Issue: August 20, 2005

Cat damaged soil | Ginger plants in New Mexico?

Cat damaged soil


A cat has used my flower box as a litter box and has just about "killed" all the soil in the box. The soil was very good and has in the past produced satisfactory results. How can I rejuvenate the soil and also keep the cat out of the box?


Your best course of action is to replace the soil in the flower box with new potting soil. If this is a large, raised-bed type of flower box, you can engineer your own soil from native soil mixed with compost and, if necessary, sand or gravel. For smaller, window-sized flower boxes, you will have good success replacing the soil with purchased potting soil. In our New Mexico environment, minerals from the water tend to accumulate in any container-type planter whether it is large or small. Replacing the soil completely allows maximum plant growth and production of flowers and/or fruit. The cat has increased the rate of salt (mineral) accumulation in the flower box soil.

After replacing the soil, you may want to cover the soil surface with chicken wire or other material (some people use rose trimmings with thorns) to discourage the cat from visiting your rejuvenated flower box. Choose a covering material that will not girdle the plants you are growing and that can be easily removed when you need to replant or work the soil in your flower box.

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Ginger plants in New Mexico?


Can I grow ginger in Albuquerque?


You can grow ginger in Albuquerque (and the rest of New Mexico) if you grow it in a container that can be moved indoors or to a protected location during cold weather. Ginger plants may tolerate slight frost and freeze to the ground in milder climates, but the temperatures in New Mexico will become cold enough to kill the rhizomes (large underground stems from which the above ground portion of the plant grows).

A fairly large pot filled with well-drained potting soil containing a large percentage of organic matter will be best for growing ginger. Do not let it dry completely. Place the pot in a shady location that is protected from our drying winds, and you should have success growing the ginger. You will probably not find that it grows well enough for harvest but will make an interesting foliage plant, and some will produce very interesting flowers.

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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!