Not sure when to plant a certain crop? What are those white spots on the grape leaves? When should the potatoes be harvested? The Albuquerque Area Extension Master Gardener Program can answer those questions, and much more.
Master Gardeners are volunteers trained in horticulture by the New Mexico State University Cooperative Service. Sara Moran, extension horticulture agent and Bernalillo County advisor for the Master Gardener program, said there are between 300-400 members in the program.
“If there is an issue with your plant, like it’s turning yellow or brown, we can help with those sorts of diagnosis. We also have volunteers that give public presentations at different events or sometimes at Homeowner’s Associations,” Moran said. “We have volunteers that work with the city and at city greenhouses to help with planting, propagating and growing from seeds.”
Some of the events listed on the Master Gardener website include a workshop titled “Weather the Drought,” a discussion and question and answer on fruit tree diseases and diagnostics, and a composting class. On May 14, there will be a Master Gardener presentation and question-and-answer session at Cherry Hills Library from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Moran didn’t have details on the Cherry Hills Library presentation, but she did have some tips specific to growing in Albuquerque and the Northeast Heights. “Water is very, very important. It is probably the most important thing,” she said. “So, water is important. Like harvesting water as well. Another thing is preparing the soil. You want to add organic matter like compost, dry leaves, dry needles. That helps the soil as well, and shade. Provide some shade, even in the summer.”
Compared to the soil closer to the river, Moran said the soil in the Heights doesn’t have enough organic matter. “So that’s why adding compost is a good practice,” she said, explaining that mulch and cover crops can help protect the soil as well. “Over the long term that will increase the structure and the texture of the soil,” helping to retain water and provide more nutrients. She said it will “increase the microbiology in the soil as well.”
Question and answer with Moran
Anyone who has specific questions about plants growing in their backyard can call the Master Gardener hotline at 505-292-7144 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 505-243-1386 from 9 a.m. to noon and 12:30-3 p.m. Moran answered several questions specific to plants growing at one location in the Northeast Heights.
Question: What are the white spots on the leaves of the Virginia creeper?
Answer: They are most likely from grape leafhoppers, a pale-yellow pest with red markings on their wings. “What they do is they have this needle-like mouth part, they inject each single cell and suck up all the juices and sugars from the plant,” Moran said, adding that it is better to treat the problem before the insects grow wings. Treating the plant with Carbaryl, the active ingredient in the insecticide Sevin, helps, but it can also damage some beneficial insects, according to Moran. “If you apply it earlier before this insect develops wings, you might be successful in controlling them.” Moran also suggests removing the leaves at the bottom of the plant and applying a white powdery insecticide called Diatomaceous Earth in the early winter months. She said to make sure to read the instructions on the insecticides before applying them and to be aware they may be harmful to dogs and other pets.
Question: Do you have any tips for growing a successful watermelon patch?
Answer: “Watermelons are tough,” Moran said. “They are going to need a lot of water. Watermelon, I think, is 80% water, so they are going to need a lot of water. You might consider providing some shade, especially when the fruit is starting to develop. It will also help the soil to keep the moisture.” Moran said to keep an eye on the moisture level, as too much water can attract insects that are harmful to the plant.
Question: When growing potatoes, should you let the vines die before harvesting them?
Answer: Yes. “You should wait to harvest until the vines turn yellow or die,” Moran said.
“Through the extension service we also offer other programs,” Moran said. “We also have the forage program, and we also offer programs like nutrition, food, nutrition wellness and well-being areas as well.”
In addition to the Master Gardener website, Moran suggests visiting bernalilloextension.nmsu.edu. The website provides information on yards and gardens, farms and ranches, 4-H programs, cooking and nutrition ideas, as well as food preparation, preservation, and safety. The Master Gardner website is abqmastergardeners.org.