April 20, 2013

1 - NMSU provided gardening information through County Extension Service offices and internet can help you garden successfully in New Mexico.

Yard and Garden April 20, 2013


Good afternoon! We are new to the Southwest and came upon your email while doing some lunchtime Southwest gardening searches. We reside in Las Cruces and are planning to plant a vegetable garden in our suburban backyard. It has a rock wall surrounding the yard, with what appears to be a reddish clay-type soil, Bermuda grass in back and three young fruit trees: Asian pear, a small apple and an unidentified tiny tree with small fuchsia buds. We were wondering if you might have any information or tips and tricks for growing successfully in this climate, as this will be our first time! We are hoping to plant the following in our yard or along the side of the house: tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, peppers (different varieties), watermelon, garlic, onion, cilantro, peas, and green beans.

Do you know if these plants will do well here in Cruces, or know of some good resources we can use to determine where to dig? We have been contemplating a raised bed or container gardening if the clay soil is not hospitable. Any information you can provide would be a great help! Thank you!


Welcome to New Mexico. As I answer your questions the first thing I want to do is direct you to your local NMSU County Extension Agent. Your Extension Service agent is very familiar with soil conditions and plants that grow well in your specific area. You can find contact information for him at the ACES Counties. You will also find useful publications regarding gardening at the ACES Publications. The H (horticulture) series will have many useful publications about gardening in New Mexico. The A (agronomy) series publications will contain information about soils and you may find some of the other publications are also interesting and useful. Regarding the plants you mentioned wanting to grow - You will find that tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers (chiles), watermelons, garlic, onions, cilantro, and beans (green and dried) will grow for you. Strawberries may be a greater challenge, but with proper siting in your landscape (afternoon shade) some varieties should produce good crops for you. Peas will perform best as a fall crop planted in late summer and harvested until a hard freeze kills them. Proper soil amendment and irrigation are very important for all these plants. Amending the soil with well decomposed compost will make clay soils perform better as garden soils, allowing them to be worked more easily and increasing their ability to receive irrigation and precipitation. Making raised beds and using large containers to grow plants can also enhance your gardening success.

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: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!