Issue: March 3, 2007
Consider wind as well as frost when planting in the spring.
When can I plant flower seeds in Las Cruces and not lose them due to weather?
This is a good question and relevant for the entire state, but the answer varies greatly in different parts of New Mexico. (The May 7, 2005 issue of Yard & Garden that answered this question for northern New Mexico is available at http://cahe.nmsu.edu/CES/yard/2005/050705.html).
Since Las Cruces is in the southern part of New Mexico and at lower elevation than much of the state, the last frost occurs much. The valley will have frost later than the areas on slopes. You can plant some seeds in the soil now. However, that depends on what you are planting. Cool season plant seeds may be planted now, but not warm season seeds. John White, Dona Ana Extension Agent for NMSU Extension, said that the last frost date for Las Cruces is late March.
John often recommends that people in Las Cruces delay planting warm season crops until the end of April or early May to avoid the damaging effects of spring winds. As you mentioned, you want the plants to survive the weather. Weather is more than frost. Spring winds must be considered when planting in New Mexico. If you have an area protected from the winds, you can plant warm season plants in mid April.
Cool season plants can survive the cold and may be planted earlier, but they may still succumb to the wind. If you can plant them now, choose a protected location. The warm season plants (cosmos, zinnias, marigolds, corn, beans, chiles, and squash) will do better if you wait until the soil has warmed and the winds have diminished. Delaying your planting also helps you to avoid the unpredictable, yet not totally unexpected, late freezes that are common to New Mexico. These cold spells occur after many plants have begun growth and can do considerable damage. Gardeners who gamble and plant early may have to replant after a late freeze.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.
Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!