. This is a great example of how Googled answers might steer readers in the wrong direction. The main reason for watering in the morning in other areas of the country is that they are dealing with a higher prevalence of fungal pathogens common in super-moist conditions that are worsened by nighttime soaks. Watering in th…

Raised Bed Gardening Tip of the Day: Don’t Do What I Did

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson, NMSU Extension Horticulture Specialist Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent John Garlisch leads a “Summer Raised Bed Gardening” workshop in Albuquerque the first week of June. Photo credit M. Thompson. Questions: Why do people build raised beds? Why not just plant directly in the soil? What’s the recommended height for a raised garden bed? Am I ruining everything by overcrowding my poor plants? What if my raised bed was ready, but I was too late to plant?

-Attendees of the “Summer Raised Bed Gardening” Workshop at the Larry P. Abraham Agri-Nature Center in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, hosted by Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent John Garlisch
Answers: Last week I attended this Albuquerque workshop on raised bed gardening and took copious notes, both of the questions posed by attendees and the answers provided by our instructor, John Garlisch, NMSU Extension Agriculture Agent for Bernalillo County…

Undercover Tomatoes: Beating the Beet Leafhopper and Avoiding Curly Top Virus Infection

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson
Question: I suspect that curly top virus caused half of my tomatoes to wilt and die last year before July, so this year I’ve covered each cage with shade cloth to keep the beet leafhopper out. If wrapping each plant keeps insects out, how do the flowers get pollinated? -Mary T., Belen, NM Answer: Covering tomato plants with shade cloth for most of the growing season (especially early on) is a great way to reduce their exposure to the beet leafhopper (Circulifer tenellus), a tiny, jumping insect that is known to transmit curly top virus (also known as beet curly top virus). Beet curly top virus is known to infect several crops, including (no surprise) beets, tomatoes, peppers, beans, potatoes, spinach, cucurbits (cucumbers, squash, melons, and the like), many ornamentals, and weeds such as Russian thistle (tumbleweed) and mustard (e.g., London rocket). Depending on the host species, infection by this virus causes a range of symptoms, from …

Extrafloral Nectaries are Extraordinary

Southwest Yard & Garden

My nectarine and peach trees have hard pale green ball things near the base of leaves. What are they and are they harmful to my trees?

-Charles M., Albuquerque, NM
Answer: How cool! I’d never heard of anything like this before on trees, but when I searched online, I found that bumps like those located at the leaf base and petiole* of Prunus** species are commonly called “extrafloral nectaries” and are thought to be enticements for beneficial insects. Other plants reported to have extrafloral nectaries that we grow in New Mexico include cucumbers, ash trees, cotton, sunflowers, black locusts, willows, and the houseplants croton, cattleya orchid, and hoya.
Side notes: *A petiole is just a fancy name for the little stalk that connects a leaf to a branch. **Prunus species include the stone fruits (almonds, peaches, nectarines, cherries, apricots, plums, etc.)
In the NMSU Extension Guide H-169 “Using Insectary Plants to Attract and Sustain Beneficial Insect…

Spittlebugs are Here, Have No Fear

Southwest Yard & Garden  by Dr. Marisa Thompson

Spittlebugs are hiding inside white clumps of cottony foam on this autumn sage plant in Los Lunas. Photo credit M. Thompson.

Question: What are these pea-sized globs of white foam all over the stems of my rosemary plant? Should I be concerned? -Leslie H., Belen, NM
Answer: It sounds like you’re describing spittlebugs and I’ve been seeing them all over the place lately too. They’re inhabiting the two autumn sage plants at the front entry of our office at the NMSU Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas. There are thousands of spittlebug species, some of which are commonly found in New Mexico on a variety of plants, including pines and shrubby junipers.
Dr. Carol Sutherland, NMSU Extension Entomology Specialist and NMDA State Entomologist, explained spittlebugs’ unusual behavior and how they got their name:  “So called because they suck up lots of plant sap, only to poop out the rest of this rather nutrient-poor diet. However, they blow bub…

Aphid Issues Pop Up in Surprising Spots on Urban Trees

Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson
Question: What is causing this white webbing that looks like it’s oozing from old pruning cuts in apple trees?
-Aspen Achen, NMSU Extension Agriculture Agent for De Baca County, Fort Sumner, NM Answer: I had never seen anything like those images of white foamy icing rings around the cut edges where large branches had been removed, so I shared the photos with retired NMSU Extension Horticulture Specialist Dr. Curtis Smith and Joran Viers, City Forester with the City of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department. Both responded with a likely culprit: the woolly apple aphid. If so, that white stuff is waxy, filamentous flocculence created by these aphids to make a cozy, protective habitat where they can hide. The tree owner is encouraged to investigate this material—by “investigate,” I mean remove some of the outer gunk to expose possible aphids underneath—and send a sample down to the NMSU Plant Diagnostic Clinic (…