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Showing posts from October, 2018

Lilac It or Not: Hold Off On Pruning Until Flowers Fade

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Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson Question: I've got some spindly lilac bushes. Should I cut them back now or wait for spring? How can I make them grow fuller? -Lisa W., Santa Fe Answer: Good news—you can wait even longer. For maximum flowering effect, keep your clippers in their scabbard until after the lilac flowers have senesced (faded). Lilac bushes bear flowers on last year’s growth, so if you prune in the late summer or fall when branch growth slows in preparation for dormancy, you’ll likely diminish—or extinguish—spring blooming. This is also true for other early spring bloomers, like forsythia and cherry trees. In last week’s column, we learned about the bearing habits of fruit trees and how stressful environmental events, like drought or typhoons, can trigger plants to flower at the wrong time. A friend from Wilmington, North Carolina told me this past weekend that many of the area’s dogwoods, redbuds, Bradford pears, and azaleas are blooming out of sync, and…

Fruit Trees Flowering at the Wrong Times: Late Bloomers? Or Are These Flowers Precocious?

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Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson
Question: Do you know why my Ranier cherry tree is blooming now (September 30)? It doesn’t look so good, but earlier this year it produced a decent amount of cherries. -Stacia G., Albuquerque, NM Answer: I came across Stacia’s question on a gardening Facebook page with photos of her flowering cherry tree. Fellow plant-loving Facebooker and grower in Edgewood, Ken Koger, provided a great response post: “Very common on fruit trees that have been stressed from lack of water. They basically go into a semi-dormant state, and then when monsoons hit with suddenly lower temps, water to the roots, and higher humidity they come out of the dormant state and first thing they do is bloom, just like in spring.” Koger went on to recommend watering deeper and out beyond the small tree’s dripline, where the majority of the hard-working, water absorbing roots are expected to grow. He also suggested a fat layer of wood-chip mulch, which made me happy as a …

Green with Tomato Envy

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Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson
Question: What should I do with all of these green tomatoes? -Yours Truly, Los Lunas, NM
Answer: As first frosts snapped across the state in the last few weeks, gardeners have been sharing photos of final harvests, many with green tomatoes piled high. There is also much discussion about how to ripen them and what to do with them. If you’re a seed saver, you may want the fruits to ripen to maturity. The difference between being mature and ripe is that “maturity” refers to seed viability and ripeness is the most favorable state for consumption or use. Ripeness, then, is partly dependent on personal taste and the intended market. Many fruits (like grapes, pomegranates, and citrus) get more flavorful and achieve higher quality if allowed to ripen before being picked. Others, though, are often picked when they’re technically mature but not completely ripe, so that fewer rot during transport (e.g., bananas, pears, avocados). The difference has…

Seasonal Deadheading Decisions: Deadheading Works on Some Flowers Better than Others, but Timing is Everything

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Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson Question: Does deadheading marigolds encourage new flowers? -Jeannie O., Truth or Consequences Answer: I’ve often wondered this myself. Many flowering plants, like coreopsis, roses, yarrow, catmint, and marigolds respond very well to deadheading and are worth the effort. Others, like portulaca, begonias, and impatiens, may not need deadheading because their flowers just fall off naturally or the new flowers conceal the old. I had trouble finding lists of flowers that should never be deadheaded. It is more crucial to watch the calendar. If the second flush of flowers will have time to develop and bloom before frost, deadheading may be a good idea. As Dr. Curtis Smith, retired NMSU Extension Horticulture Specialist, pointed out when I asked for his input earlier this week, “Our summer annuals and our perennials are going to die soon when frost arrives, or go dormant, so deadheading them now is not really necessary.  In Central and Northern…

Amendments to the Soil Constitution

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Southwest Yard & Garden by Dr. Marisa Thompson

Short video of huge tree at that same Riverside Park in Los Lunas in January 2018.
Question: Should I amend my soil when planting a tree? -Common Question from Tree Lovers Across the State
Answer: The short answer is no. The less-short answer is still no, assuming you’re planting a tree that’s recommended for your area. The recommended tree species are the ones with roots that are well adapted to our native soils, so they’re more likely to live long, sustainable lives. Before I get into the weeds on why soil amendments, including fertilizer, are not recommended when planting trees, let me first explain that this week I’m talking about landscape perennial trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses, cacti, succulents, and vines. I’m not addressing the needs for annual flowers, garden vegetables, or commercial fruit trees. Another important distinction is that non-native, non-adapted trees may benefit from modifying the planting site, but even then onl…