Writer: Kevin Robinson-Avila
ALBUQUERQUE - Drought is convincing many homeowners and landscapers in New Mexico to ditch water-guzzling lawns and plants, but gardeners are often confused about what to grow instead.
For inspiration, they can visit water-wise demonstration gardens that New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service has started in urban areas across the state.
"Many of our residents are gardeners who know how to garden in wetter states where they came from but not in our dry climate," said Tina Forgrave, a Sandoval County master gardener who helped establish the Rio Rancho Water-Wise Demonstration Garden. "They need someplace to go that's right next door to see what water-wise plants look like and to consider planting them in their own gardens."
The Rio Rancho garden, now in its fourth growing season, shows about 80 different water-wise species, including trees, shrubs and native grasses. Master gardeners worked with the city to plant and maintain the 24,000-square-foot garden, located next to the city library.
The Los Alamos County Extension office has a 1.5-acre demonstration garden on the north side of town. About 50 master gardeners volunteer 500 to 700 hours per year to maintain the garden, said Carlos Valdez, county Extension agent. The garden includes dozens of plant and tree species chosen for their adaptability and low water use.
Researchers at NMSU's Agricultural Science Center at Farmington planted a xeric demonstration garden in 2002 with about 90 native species and nearly 500 plants, said Dan Smeal, an agricultural and irrigation specialist at the center.
"It's the first such model xeric garden in the Four Corners area," Smeal said.
Two herb demonstration gardens at the county Extension offices in Santa Fe and Taos show how to conserve water with drip systems and mulch. Extension is also working with the city of Santa Fe to grow a demonstration tree plot with drought- and pest-resistant species next to the Marty Sanchez Golf Course in northwest Santa Fe.
"It will show moderate- to fast-growing native and nonnative species to encourage residents to plant them around their homes and businesses," said agricultural agent Pat Torres.
And in downtown Alamogordo, the Otero County Extension office is planting an 8,000-square-foot xeric demonstration garden with an area for residents to grow vegetables.
For more information about Extension demonstration gardens, call Rudy Benavidez in Sandoval County at (505) 867-2582, Carlos Valdez in Los Alamos at (505) 662-2656, Dan Smeal in Farmington at (505) 327-7757, Pat Torres in Santa Fe at (505) 471-4711, Rey Torres in Taos at (505) 758-3982 or Phil Wright in Otero County at (505) 437-6134.
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