Issue: March 8, 2008

Difference in gardening (environment) between Santa Fe and Pecos

Don't add lime to New Mexico soil!


I was hoping you could tell me the difference between gardening in Santa Fe, and gardening in Pecos. If I like to grow veggies and fruits, will I be happier in Santa Fe? I am planning on moving to the Santa Fe area, and could use a bit of advice. Pecos is under consideration, but not if there will not be much gardening.

Karen R.


According to the USDA hardiness zone map there is a one to one-half zone difference between Santa Fe and Pecos. (Santa Fe is in USDA hardiness zone 6 and Pecos is in hardiness zone 5). That may affect the growth of some plants, but many vegetable and fruit-producing plants will grow in both areas. The biggest difference may be in the length of the growing season and moisture available for gardening. Pecos will have a shorter and somewhat cooler growing season. Because it is cooler, evaporation of water will be somewhat less. In either location, efficient irrigation practices should be employed.

There may be a few plants you can grow in Santa Fe and not in Pecos, but the list will not be long. Another consideration is the microclimate of the property and garden site you choose. Is the property on a south-facing slope, or north-facing? That will influence the length of the growing season as well as temperature and water use during the growing season. This factor may be enough to cancel any difference between Santa Fe and Pecos. Both sites will be good locations for gardening, but it really depends on what you want to grow and whether you want to be in the city or some distance from Santa Fe.


I would like information on the uses of lime in the soil before planting tomatoes. I was informed that if I use lime in my soil it would prevent curly top virus on my tomato plants. I get it every year. Why does this happen? Any information would be appreciated

Mary Ann Mc.


Please do not add lime (calcium carbonate) to your soil without first submitting the soil for testing and receiving a report that it is needed. Our soils are high in calcium and adding more usually causes problems. Our water also usually contains dissolved calcium and other mineral salts further adding to the potential problems. Our soils tend to be very high in calcium content (almost everywhere in the state). Only potting soils purchased in bags may be low in calcium, but even those should not require the addition of calcium.

I checked with some other people and no one has heard of lime preventing curly top when applied to the soil. It was suggested that lime (or kaolin clay, a better choice) sprayed onto the foliage of tomato plants may discourage feeding by the beet leafhopper insect which carries the curly top virus from plant to plant. The kaolin will have no or little negative impact when washed from the leaves by rains.

Another, more common recommendation for reducing problems caused by the curly top virus is the management of the weeds in which the curly top virus survives through the winter and which provide harborage for insects (the beet leafhopper) that transfers the virus from one plant to another. Insecticides have very little effect in reducing the spread of the virus, but weed management is effective.

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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!