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NMSU establishes demonstration garden at science center in Los Lunas

LOS LUNAS – Gardening is a hobby that can provide enjoyment while producing fresh fruits and vegetables for a family’s meal. But it can be a challenge for beginners or new residents to the semi-arid environment of New Mexico.


Group of women standing around corn stalk
New Mexico State University staff and Valencia County Master Gardener volunteers have established a demonstration garden at the NMSU Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas to provide education on raising native plants and vegetables while implementing integrated pest management practices. Pictured in the garden are, from left, Adrienne David, Sally Cassady, Kelly White, Miranda Kersten, Jolene Wuff and Ashley Bennett. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

To show people what they can do in a backyard garden, a demonstration garden has been established at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas.

As a new resident of Valencia County, gardener Adrienne David soon learned it can be difficult to grow things in New Mexico. After joining the Master Gardener program, she volunteered to work at the demonstration garden to help her learn tricks for her personal garden to thrive.

“This is a learning experience for me,” David said. “I can get out here and be hands-on, and really learn a lot of things, like how to help retain moisture by using paper and cardboard when mulching around the plants.”

Master Gardener volunteers are one of the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences programs collaborating in the project. The other two are Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition and integrated pest management education.

Sally Cassady, food system specialist with the ICAN program, said the garden will help New Mexicans learn to garden as a way to supplement their diets with fresh vegetables and fruits.

“Many people don’t know they are able to grow food in a limited area,” she said. “The vegetable plot here will show them the type of produce they can grow. Hopefully they will become inspired and start a garden.”

The demonstration garden is one component of a three-year grant NMSU received for delivery of integrated pest management education and outreach to New Mexico communities.

“We have 28 different native New Mexico plant species and four different native grasses established in the garden,” said Ashley Bennett, NMSU’s urban integrated pest management specialist stationed at Los Lunas.

One of the purposes of the garden is to promote growing plants that support pollinator insects such as bees.

“Hopefully, once the garden is established we will collect insect data,” said Bennett. “From that data we will be able to provide the community with recommendations on which plant species support bee activity, and attract parasitoids and predators so the home gardener may grow plants that provide natural pest suppression.”

Kelly White, NMSU’s Master Gardener program manager, is wanting to get more people involved in the garden next year.

“We are talking to a teacher at School of Dreams Academy, a Los Lunas charter school, about ways her students can help us in the garden,” White said. “This environment will complement their science curriculum.”

Members of the Belen High School FFA are also helping with building the demonstration garden.

To participate in this community garden project contact Miranda Kersten at 505-865-7340.

The demonstration garden is funded with grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, General Mills Foundation and Bayer’s Feed a Bee program, as well as a Lowe’s hardware store donation of seeds.