Sierra Cain

Home gardens have become increasingly popular. Not only does gardening serve as a great way to spend time outdoors, it can provide a bountiful harvest you, your family and neighbors can enjoy throughout the summer.

Starting a personal garden is a wise resource for food stability. Gardens are also beneficial to your mental and physical health. The International Association of Horticultural Producers reports gardens can help develop a more positive outlook on life, while helping relieve stress and anxiety.

If you are new to gardening, it is likely you may come across some unexpected obstacles. Being prepared for planting will assist in maximizing your crop yields.

Successful gardens begin with healthy soil. Assessing the soil’s health is as easy as taking a soil sample and having it analyzed. Soil sample kits are available through the Valencia County Extension Office.

If you are not interested in waiting for a soil test to be processed, raised bed gardens are a great option for combatting our desert soil. Raised beds allow the soil to drain well and provide structure for growing plants. This type of garden also helps control weed pressure on desired vegetation.

Water is another important factor in the success of your garden. When picking plants, be sure to read the label for moisture requirements. Under watering and over watering can affect the overall health and production of fruits and vegetables. Plants requiring a lot of moisture can benefit with the application of mulch.

Applying a season-appropriate mulch covering can greatly help moisture retention and help regulate ground temperatures, keeping the ground cooler in summer and warmer in winter. In New Mexico, we have high heat pressure on plants, which can dry soil out quicker so our plants can benefit from the extra soil protection and water retention provided by the mulch.

New Mexico also has pronounced sunlight reaching plants at high temperatures, especially during the summer months. Reading about the sun requirements of the fruits and vegetables you are planting will be key in the longevity and overall production.

Plants require different amounts of sun exposure and it is beneficial to watch sun light patterns that occur on your plants throughout the day. Also, keep in mind the time of day, as the heat of the afternoon is worse than the heat of the morning sun.

Vegetables and fruits have different planting intervals. If you have already started your garden, you likely planted cool season plants. If you are currently preparing to plant, you should look into warm season plant life. Corn, tomatoes, cucumber, chile and squash are a few the plants recommended by NMSU Extension specialists for the summer planting season.

Watch for pests! Pests can come in a variety of forms, including insects and animals. Protecting your garden from animals will help increase crop yields. A common animal in New Mexico is rabbits. Michigan State Cooperative Extension Service specialists suggest using poultry fencing placed at an L shape on the ground with the L facing outward and buried in order to prevent digging. Raised plant beds will also help protect your plants from small animals.

Insects can also show up on various plants, causing a lot of damage. Quickly identifying the specific pest(s) will be most helpful in knowing how to rid the infestation. To assist with identifying insects, contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service.

Another suggestion for early detection includes observing leaves and fruits daily. Be sure to check under the leaves as insects love to shield themselves. Identify beneficial insects as well, you want to keep the good insects and monitor or rid the non-beneficial.

Most importantly, if you have questions regarding gardening, whether you are a first time gardener or an expert, the Valencia County Master Gardeners are a fantastic resource. They are available to provide recommendations and information regarding horticulture. The Master Gardeners can be reached by contacting the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 565-3002. For more gardening information online visit the NMSU Home Vegetable Gardening in New Mexico publication at: aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_circulars/CR457.pdf

Program announcements

To register for an upcoming program, call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 565-3002. For more information, visit valenciaextension.nmsu.edu.

• Nurturing Parenting Program: 5 p.m., Mondays, June 22 and 29. Topics include: Importance of Praising Children, Understanding and Communicating Feelings and Developing Family Morals,Values and Rules. Classes offered via Zoom. Email Anne-Marie Wilson at awilson@nmsu.edu for the Zoom invitation. The first 15 families to join the Zoom class will receive a $10 McDonald’s gift card.

• StrongWomen Exercise Program, Strength Training Program: 9:30 a.m., Mondays and Wednesdays in June. For more information or to join the class, email Anne-Marie Wilson at awilson@nmsu.edu.

• Nature Buds Summer Camp: Online camp for children ages 5-8 years old offered virtually at 6 p.m., July 7-10. Campers will participate in nature crafts and learning activities. For more information and to register for the camp, email Sierra Cain at sierragh@nmsu.edu.

Visit NMSU Valencia County Cooperative Extension Servicefacebook.com/NMSUValenciaCES Facebook page for upcoming programs, creative recipes, health tips, and fun activities.

If you are an individual with a disability who is in need of auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service office at 565-3002 two weeks in advance of event.

(Sierra Cain is the Valencia County 4-H/Youth Development agent for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.)

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Sierra Cain, guest columnist

Sierra Cain is the Valencia County 4-H/Youth Development agent for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.