Plant questions? Ask a Master Gardener
THE SANTA FE MASTER GARDENERS ORGANIZATION IS BOOMING with interest— drought or not. There are more than 200 members, and every year several dozen people complete the training (which is all booked for 2018). One of the newest initiatives is the Santa Fe Native Plants Project started by Deborah Farson, Laura McGrath, and other members. They call themselves SNAPPers. The point is “to spread a philosophy of gardening that is more geared to native plants that support our native pollinators and are better components of a healthy ecosystem,” McGrath said. “They’re more adapted to the soil, they don’t need the pesticides, and they can dig in and survive drought.” Examples include the shrubs or small trees Apache plume, mountain mahogany, New Mexico privet, and desert willow; and perennials and ornamental grasses such as penstemons, Mexican hat, and silky threadgrass.
The Master Gardeners have workshops on all kinds of useful techniques. One of them is soil amendment, which is usually necessary when planting vegetables in the Santa Fe area, but it isn’t required for some plants. “Natives don’t need a lot of amending,” Farson said.
It is not too early for gardeners to busy themselves with seeds, cold-hardy plants, and soil preparation, but heavy-duty planting waits for the traditional last-frost date, May 15. Until then, you can get your enthusiasm going, and increase your savvy, by spending time with a good book or two. Farson and McGrath, who are both senior members and former presidents of the SGMGA board, mentioned Steppes: The Plants and Ecology of theWorld’s Semi-arid Regions (multiple authors) andWild Plants of the Pueblo Province: Exploring Ancient and Enduring Uses byWilliamW. Dunmire and Gail D. Tierney. Other possibilities are The Undaunted Garden: Planting forWeather-Resilient Beauty by Lauren Springer Ogden and Growing the Southwest Garden: Regional Ornamental Gardening by Judith Phillips.
What kinds of things doMaster Gardeners do? “We work with the County Extension agent, Tom Dominguez, and we answer urban horticulture questions, so he’s free to concentrate on ranch and farm questions: the income-producing realm,” McGrath said. The extension agents in the Santa Fe County office are Jacqueline Baca, director 4-H, family, and consumer sciences; Christina Turner, 4-H; Cydney Martin, family and consumer sciences; andThomas Dominguez, agriculture. “This time of year we start getting questions about piñon scale. People will phone the County Extension office and they take messages. We actually have office hours at the Extension office at the fairgrounds (3229 Rodeo Road) onMondays andThursdays from1 to 3 p.m. and people can drop in or call us.”
Master Gardeners work at theWildlife Center in Española, teaching classes about soil testing and drip irrigation, and in the Bandelier Garden at El Zaguan on Canyon Road. They have a wildlife garden and a pollinator garden at the Randall Davey Audubon Center, where members teach people how to build wild bee houses.
You can ask questions year-round at www.sfmga.org and every Saturday morning, you can find an “Ask theMaster Gardener” table at Newman’s Nursery, at both Payne’s Nurseries locations, and on the Second Street Brewery pa- tio in the Santa Fe Railyard. They’re also active in Eldorado — at the Vista Grande Library on May 12 & 19 (11 a.m.-2 p.m.), at the Agora Shopping Center on May 26 (11 a.m.-2 p.m., then on Fridays in June at the Eldorado Farmers Market (3:30-6:30 p.m.)
The Santa Fe Master Gardeners have done a radio show for years: “The Garden Journal,” broadcast live each Saturday from 10 to 10:30 a.m. on KSFR 101.1. Show regular Jannine Cabossel (the “Tomato Lady” at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market) joins hosts Christine Salem and Bob
Moonshine yarrow and purple coneflower captured by Joy Mandelbaum at the Randall Davey Audubon Center