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Microclimate Control

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Southwest Yard & Garden By Marisa Thompson The power of microclimates is exemplified by these images of chile plants growing in a warm microclimate (left) versus a cold microclimate (right) on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo credits Elliott Gordon. Question: How long can I leave green tomatoes on the plant before they’re ruined by a frost?                         - submitted by Curry County Extension Agriculture Agent Mason Grau Answer: If temperatures are expected to drop near freezing in your area and you leave fruit on the plants, you’re pushing it. Maybe your neighborhood is a little warmer than the surrounding areas, and you’ll get a few extra days (or even weeks) for fruit to ripen outside. Maybe your plants are in a hot microclimate in your yard where they’re safer. Maybe temperatures drop below freezing in your yard, but only for a few minutes, so the more exposed tomatoes get burned by frost and turn to mush, but most of the tomatoes tucked in under the leaves go untouched.

Green to Red but Not Green to Yellow? – Final Harvest Questions

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Southwest Yard & Garden By Marisa Thompson Yellow bell peppers picked before the first frost, when still green. Will they continue to ripen and turn yellow? Photo credit Argen Duncan.   Questions: I still have so many green fruit ripening on my tomato plants. Should I pull up the entire plants by the root and hang them upside down in the garage to finish ripening? Before the first frost in my area, I went ahead and picked my yellow bell peppers while they were still green. Will they turn yellow if I keep them on a brightly lit windowsill?                         - Gardeners in Albuquerque & Tucumcari Answers: The good thing about tomatoes is that they are classified as climacteric fruit, meaning they continue to ripen after being harvested, as long as they are mature. As I’ve explained in other articles, “Mature fruits are those with seeds that have fully developed and are viable. Ripeness refers to color, texture, and flavor, aka marketability.” Climacteric fruits, lik

Care for Ornamental Shrubs and Grasses: Okay to Prune Lightly Now, but Save Major Cuts for Late Winter

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Southwest Yard & Garden By Dr. Marisa Thompson   Chamisa shrubs looking golden at Albuquerque’s North Domingo Park on Oct. 26, 2019.  Question: Our chamisa was glorious this year, but it is very leggy. Should I prune it back, and if so, how much? I haven’t pruned grasses either, and wonder if that is also something that I should do (feather grass, giant sacaton).                                                                         - Barbara G., Albuquerque Answer: From the plant health perspective, the biggest reason not to prune grasses and small shrubs too early is that the extra material provides a layer of protection from cold damage. If you cut back too much now, lower branches (called the “crown” in grasses) and roots are more likely to be damaged this winter. Two other excellent reasons to wait: 1) foliage and seedheads add beauty and textural interest to the winter landscape, and 2) they support overwintering pollinators by providing habitat and nesting materials.

Indoors or Outdoors? Bringing Plants Indoors May Do More Harm Than Good

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  Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson ‘Johnson’s blue’ geranium thriving in a pot in June 2020, after spending the previous two winters outdoors. Photo credit Marisa Thompson. Question: Should I bring my potted trees and shrubs inside for the winter? I have a willow tree, a poplar tree, and a berry bush, and I live at 7,300 ft.                                                                          - Ora N., Seed to Supper Participant   Answer: As we all hunker down for winter, I’ve gotten several questions about which plants to protect from the cold and how to do it. Are plants safer in the home, in a greenhouse-type structure, in a pot, or planted in the ground?   The answer, per usual, is that it depends! How cold does it usually get in your area? How cold is it going to get this winter? What’s the listed cold hardiness of each plant? What size is the plant? What size is the container—and how long ha

Prepping Fruit Trees for Winter, Part 2: Avoiding Winter Sunscald

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Southwest Yard & Garden **Click  HERE  for Part 1** by Dr. Marisa Thompson Besides being girdled and slowly killed by hardscape at the base, this ash tree in Belen looks normal on the northeast side of the trunk (left) and severely wounded on the southwest side (right) due to winter sunscald (aka southwest injury). Painting the trunk white with a 1:1 mixture of white latex paint and water or a temporary trunk protection, like a loose-fitting paper wrap, could have prevented this damage when the tree was younger and the bark was thinner. Photo credits M. Thompson. Question: What do you recommend for winter care of fruit trees? – Bette A., Albuquerque Answer: Last week, we addressed this question by learning about cold-hardiness and how to avoid drought stress in the dormant season by irrigating properly and using mulch. Another major way to support your fruit trees during winter is

Prepping Fruit Trees for Winter, Part 1: Avoiding Water Stress

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  Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson **Click HERE for Part 2** Persimmons still ripening on Halloween in 2017 at the NMSU Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas. These fruit are special because they need a few hard freezes for the astringent compounds in the peel to fully break down. Photo credit Marisa Thompson.   Question: What do you recommend for winter care of fruit trees? – Bette A., Albuquerque Answer: This question was posed during a recent Ready, Set, GROW! webinar given by NMSU Extension Agents Suzanne DeVos Cole of Mora County and Sara Moran Duran of Bernalillo County on growing all kinds of fruit in New Mexico. To watch a recording of that webinar and to register for our next session, “Healthy Soils” for gardeners, at 3 pm on Wednesday, October 20, visit https://desertblooms.nmsu.edu/ready-set-grow.html . In terms of fruit tree management in winter, our biggest concerns are cold damage and drought damage. This is true whether trees are old or n