Easiest (Nearly) Un-Killable Edibles for New Mexico

Experts Share Their Top Picks

September 30, 2017


Question:

I have little time to tend to a garden. What types of fruits, vegetables, or spices do well with only a few hours of TLC a week?

- L. Peerman, Las Cruces, NM

Answer:

Successful gardening will always rely on a certain level of dedication and attention to detail. Knowing what species do best in your area, when to plant, and basic maintenance are key parts of making any garden venture ‘easy’.


That being said, peaches, arugula, kale, Chinese cabbage, oregano, and rosemary are among the first that pop into my mind as being remarkably easy and rewarding for us in Las Cruces.

But something tells me plenty of readers around the state are wanting an answer to your question too. I asked a few seasoned growers to weigh in on their most recommended plants for low input gardening. Some of their responses surprised me.

Curtis Smith in Albuquerque said, “I like golden (black) currant as an easy-care fruiting shrub with fragrant spring flowers and [they] need little other than appropriate irrigation throughout the year. Harvest time does take effort since the fruit is small, in clusters, and not all the fruit ripen at the same time. Nevertheless, they are not that hard to harvest and make tasty syrup and jam.” For veggies, he suggests onions, kale, and the specific Chinese cabbage variety ‘Tatsoi’.

Lettuces and spinach as well as rosemary and other herbs were suggested by Rachel Gioannini of Las Cruces. But she warns that it may be best to keep mint in a pot because it can be invasive.

Graeme Davis sent me his Albuquerque list of “top five (nearly) un-killable edibles: 1) garlic chives, 2) Egyptian walking onions, 3) jujubes, 4) parsley (if planted at the right time and allowed to reseed), and 5) Nanking cherries.”

John White of El Paso/Las Cruces recommends apricots, figs, jujubes, and pomegranates as easy-to-care-for fruits and asparagus as a perennial vegetable to try. And he added, “I think a lot of the care comes in the form of what people do to prep the garden areas before planting and growth. An adequate irrigation system, use of mulches, fruit thinning, proper timing, and addition of organic matter all help to make a crop easier and better.”

Comprehensive charts of vegetable cultivars can be found online in two excellent publications: “Home Vegetable Gardening in New Mexico - Circular 457” and its companion, “Growing Zones, Recommended Crop Varieties, and Planting and Harvesting Information for Home Vegetable Gardens in New Mexico – Circular 457b”. These NMSU Extension documents offer tips for successful vegetable gardening, cultivar recommendations, planting dates, days to harvest, expected yields, and much more. The cultivars recommended are based on research trials conducted by the New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service and Master Gardeners.

When University of Arizona Extension Horticulture Specialist, Ursula Schuch, was asked what vegetables she recommends for home growers she asked back: “What do you like to eat?” It is easier to care for plants that you are excited to eat, so this is a great place to start your garden list.

Once you get good at growing something, find folks growing other fruits or veggies and start a swap. Whatever you decide to grow, send me photos of your finest pickings as well as photos of any botched efforts.


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.

Links:

Circular 457: Home Vegetable Gardening in New Mexico – Dr. Stephanie Walker.

Circular 457b: Growing Zones, Recommended Crop Varieties, and Planting and Harvesting Information for Home Vegetable Gardens in New Mexico – Dr. Stephanie Walker.

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.