Demonstration garden ready for summer

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By Special to the Monitor

Spring is creeping into the Demonstration Garden and the NMSU Master Gardeners are busy. The unusual rainfall has benefited the emerging plants and made the ground easier to work. Last year’s newest plot, the Oasis garden, is in bloom and this year’s new Perennial Herb bed is taking shape.

The Oasis garden was begun as a demonstration of what can be done in an area that can receive extra water.

As its name implies, the Oasis garden highlights plants needing more moisture. If irrigation is provided, the plants demonstrated they can do well in the local climate. Late in the winter, blooming tulip bulbs provided a tasty snack for local deer.  

More recently, Snow-in-Summer, red Oriental Poppies and Golden Garlic have made an appearance. Large buds on the peonies have people looking forward to the frilly flowers about to open. Knock-out-roses will bloom this summer.

Planning for a new perennial herb garden was started in late winter. An undeveloped area on Oppenheimer Drive next to the raspberry bed was chosen for this project.

Work began in March by hand pulling the cheat grass that was pervasive in this area. Cheat grass is a shallowly rooted annual grass with a drooping, red hued seed head.

Rather than spraying with a herbicide, cheat grass can be controlled by easily pulling it before the seeds ripen and spread.  Next, the space was measured and a scaled drawing prepared showing the beds, paths and plants planned for this garden. By May, the garden was ready to break ground.

Composted manure was tilled into the ground on a Saturday workday and a week later the beds and paths were laid out.

Landscape stones leftover from a previous project are being recycled to edge the downhill side of the beds to prevent erosion. Watch the progress in the weeks to come as the irrigation is installed, mulch is put on the paths and planting begins.  

The Master Gardeners celebrated the graduation of the 2009 Master Gardener class with a potluck supper at the May meeting.

The graduates’ help was welcome in the Demonstration Garden as they complete their volunteer hours this year.

In addition to the two newest beds, the Demonstration Garden has annual herb, ornamental grass, perennial, artemisia and several other beds that benefit as volunteers work in areas of their special interests.

Stop by any time to chat with a fellow gardener and share knowledge of what works and what doesn’t when gardening in northern New Mexico.

For information about the Master Gardener Program or for answers to any gardening related questions, contact the Los Alamos County Cooperative Extension service at 662-2656 or valdez@nmsu.edu.

The mission is to educate Los Alamos residents about knowledgeable, effective and safe horticultural practices that build healthy gardens and communities.