Issue: December 21st, 1998

Master Gardeners

Question: Who are the Master Gardeners?


In New Mexico, the NMSU Extension Service Master Gardeners are volunteers who assist the Extension Service in New Mexico. They are experienced local gardeners who attend classes to learn to answer many common gardening questions asked by New Mexico Gardeners and to enhance their own gardening skills.

These classes are a very thorough series of lectures covering basic botany, soils, weather as it affects gardens, vegetable gardening, fruit tree care, flower gardening, proper pest management using Integrated Pest Management techniques, weed identification and management, plant diseases, and other such topics. Depending on the program developed by the local NMSU County Cooperative Extension Service office, it may take 10 or 12 weeks. These classes are not intended as beginning gardening classes as it is expected that Master Gardeners have already been gardening in New Mexico and have experienced the difficult gardening conditions presented by New Mexico's soil and climate.

Once they have completed the education provided by the classes, the Master Gardeners serve in a variety of ways which differ somewhat from county to county depending on the needs of the particular county. In general, the Master Gardeners answer telephone questions regarding home gardening, they speak to garden clubs and civic organizations imparting their own experiences and the information they learned in the Master Gardener classes, they teach school applied biology programs about growing plants, they write for newspapers and newsletters, and through many other venues provide reliable, researched-based (Extension Service) information to assist their gardening neighbors.

Counties planning Master Gardener classes this winter and spring include Otero, Chaves, Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe, and Los Alamos. If you live in or near one of these counties, contact the NMSU Cooperative Extension Service office in one of the named counties and ask for information about the program. If you wish to enroll in the Master Gardener classes, you may want to do so soon as some of the programs will quickly reach their maximum capacity.

Paperwhite narcissus


I have some paper white narcissus blooming indoors now. Can I plant them outside once they finish blooming?


If the plants are in pots of soil, you can plant them outside after flowering, but not yet. If they have been forced to bloom with the bulbs sitting on a bed of gravel, you can follow the directions I will give, but the chances of success are not as great as when the bulbs are in pots of soil.

Allow the plants to remain in a sunny location indoors after the blossoms fade. This allows the leaves to photosynthesize and make food to replenish food depleted from the bulb when the flowers formed and grew. A little house plant fertilizer may be applied once or twice a month, but don't over do it. The key will be to provide sufficient sunlight and moisture. Don't keep the potting soil soggy, but don't let it dry completely.

Later, when leaves yellow and die or after the chance of hard freezes has past, you can plant the bulbs outdoors in a well-prepared planting bed. Be certain to loosen the soil deeply and mix compost and some phosphate fertilizer into the soil in the planting bed. Plant the bulbs approximately six inches deep. If the leaves are still present, don't worry about burying them; it is important that the bulbs be deep. Keep the plants well watered as long as the leaves are still present. When the leaves die back and the bulbs become dormant, you can reduce the water, but don't let the soil dry completely even then.

Now you need only wait until the next spring and care for them as you do the other narcissus in the garden. They should bloom in the spring if the leaves were able to supply the bulbs with enough food. If they do not bloom the first year and the planting bed receives enough moisture and sunlight, they should bloom the spring after that.

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!