November 15, 2014

1 - Cicadas could have made the holes discussed last week but they would have appeared earlier in the summer.

2 - Coppicing is a method of tree management that occurs naturally in New Mexico and can be used in some landscape situations.

Yard and Garden November 15, 2014

Q. #1

One or our readers called me and said she thinks the holes could have been dug by cicadas that made the holes in the ground you discussed in last week's column. I suggested that she email you but she declined, so I did. I have heard of cicadas digging holes. However, I am from the Midwest (Indiana) and what I know about cicadas is they are dormant for 16 years and then come to life for one year. Do the cicadas out here have a different life cycle?



A. #1

Your reader had a good idea, but it is the wrong time of year for cicadas. They emerge from the ground earlier in the summer.

Yes, there are different cicadas with different life cycles. Some have long underground larval periods when they live underground; others live only a few years underground before emerging.

Q. #2

I was reading about different types of pruning and came across the term "coppicing". Is that something we can use in New Mexico?

A. #2

Coppicing is a means of woodlot management in which trees (or large shrubs) are cut to the ground and then allowed to regrow from the stump. This requires a tree that is capable of regrowth from the stump. As people who have tried to get rid of Siberian elms and cottonwoods have experienced they will indeed regrow from their stumps. So do aspens, willows, and several shrubs grown in New Mexico.

A walk through our pinyon-juniper woodlands will reveal that this is a natural tendency of many of our juniper trees. You will often see old, dead stumps at the base of a juniper with healthy, sometimes quite old growth that developed from that stump. Native Gambel oak trees and other native trees and shrubs also exhibit this natural characteristic.

Rejuvenation pruning of lilac and other shrubs takes advantage of the coppicing response. We could do this to Siberian elm if we wished. Cutting the trees to a stump and allowing regrowth results in "juvenile" growth which will not produce pollen or seeds for a few years. These plants could be used as a hedge if they were cut back to their stump on a regular basis before "adult", flowering growth developed.

Willows, in locations with adequate moisture could be coppiced to produce long, flexible stems for making wicker or for weaving baskets for gardeners who are interested in such craft activities.

Yes, coppicing can be accomplished in New Mexico if the right plants growing in the proper environment are selected. It happens naturally, but we could utilize this plant response for our gardening and craft-making purposes if we wished.

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.

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

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