Issue: June 22nd, 1998



I have a problem with fleas. My cats seem to always have fleas and I am at the end of my rope. I know this really isn't about gardens, but can you help me?


Fortunately, Dr. Mike English, New Mexico State University Extension Entomologist, has just released a publication entitled "Fleas and their Control", NMSU Extension Guide G-317. In this publication Dr. English tells of the types of fleas and methods of managing the problem. He also discusses the fleas' life cycle as well as preserving your pet's health and your health.

Dr. English states that "Flea management or control lends itself well to urban integrated pest management (IPM) practices." Such integrated pest management is a means of reducing pesticide use while assuring the best possible solution to the problem.

According to Dr. English, elements of Urban IPM strategies for indoor flea management include:

"Monitor the area to confirm whether a large indoor flea population exists.

"Protect yourself. Wear long pants tucked into your socks or boots. Use insect repellent on pant legs and footwear.

"Remove any wildlife nesting material from under the building.

"Treat any pets which might have a flea infestation. A veterinarian may be required to control fleas on heavily infested animals.

"Vacuum or steam clean infested areas. Often fleas live indoors in carpets; thoroughly clean carpets. In uncarpeted areas, vacuum along baseboards, under furniture, behind doors, or in areas where dust collects and flea eggs are protected from traffic.

"Apply an insect growth regulator such as methoprene or fenoxycarb. It will prevent pre-adult fleas that survive vacuuming or steam cleaning from maturing into biting adults.

"Apply an insecticide, if needed. Follow all label directions and wear appropriate protective clothing."

If you determine to use the pesticides, you may apply them yourself or hire an exterminator. To determine which products to use, consult Dr. English's publication or contact your pet's veterinarian.

For more details about fleas, monitoring, and the chemicals for control of fleas, Dr. English's publication is available at your local county Cooperative Extension Office or on-line at the New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Extension Service publications website:

Big poplars and cottonwoods dying


I have some large poplar trees which are about 30 years old. They appear to be dying. What can I do?


Many people think that trees live to be very old. In some cases this is true. Some trees live to be over a thousand years old. However, some trees do not live as long as many people. The poplar and cottonwood trees common in New Mexico rarely live to be as old as people think. These trees grow rapidly so that a 10 to 20 year old tree seems old, just because of its size. In the bosque, some of the native cottonwoods do become old, but when transplanted from the valley, their life span is measured in only a few decades.

Many of the poplars and cottonwoods in the heights and on the mesa live to be only 30 years old, or less. Many of these trees in New Mexico are older than 30 years which are beginning to die. There are also trees between 20 and 30 years old which are also dying. These are trees in the twilight of their lives. As "ancient" ones, they deserve good care. They should not be topped. In fact, pruning should be minimal. They also deserve adequate irrigation. That is, in the summer they should receive a deep irrigation about once every two weeks, and once a month in the winter. Water should be provided to the roots which extend beyond the dripline of the tree. Watering next to the trunk does little good for an old tree. These are ways to ease the last years of these beautiful trees.

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!