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Showing posts from May, 2018

Through Thick and Thin: Managing Fruit Load on Backyard Trees

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Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson ~45 second video explaining how we started thinning a peach tree in Bosque Farms.

Question: Several branches on my peach tree are hanging lower and lower as the peaches get bigger. Is this OK or should I be thinning the fruit? -Carol B., Los Lunas, NM Answer: On the one hand, you don’t want to thin your peach tree too soon and then lose the fruit you saved to a late frost or the dreaded hail storm. On the other hand, reducing the fruit load on heavily bearing branches has major benefits. First of all, the branches you’re describing that are hanging lower as the peaches develop are in danger of breaking. If the weight of the fruit just bends the branch, a strong gust of wind can be the final straw. And “breaking” is a kind word. Often, it’s more of a terrible rip-like tear that can damage the main trunk irreparably. Pruning back longer branches earlier in the year, ideally when the trees are still dormant, can help with overall structure and…

Why Are My Plants Wilting?

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Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson Question: The newly installed plants in my garden are wilting and looking terrible even though I’m trying my best to keep them well watered. Suggestions? -Doug H., Deming, NM Answer: One thing I like about your question is that it sounds like you haven’t given up. Many people who struggle with gardening get discouraged and think anyone who is successful must have a green thumb. That’s not the case at all. As an Extension Master Gardener volunteer in Albuquerque once said, “The best gardeners have killed the most number of plants.” It’s not a contest…but if it were, I might just win. I don’t mean to imply your plants are headed down that road just yet. Let’s look at the possibilities. Although we tend to assume that wilting leaves are a sure sign of too little water, that’s not always the case! In fact, leaves wilt for a number of reasons. So if you irrigate the root zone deeply enough and widely enough to be sure the entire root zone is sa…

Give it a Grow: Watermelon & Corn Growing Tips for NM Gardens

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Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson
Question:

Do you have any tips for growing watermelons and corn? -Sally C., Albuquerque, NM Answer: The best time to plant watermelon seeds or set transplants depends on which part of the state you live in, according to the NMSU Extension Circular 457-B, “Growing Zones, Recommended Crop Varieties, and Planting and Harvesting Information for Home Vegetable Gardens in New Mexico” (http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_circulars/CR457B.pdf). For Albuquerque and other areas with between 150 and 180 frost-free days on average (Figure 1), it is recommended to plant in May. In warmer parts of the state with more than 180 frost-free days each year, like Las Cruces, Roswell, Deming, Carlsbad, and Alamogordo, the watermelon window recommendation is for early April. That doesn’t mean you can’t grow watermelons this year, you’re just starting to push the limits because many watermelons need between 75 and 90 days before they’re ready for harvest, and the averag…

Playing Favorites: Right Tree, Right Place

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Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson Question: What is your favorite tree species for New Mexico? -Adan O., Albuquerque, NM Answer: Right now, my favorite tree is the alligator juniper outside my office window in Los Lunas, with sparrows flitting around the branches. My favorite tree when I lived in Las Cruces was the peach tree that yielded 40+ lb of deliciousness each year. With temperatures in the nineties here this week, my favorite tree at home is the huge cottonwood that shades most of my back yard—unless I’m in the front yard, where a green ash does all of the shady work and quickly takes the favorite tree superlative in my book. But would I recommend that people plant cottonwoods in their yards? Or green ash? Or alligator juniper? Not necessarily. I don’t recommend cottonwood species in New Mexico landscapes unless the location is so close to the river that the water table is only a few feet deep. And I’m not recommending new plantings of ash trees nowadays because o…

Zotheca tranquila: Cool Name for a Cute Caterpillar

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Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson
Question:
What is a safe, non-chemical way of getting rid of this Zotheca tranquila caterpillar that infests my Mexican elder tree every spring? -Ova L., Sierra County, NM Answer: John White, retired NMSU Extension Agent for Doña Ana County and the current garden curator at the UTEP Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens in El Paso, TX, calls the Mexican elder (Sambucus mexicana) the “state tree of southern New Mexico.” This semi-evergreen is not as common in northern New Mexico, but it can be found in the Albuquerque area. The Mexican elder is native to the Southwest U.S. and Mexico, but more specifically to the regions’ arroyos, so they prefer more water in the home landscape and are not considered as xeric a plant species as, say, prickly pear or yucca. I reached out to NMSU Extension Entomology Specialist and NMDA State Entomologist, Dr. Carol Sutherland, for information on what she calls a “cute and unique” caterpillar: Althou…