By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 5/17/20
The wildly popular Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) Lush and Lean Workshops are not happening in-person this spring, but here are some valuable Lush and Lean tips for sprucing up your garden from the local experts who would have been presenting.
Tips for Water Conservation
LCU Water Conservation Program Coordinator, Rhonda Diaz, reminds gardeners to choose native and water-wise plants that can thrive in our hot and thirsty desert.
Know your watering days: Even-numbered addresses can water on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; odd-numbered addresses on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; no watering on Mondays. Don’t water during the heat of the day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. – that’s when much of the water is lost to evaporation.
“Also, remember your bath water and dish water could be carried outside to water your garden,” said Diaz. And, if washing a vehicle? “Use a 5-gallon bucket and a hose shut-off valve,” said Diaz. “This is required by City ordinance to conserve water.”
Tips for Planting Trees and Shrubs
New Mexico State University Extension Urban Horticulture Specialist, Marisa Thompson, Ph.D, knows that planting water-wise native and adapted trees will create shade and visually enhance our empty outdoor spaces. To settle a tree into its new home, Thompson points out the good news, “No fertilizers or soil amendments are recommended. And you don’t need to dig a super deep hole either. The planting hole should be just deep enough so that the topmost root is barely hidden there at the surface after the root zone has been fully saturated with water and the soil has completely settled. Trees that are planted even a half inch too deep can seriously struggle and many die.
“We think of roots as needing to grow really deep, but the truth is the roots need to be growing out laterally. The roots of healthy trees may grow outward 2-4 times the height of the tree, but the vast majority of active, water-absorbing roots are all in the top 2-3 feet of the soil profile.
“In order to encourage new roots to spread out, your planting hole should be at least twice as wide as the rootball. A 4-inch thick layer of fibrous, woody mulch on top of the soil will be very beneficial, but not piled up on the trunk. Mulch not only conserves water in the soil, but also slows the growth of weeds and controls dust.”
Las Cruces Utilities can be reached at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
Photo 1: The white blooms of a Cereus cactus and backed up by yellow Gaillardia, or Blanket Flower. Both thrive in our sandy desert soil, needing little water. For more water-wise suggestions check the LCU Demonstration Garden Guide - free to download at https://las-cruces.org/1916/Demonstration-Garden (Photo by joni newcomer)