Issue: March 31, 1997

When to plant grass seeds


When can I plant grass seeds?


If you are planting a cool-season grass such as fescue, bluegrass, or rye, you can plant it now in much of New Mexico. Higher elevation locations may have to wait until April. Warm-season grasses, such as buffalograss, blue grama, or bermuda should be planted later after the soil has become warmer.

In any case, be sure to prepare the soil at least by rototilling to open the soil and reduce compaction. The cool season grasses will benefit from the addition of compost or other organic matter at the time the soil is rototilled. Don't add manure at this time unless it has been well composted.

After the seed are planted, be sure to keep the soil moist until the seeds have germinated and the root system is well developed. Once a good root system has developed, the surface of the soil should be allowed to dry between irrigations, but irrigation should moisten the soil to a depth of eight to twelve inches to encourage deep rooting and provide a reservoir of moisture when the soil surface is dry.

When to set houseplants outside


When can I set my houseplants outside?


If you are willing to bring them indoors when cold nights are forecast, you can begin putting them outside now. You should put them in a brightly lighted location, but not in locations which receive prolonged, direct sunlight. It will take some time for them to acclimate to the brighter light outdoors. Many houseplants do not ever need to be placed in direct sunlight as long as they receive many hours of bright light. The benefit of summering houseplants outdoors is the brighter light and longer hours of bright light available. Except for sunrooms and greenhouses, most rooms in a home do not allow plants to receive adequate light. This is especially important as temperatures increase.

Protecting seedlings from birds


Every year sparrows and other birds eat my young seedlings as they come up in the garden. Is there any way to protect them without hurting the birds?


While some people try the scarecrow tactics of using a real scarecrow, artificial snakes and owls, and other fright techniques, these efforts are of limited usefulness. Birds will become accustomed to artificial snakes and such unless they are frequently moved. Once the birds become used to the snake or other device, they ignore it. Things that move, such as strips of foil suspended above the seedling row can sometimes be effective because they are not static. If that fails, a tunnel of chicken wire placed over the emerging seedlings may be necessary. Be sure the birds cannot enter through of the tunnel or under an edge of the chickenwire. Bury the long edge in the soil to prevent this.

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:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


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

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

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