April 25, 2015

1 - Many things may be grown in raised beds and containers in high elevation gardens in New Mexico.

Yard and Garden April 25, 2015


I would like to plant some raised beds in the Glorieta area and would like some recommendations about what to plant. I have a drip line irrigation system.


Glorieta and other higher elevation, colder parts of New Mexico, can grow many things. Some of these plants are those that grow in other parts of the state and some are plants that may be difficult to grow in hotter areas. You did not mention whether you were considering flowering plants or vegetables, so I will discuss both.

In a raised bed there are many plants that can be grown, but you should consider factors regarding climate. A major such consideration is that raised containers can become colder than the surrounding soil since they are above ground and exposed to the cold weather. They also heat up on the side toward the sun. Wide fluctuations in day and night container near the edges of the raised bed/container can kill plant roots. This effect is minimized by large raised beds so that there is sufficient protected root mass far enough away from the edges of the bed. Within 3 to 4 inches of the container or raised bed the roots will have problems, so a container that is at least 12 inches across will have a large zone insulated from the temperature variations along the edge. Containers, especially smaller containers, can dry very quickly. In some cases they must be irrigated two or more times a day. Larger containers and raised beds have fewer problems with this.

An advantage of raised beds and containers is that the soil placed into each container can be matched to the plants that will be grown in the container. Very well-drained soils can be engineered for succulents, cacti, and other plants that need drying between irrigations. Soils that retain moisture can be engineered for plants that need constant, even moisture around their roots. Plants that need lower pH soils (more acid) than our native soils can be planted in soils engineered for them. This is a temporary solution because our irrigation water contains dissolved minerals that eventually make the soil more alkaline. At that time the plants should be repotted in fresh, properly engineered soil. This will also help avoid salt burn since the minerals in the water accumulate in the soil and cause salt burn symptoms in the plants.

Examples of flowers you can grow are pansies, calendula, snapdragons, cosmos, hollyhocks, petunias, geraniums and many others. The first three can take a little frost, but will suffer in the heat. However, since Glorieta is a lot cooler than most other parts of NM and they should make it through the summer. Peonies, daylilies, irises, and roses are some perennial flowers that should grow well there. Vegetables include (but are not limited to) cabbage, lettuce, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. for cool season, early planting. Chiles, tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, and many other warm season vegetables can be grown, but should be planted later when there is no longer a chance for frost. Several types of herbs can also be grown. These include basil, dill, oregano, fennel, and others.

Some growing season extension techniques may be employed in your area. You can use various covering materials to get an early start and protect the plants from late freezing weather.

For a few years I helped with the gardens at Glorieta Conference Center and observed that a big problem was deer and other wildlife damage to the plants. The deer did a lot of damage. Raised beds alone may not help, but a barrier of fencing around the beds may be sufficient to minimize damage by deer and rabbits. Deer do not like to step on crumpled chicken wire placed on the ground around the raised beds, so that may be something temporary to help protect against deer. Rabbits will take more effort.

The drip irrigation will need special attention. It should be drained before freezing weather can cause ice to form in the tubing. Water expands as it freezes and can cause the tubing to burst. This can be a problem in the spring as well as fall and winter. Provision for draining should be considered when installing a drip system. Drip irrigation systems must also be checked frequently to replace any clogged emitters. A good filter can help reduce the problem of clogging, but replacement will still be necessary periodically.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!