Home and garden

What to know before you grow your Taos garden

By Cindy Brown
For the Taos News
Posted 3/13/19

For Taos gardeners who are excited to welcome the planting season, here are some ideas on how to be ready for the coming warm weather. From starting seeds inside to …

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Home and garden

What to know before you grow your Taos garden

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For Taos gardeners who are excited to welcome the planting season, here are some ideas on how to be ready for the coming warm weather. From starting seeds inside to cleaning up and preparing your garden beds, now is the time to prepare for the outdoor planting season later on this spring, so that you will have a bounty of flowers and vegetables this summer and fall.

Starting indoors

The National Gardening Association has a detailed set of recommendations on their website for planting in Taos. Among the suggestions are starting tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants indoors around March 22. Watch for weather and anticipate transplanting the starts outside in late May. The average day of the last spring frost for Taos is May 22, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. Because there are so many microclimates in and around Taos, it is important to treat all dates as approximates and keep a close eye on the weather predictions.

For crops like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, seeds can be started inside towards the end of March and then transplanted outside in mid-May or they can be planted directly into the garden toward the end of April. For onions and potatoes, plant in the ground in April after the ground is no longer frozen.

For crops like beans, corn, squash and pumpkins, start these inside in mid-May and transplant them outside toward the end of the month after the danger of frost has past.

Local gardener and Taos Seed Exchange founder Nan Fischer says, "I probably won't plant anything outside until mid- to late April. It will depend on the weather, but I always take an early chance with lettuce mix to feed my salad habit." She adds that she has many perennial shrubs to get in the ground, which should be ready to go about the same time, unless it gets warmer and dries up sooner.

"You really have to be careful about not planting when the soil is too wet - you can ruin the structure, which you may not be able to remedy. We're all so eager, especially this year after such a horrid season last year, but a big part of gardening is patience," she says.

Jason Boiarsky, manager at Earthgoods, says that generally any plants can be begun inside to get a jump start on the gardening season. "You can plant seeds or grow starts to get them to a point that they are ready to transplant outside," says Boiarsky. "It is good to see everyone so excited for spring this year."

Getting the garden ready

When people come to Earthgoods with questions about starting a new garden, Boiarsky asks them about their gardening goals. He often recommends an amendment to the soil to support the plants during their life cycle. An organic granular mix will begin to be bio-available within 60-90 days, while a powered amendment will begin working within 30-40 days.

As the snow is melting, you can begin to explore your garden and see what might be emerging through the soil. Fischer says, "I remove the dead plants and check to see what's coming up. Perennial herbs, strawberries and reseeding bachelor buttons were not daunted by the snow; they are looking good. I sprinkled Kodiak mustard cover crop on some of the newer beds as a green manure. When the plants are not too tall and still full of lush foliage, I'll turn them into the soil and let them decompose, adding nutrients for this year's crops."

Fischer has also been busy cleaning out her passive solar greenhouse - sweeping, organizing seeds, fertilizers, amendments and tools. Her hoop house made it through the winter without much damage; some of the ties she put on last year have broken and she will be replacing them. "The plastic made it through the recent snowstorm, but I did shovel it off in a panic," she says. "I'd like to be able to install double-wall polycarbonate on the western end, because the wind from that direction is fierce."

I was not so lucky with my greenhouse. After more than two feet of snow fell on it in February, the plastic ripped, so my first task will be to replace the plastic, and then I will remove the remnants of last year's plants and fertilize the soil.

Garden planning

Another great idea from Fischer is to start a garden journal now, as you are beginning to plan your gardening adventures for the year. "I make a planting plan, taking into consideration crop rotation and the microclimates in my yard. I make a schedule (especially since I grow and sell starts) and then I make a map of the gardens and use that to write down what gets planted and when. I note the frost dates, weather events, dates I planted, fertilized and harvested. I write down what did well and what failed. I note everything throughout the season, because that information is valuable in subsequent years. It's educational to read through past years', too, and compare, especially as the climate is changing."

Sadie Lopez of High Road Gardens in Trampas says that the main early spring job at the farm is to evaluate seed stock, purchase seeds and other necessities like row cover and hand tools, in addition to planning the garden design. "Yesterday was our first day in the garden," says Lopez. "The excitement of spring is upon us! March is like a roulette wheel for farmers. The cows, horses, and birds took care of most of the garden clean-up. We're looking forward to a great Taos Farmers Market in May."

For more information

For detailed recommendations on planting, visit the National Gardening Association website at garden.org.

Contact Nan Fischer of Sweetly Seeds at nan@sweetlyseeds.com or visit nannieappleseed.wordpress.com.

Find Earthgoods at 120 Bertha Street or call (575) 758-9131. They can share their expertise and help figure out what you need to get your garden ready for the season.

For plants and gardening advice visit Petree Nursery and Greenhouses at 25 Petree Lane or call (575) 758-3021. They have 2019 seeds in, along with starts for potatoes and onions, and bulbs for gladiolas, dahlias and other flowers.

Randall Lumber and Hardware Ranch & Feed has seeds for fields and grazing and in May they will have hanging baskets for sale. Visit them at #14 State Highway 150 or call (575) 776-2556.

Rio Grande Ace Hardware has an extensive garden center at the southside location - 1381 Paseo del Pueblo Sur; phone number (575) 758-4268. You can find seeds, planting trays, soil amendments, gardening tools and building materials for the greenhouse now. At the end of the month, there will be trees from the Northwest in a dormant stage arriving, with budded trees coming in April, and perennials and roses available before Mother's Day on May 12.

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