Posts

Mulberry Query: Big Decisions About Pruning Even Bigger Trees

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Southwest Yard & Garden By Marisa Thompson A huge mulberry tree in Doña Ana County. Photo credit S. White. Question : I have a very large mulberry tree that offers great shade on the west side of my house in the summer. Last spring, I hired someone to cut back the limbs over the house and carport where they were dragging on the roof and the electrical line. There is an area of branches that are thick and will be hanging over the driveway by mid-summer this year. I have talked to a tree trimmer who is willing to do a minor trimming, but said that eventually I will need to cut the tree back significantly, down by about half. He said it will be healthy, leaf out, etc., and be better for the tree. He also said he would not cut it back once it begins to bud out. Does a mulberry tree this size need to be cut back by half now or in the future for its health or safety? I am thinking I may just not prune this year until I know more and

Plant Identification When Apps Fail: Strategies for Untrained Botanists and Impatient Plant Lovers

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Southwest Yard & Garden By Marisa Thompson Whole-plant and close-up photos taken in October 2021 in Corrales, New Mexico and submitted to the NMSU Cooperative Extension Service for help with plant identification. Photo credits Roger L. Question: Last October, we saw a beautiful plant blooming in an open lot in Corrales. Any ideas what it might be? The flowers in the second photo dry to become delicate triangular structures about 3/4 inch diameter in the last photo. I have a few seeds and am considering propagation. - Roger L., Corrales Answer: Firstly, thank you for taking the time to confirm that the plant you saw is one we want to grow in New Mexico before propagating it from the seeds you saved. Lots of weedy species have remarkably beautiful flowers—I’m looking at you field bindweed ( Convolvulus arvensis ) and puncturevine ( Tribulus terrestris , aka goatheads). We’d be in even bigger trouble if we started saving those s

Knowing and Growing Yerba Mansa

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Southwest Yard & Garden By Marisa Thompson Incredible fall foliage of yerba mansa in Death Valley National Park, November 2021. Photo credit Yara Nicté Herrarte, from iNaturalist ( @calfloravore ). Question: I’m wondering how to best care for the yerba mansa plants in my garden. After planting them in the spring, they took really well and looked healthy throughout the hot summer. Now the dried leaves and flower stalks are reddish-brown. Is it better to remove last year’s growth or leave it be?                                                 - Lin Y., Los Lunas Answer: I’m glad you asked because I have wondered the same thing, and I welcome the chance to learn more about this interesting plant. If you’re unfamiliar with yerba mansa ( Anemopsis californica ), this is a great opportunity to join the fan club. Here are some onboarding details for new fan club members: Famous for its medicinal properties, yerba mansa is endemic to western North America, from Oklahoma up to Oregon

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