Gar­den­ing time is here

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - SANTA FE PROPERTIES - By Paul Wei­de­man

The weather’s warm­ing and many of us are ea­ger to get our hands dirty, to get last year’s gar­dens cleaned up and to plant col­or­ful flow­ers and good food. Of course, this can be a chal­lenge in Santa Fe County be­cause of the poor soils, re­lent­less wind and sun, rare rains, and plenty of go­phers. For­tu­nately, there are scores of plants that like this en­vi­ron­ment, and hun­dreds more that can deal with it if we’re care­ful about place­ment, soil prepa­ra­tion, mulching, and wa­ter­ing.

Zoned plant­ing is a well-tested strat­egy. Na­tive plants are left alone — and per­haps aug­mented with more na­tive plants ap­pro­pri­ate to your lo­ca­tion— in the outer fringes of the yard. Closer in, you can add some drought-tol­er­ant ex­otics; then you can nour­ish a few thirstier plants in shaded, shel­tered “mi­cro­cli­mate” ar­eas, per­haps on the east or north side of the house, or within court­yards, pa­tios, and other out­door-liv­ing ar­eas where they can be wa­tered eas­ily and smartly.

If you have ques­tions or prob­lems, there are some great lo­cal re­sources: the Santa Fe Mas­ter Gar­den­ers, the Na­tive Plant So­ci­ety of New Mex­ico, and the Santa Fe Botan­i­cal Gar­den. The Of­fice of the State En­gi­neer has a num­ber of free pub­li­ca­tions, in­clud­ing “Xeriscape 101,” “AWater­wise Guide to Trees,” and “The En­chanted Xeriscape.” Find them by click­ing the “Use & Con­ser­va­tion” tab at www.ose.state. nm.us, then click on “Wa­ter Con­ser­va­tion Pro­gram,” then “Home Own­ers.” Nate Downey’s Har­vest the Rain is an ex­cel­lent hand­book to help make sure your land­scape plants are nour­ished by rain­wa­ter, al­ways prefer­able to tap­wa­ter.

The Santa Fe Tree Farm( www.santafe­tree.com) is the city’s youngest nurs­ery, now in its 13th year. The busi­ness sells more than 60 va­ri­eties of de­cid­u­ous and ever­green trees. Payne’s Nurs­ery, now 61 years old, has all kinds of help­ful in­for­ma­tion at paynes.com, in­clud­ing how-to ar­ti­cles about soils, com­post­ing, mulching, fer­til­iz­ing, and wa­ter­ing; and a handy plant li­brary search­able by plant type and sun/lo­ca­tion. “The big change in our pro­gram this year is the fact we have taken over the man­age­ment of all com­post­ing op­er­a­tions at the Caja del Rio land­fill site,” said Lynn Payne. “We will be re­spon­si­ble for ac­tu­ally mak­ing the com­post and as it comes avail­able we will sell it from our soil yard on Agua Fria Street.

“An­other new prod­uct we will be of­fer­ing this sum­mer is a col­lec­tion of about eight of the best laven­der plants for our area. They will be mar­keted in laven­der-col­ored pots un­der the la­bel ‘Lynn’s Laven­der’.”

Payne’s has free work­shops at 11 a.m. Satur­days at the 715 St. Michael’s Drive store. All par­tic­i­pants re­ceive a 20 per­cent dis­count card to use the day of the work­shop. On April 9, Lynn Payne has “Gar­den­ing for Begin­ners.” On April 16, T.J. Jones leads the work­shop “Grow­ing Veg­eta­bles in Con­tain­ers.” On April 23, Va­lerie Jones and Mara Laf­ferty of­fer “TheWon­der­ful World of Fairy Gar­dens” and “Designing Your Own Color Pots/Hang­ing Bas­kets.” Then onApril 30, Payne speaks on “Amer­ica’s Fa­vorite Flower, the Rose.”

Newman’s Nurs­ery (new­mansnurs­ery.com) has been in Santa Fe for 42 years and also has a valu­able web re­source. Check out the “Nuts & Berries” link for a fab­u­lous il­lus­trated guide to avail­able ap­ple, apri­cot, cherry, peach, pear, plum, nec­tarine, fig, al­mond, and pis­ta­chio trees, as well as grapes and rasp­ber­ries (seven va­ri­eties each), goose­ber­ries, el­der­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries, cur­rants, and more. Ditto with the nurs­ery’s guides to shade trees and roses.

Plants of the South­west, founded four decades ago, has what is ar­guably the most com­plete, il­lus­trated plant index around. Also at plantsoft­he­south­west.com are ar­ti­cles on “How to Plant a Meadow,” “Ants,” and “Eat­ing Bugs.”

Agua Fria Nurs­ery’s web­site was un­der con­struc­tion at press time, so Home de­cided to fea­ture an in­ter­view with owner Bob Pen­ning­ton. He is a found­ing­mem­ber of both the Santa Fe Botan­i­cal Gar­den and the Eri­o­gonum So­ci­ety, cur­rent co-chair of the New Mex­ico Chap­ter of the Colorado Nurs­ery Green­house As­so­ci­a­tion, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Pen­ste­mon So­ci­ety, and in­struc­tor for the New Mex­ico Nurs­ery Pro­fes­sional Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram. Ev­ery Satur­day at 8 a.m., Bob and his sons, Shane and Mark, host the Bob’s Botan­i­cal Broad­cast ra­dio show on KTRC 1260 AM.

We al­ways hear that­May 15 is the safe plant­ing date. What can peo­ple do in April?

Bob Pen­ning­ton: Num­ber one, I’d say that frost-free date ofMay 10 or May 15was largely cre­ated by the cham­ber of com­merce, be­cause more of­ten than not we get a frost af­ter that. Peo­ple can plant all kinds of things. That frost­free date is ba­si­cally for plants that are frost-ten­der above ground, such as tomatos, pep­pers, petu­nias, and marigolds. But there are many an­nu­als, pretty much all the peren­ni­als, trees and shrubs, that the sooner they’re in the ground— once the ground is warm, any­way— the hap­pier they are. They do not want to wait un­til it’s hot to start grow­ing. Some of them are bloom­ing by then. Are we talk­ing pri­mar­ily trans­plants or seeds? Both. You can plant all kinds of seeds now. You can plant let­tuce and spinach and kale, all your cold crops, and just about any green or root crop, cer­tainly if you’ve got ac­cess to a lit­tle row-cover cloth in case it gets bit­ter cold.

What about cold-strat­i­fy­ing flower seeds? You’re al­ready too late. Typ­i­cally you do that for two months to 12 weeks and that means moist tem­per­a­tures be­low 40 de­grees. Of course the re­frig­er­a­tor is the eas­i­est way in theworld to strat­ify seeds.

Do you ad­vo­cate us­ing pa­per tow­els or a medium of some kind?

We ei­ther sow them in flats, sim­ply be­cause we won’t get around to it till later, or a lot of things we’ll just mix with sand and put themin a zi­plock bag. Pa­per tow­els is just one more step.

Two that we’ve strat­i­fied with some suc­cess this year are roundleaf sil­ver buf­faloberry and the desert peach. Roundleaf sil­ver buf­faloberry? Yeah. Sil­ver buf­faloberry used to be pretty com­mon here un­til Rus­sian olive in­vaded. They’re very close re­la­tions and live in the same habi­tat, but Rus­sian olive is much more suc­cess­ful. But the roundleaf sil­ver buf­faloberry does very well here. And desert peach? Does that give you ed­i­ble fruit? Well, in the­ory. It’s on the eth­nob­otan­i­cal lists, but the fruit is re­ally small and mostly pit. But it is an awe­some flow­er­ing shrub, okay in ter­ri­ble soil and no wa­ter, once es­tab­lished, and it has bril­liant pink flow­ers about the size of a quar­ter.

Over­all, seeds are great. I’m told we sell more seeds than any­body else in New Mex­ico, which is hard to be­lieve, but that’s what the seed peo­ple tell us. Santa Fe is a tremen­dous mar­ket for ve­g­ies, less so for fruit be­cause look what hap­pens ev­ery year. The trees flower too early. They do. The prob­lem is early flow­er­ing and nor­mal freezes. The best thing to do now is plant your wild­flower an­nu­als, all of your daisies, all the mem­bers of Aster­aceae, be­cause al­most none of them re­quire strat­i­fi­ca­tion. Pur­ple cone­flow­ers and black-eyed su­sans? Just go out and plant those. Even sim­ple things can be dif­fi­cult propo­si­tions out in the county, in El­do­rado, with all that sun and wind.

The one thing you have to re­mem­ber and never, ever for­get: Wa­ter is the key to life. You prob­a­bly have towa­ter three times a day. Wa­ter your plants be­fore you go to work and if you can’t do it in the mid­dle of the day, cover them with about a quar­ter inch of mulch, then wa­ter them as soon as you get home. The wind will blow the mulch off. Then­make your mulch gravel, or an eighth inch of sand. Ar­royo sand is great. I know where you can get it for free. We’re liv­ing in the land of drought. The drought has been re­ally good for [sales of] so-called xeric plants, and na­tive plants prob­a­bly in an­other growth cy­cle: in the 40 years we’ve been in busi­ness, we’ve seen the zest for na­tive plants go up and down five or six times at least. When­ever it gets dry for long enough, ev­ery­body wants to plant na­tive plants— and of course some peo­ple in­clude columbines and as­pens, which are na­tive but not the least bit drought-tol­er­ant. And food plants? They were sort of de­clin­ing and then about the time there were all the food-con­tam­i­na­tion scares and the time when Michelle Obama planted her gar­den, it’s been on an up­swing ever since. It’s boom­ing, and now we plant veg­eta­bles 12 months of the year, in­clud­ing in mini-green­houses and even in sunny win­dows.

There’s a big sign in one of your green­houses show­ing peo­ple where the shishito pep­pers are.

One day I sup­pose they will crash but right nowwe can’t growe­nough. It’s just in­sane. It is prob­a­bly the most pro- duc­tive pep­per on earth. They taste ter­ri­ble raw but if you get them young and throwthemin a fry­ing pan­with a lit­tle olive oil and salt and just pop them in your mouth, they’re good. They’re easy to grow and easy to cook.

All the veg­eta­bles are do­ing well. We prob­a­bly sell 40 va­ri­eties of let­tuce and God knows how many kinds of Asian greens and this year we will prob­a­bly grow over 90 va­ri­eties of toma­toes. Whoa! Why so many? Some peo­ple have re­ally good luck with cer­tain types and other peo­ple have good luck with other toma­toes. Peo­ple grow them for dif­fer­ent things, fresh-eat­ing toma­toes, dry­ing toma­toes, sauce toma­toes, and all the dif­fer­ent col­ors. How about a rec­om­men­da­tion for a good pa­tio tree? You might try the “HotWings” Tatar­i­an­maple. It’s a small­ish tree that has lit­tle yel­low flow­ers and bright red­winged seeds. The flow­er­ing crabap­ples and plums and pears are all good. You’re not too hot on drip ir­ri­ga­tion, if I re­mem­ber. Well, I don’t know­much about it, ex­cept I hate it. It’s killed more plants than any­thing I can think of. It can be a won­der­ful tool, but you have to know howto in­stall it and use it and main­tain it. I re­ally like hand-wa­ter­ing. I rec­om­mend it highly. And if you’re wor­ried about con­sump­tion, we now sell lit­tle wa­ter­me­ters that you put right on the end of your hose and you can see how­much you’re us­ing. We need more rain, Bob. We do, but we’re do­ing amaz­ingly well. We’re learn­ing more and more about how to cope with drought and I think we’ll get even bet­ter at it. Our plant choices will get smarter and we’ll do things like plant more na­tives and then we’ll see more birds and bugs— more good birds and good bugs.

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