David Hooten/Dr. Dirt
To all moms, mothers and grandmothers out there reading this great local newspaper, Dr. Dirt, wishes you a HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. This will be day of honor for moms! Load up your mom and take her to the garden centers and nurseries and buy her some garden plants in bloom. Most garden centers, greenhouses, and nurseries within a 200-mile radius of Hobbs are loaded up for Mom’s Day. I know because I have been frequenting them.
On a more serious note, Water, and the lack thereof NO rainfall is becoming a significant issue for the desert Southwest states. The U.S. Drought Monitor for the end of April 28, 2022, has Lea County, New Mexico, and western counties of Gaines and Yokum, Texas listed as in EXTREME to EXCEPTIONAL drought status.
D3 (Extreme drought) begins south of Eunice, New Mexico towards Kermit, Texas.
D4 (Exceptional drought) is the entire Lea County north of Eunice, running into southern Curry County New Mexico and then eastward into Gaines and Yocum counties of western Texas.
You ask, so what does this mean?
For one answer NO RAINFALL, NO WATER. Glad you thought that question though! Although it gets more serious as we progress into drought events.
D3 – drought impacts are severe.
• Livestock are suffering; producers begin to sell off herds; feed costs skyrocket, crop yields are low.
• Fire danger is extreme! (Noted outbreaks of wildland range fires and forest fires erupting).
• Irrigation allotments decrease.
• Vegetation and native trees are dying.
D4 – drought impacts are critical.
• Federal lands begin to close for fire precautions; burn bans increase.
• Wildlife and bears encroach into developed areas with no food or water, migratory birds change patterns.
• No surface water is left for agricultural purposes, private wells used by farmers.
• The Rio Grande, Pecos and other rivers are dry; area lake levels drop dramatically.
As these drought events persist it will affect the gardening community as well. Water usage and conservation measures will become more restrictive. We must become educated and understand that gardening and landscaping will have to change and become water-wise, conservative in our environments.
Flowers – Annuals and Perennials
This is the time to plant hanging basket, ceramic pots, and other unique containers. Use a good potting soil that has water holding capacity, the bag will say that on the labelling. You can buy the powder or crystals and add to the other mixes that holds water in the soil mixes.
When creating your containers remember these three words, (T) thriller, (F) filler, and (S) spiller, the thriller is a central plant catching your eye for uniqueness to the container. The filler are plants filling the vertical spaces of the containers. Finally, the spillers are plants trailing down over the sides of the containers. Walah, you have created a beautiful container for porch entry, patio or set into the existing landscape.
Cut-back spreading plants like ajuga, candytuft, alyssum and aubrieta after flowering to encourage new growth and more blooms.
Tie climbing rose canes to a fence or trellis, attach canes horizontally to help produce more flowers.
Prune spring flowering shrubs after flowering to encourage new growth for next year’s bloom cycle.
Feed and water containers, to keep plants blooming, deadhead old spent blooms and water-well on hot dry windy days. Feed hanging baskets and container plants with a liquid fertilizer to plants blooming and growing.
Check on insect pests, sometimes we forget this crucial step and our potted beauties end up with colonies of aphids, chewing snails and slugs that crawl up to the salads at night. If you have circular C-shaped cuts into leaves you have cutter bees working your plants for nesting materials. Dust with Sevin Dust to control them.
Continue to do weed control in your ground level beds by manually pulling or applying herbicides carefully and always read the label of all pesticide products.
You should be harvesting asparagus spears now. Cut them at 6 to 7 inches tall. Depending on your clump size. As spears begin to dwindle to pencil size, stop cutting and let plant grow into the ferny tops to produce food in roots for next year’s harvesting.
Again, thin out seeds directly sown such as spinach, carrots, radishes, beets, lettuces to produce larger, more robust mature plants.
Plant three or four seeds in a hill of squashes, cukes, and melons. When seedlings are up and producing the first set of leaves thin to the best two plants.
Hand weed around your onions, garlic, and leeks. Use of a hoe will damage the shallow root structures. Pick out the weeds when seedling and up to four leaves.
Keep on top of weeding as the weeds will compete for water, light, and nutrients in your garden’s soil.
Fruits, Nuts and Berries
Protect strawberries with straw or grass clippings to control weeds and lift the berries up and off the soil. Keep well-watered for plump berries.
Keep young or newly planted fruit trees well-watered while they are putting on rapid growth. Do not feed new plantings of fruit trees. Apply fertilizer on the second year of planting.
Remove blossoms and any fruit on first year trees, fruit production saps the strength on new trees and they may decline and die as high summer heat arrives. You want good root structure and canopy growth on the first year.
Pecans need feeding and applications of zinc applied now for good nut production. Water pecans well, keep ground zone under trees moist. They are heavy feeders on nutrients and are a water hog for nut production. With no late frost there should be a great crop of pecans baring one act of nature…a heavy hailstorm.
Apply weed killers to your lawns this month as we have a mix of late winter weeds and the new summer weeds are coming on fast in turf and other areas.
Apply fertilizer to established lawns with a high nitrogen to encourage green growth.
Check irrigation system repair broken heads and leaks and begin scheduled irrigation times for watering established grass and especially in high heat and windy conditions. Do not let newly seeded lawns dry out or you will kill the new grass seedlings as they try to get rooted and established.
May is a wonderful time to seed fescue and bluegrasses for lawns or to do repairs where grass has died out. These two grasses are cool season and need the cool nights to germinate and established.
Check lawn mowers, edger, and string line trimmers for annual startup of lawn maintenance. Sharpen or install new blades, change oil and gas to fresh fuel and clean oil, buy supplies of trimmer line while available.
From Your Recliner
Keep a 2022 journal of planting and activities in the garden, landscape, or vegetable patch. Note what is up and doing great, what has bombed out. Stay on top of things that happen in your landscape note it for next year’s review.
Take time to smell the roses, eat radish or fresh carrots from the garden. Sit back and enjoy your fruits of love and labor now that the warm weather has arrived. For a lot of us, it is time to lay back and get those white-meat chicken legs a nice golden brown from the great New Mexico and West Texas sunshine, because some of us must put shades on to be around you… get gardening and enjoy it.
David Hooten also known as Dr. Dirt. runs Son Grown LLC and can be reached at 575-318-8540.