Newbie Veggie gardening in ALBQ?

amjacobsonJanuary 2, 2008

I just moved into a house in Rio Rancho in September, and am now planning a vegetable garden (I'm so excited). This will be my first attempt in such a climate, previous gardening was done in Seattle WA and Chicago IL. Very limited space, so I was thinking of raised beds and the square foot gardening method. Oh, and definitely organic.

Anyway, I'm looking for any advice so I can start this project off right. Since I'm going with raised beds, I need to locate reasonably-priced local sources for soil and compost, and want hints on what veggies tend to thrive here, and ones I don't have a prayer of growing successfully. I'm hoping to have 2 or 3 beds, each 4' x 8', with a soaker hose down the middle of each one.

I'm hoping to grow a wide variety of veggies, starting with lettuce, spinach, radish, and turnips and ending up in fall with cabbages and the last of the broccoli, with everything in between (really looking forward to sweet peppers, tomatos, eggplant, beans, those sorts of things).

So advice, hints, warnings . . . I'm ready for it all. Please share.

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I moved to NM from northern California. I've been in NM for five years. I live about thirty miles south of you.
I am an organic gardener. I used to be the coordinator of an organic community garden in California.

I do my raised beds the French style. They are about three feet wide. That way you can reach at least half way across from either side without stepping into the beds. I use lots of peat moss--adding more every year. I have very sandy soil, which does not retain water well. Peat retains water. Peat also acidifies, which is really good for some types of plants, such as the alliums and berries.

I am of the opinion that poultry manure is better than cattle or horse manure. The only place I've been able to find a poultry manure product is Walmart. It is a poultry manure compost. I have not found an inexpensive source of peat or compost. Bagged top soil is not good. It has no water retention properties. Learned that the hard way!

I have done very well with spinach, arugula, strawberries, onions, garlic, shallots, green chilies, lettuce and asparagus. My beans and corn have been okay--not great. I don't grow tomatoes, as I am allergic to them. I have planted beet seeds several times with poor results. One year I planted potatoes. They did pretty well.

Squash is a problem because of a beetle pest. I get nice plants, and harvest some squash. But soon after the plants begin to produce, the beetles bore into the plant stalks, which kills the plants. I have had some success with using soapy water to kill the beetles. I tried copper collars around the squash plants, but that didn't work.

I use santolina in my strawberry bed to ward off the type of beetles which were congregating there. The santolina bushes did a good job of repelling all insect pests in that bed. I mean to take cuttings this year and plant santolina around my produce garden. I have been using marigolds in the produce garden, but they do not repell those squash borers.

Providing some shade for your produce plots is a good idea. The sun gets very hot here. No matter how often one waters, hot sun will stunt or kill many produce plants. Soaker hoses have to be placed on very flat ground to work well. If parts of the hose are in areas which are high or low the water does not flow properly.

Wind is a problem. Dehydrated plants die. I have planted bushes strategically to create wind breaks. Rows of bushes, or trees, create wind tunnel effect--not good. Staggered planting is a better way to go. Some folks use bales of hay to protect young plants from wind.

I planted an artichoke a couple of years ago. It has gone through many ups and downs, however, it has survived. It has not yet produced any fruit. I have blueberry bushes, which are hanging in there but not doing really well. Grapes do well around here. I have a couple of grape vines. A guy I know says he has had terrific success with yellow raspberries. I have planted red and yellow raspberry canes several times, but they have all died.

The rule of thumb for planting around here is not to plant before Cinco de Mayo (May 5th). There are late frosts here. It usually snows late in April. I figure one can plant seeds the last week of April. You could use cold frames, if you want to start seeds earlier.

You can order earth worms by mail. Your soil has to first be in good order. If the soil isn't full of nutrients, the worms cannot survive. I have a bunch of worms living in my compost bin. That shows me that I am doing a good job with my compost.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 10:26AM
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