Writer: Kevin Robinson-Avila
ALBUQUERQUE - Nearly 100 varieties of native plants and drought-tolerant grasses will be on display during a free tour May 7 of the xeric demonstration garden at New Mexico State University's Agricultural Science Center at Farmington.
Researchers planted the garden in 2003 to measure water requirements for native plant species and to provide a permanent demonstration plot where people can learn about xeric landscaping, said Dan Smeal, an agriculture and irrigation specialist at the center.
"It's a colorful garden that shows homeowners how to plant attractive landscapes that require very little water," Smeal said. "Tour participants can view dozens of native plants that grow well in our alkaline soils and semiarid climate."
Slightly smaller than a football field, the garden contains 96 species that range from colorful red yucca and western sand cherry to penstemons, junipers, pine, sage and mahogany.
The garden, which includes gravel pathways and a pleasing layout to inspire gardeners, demonstrates water conservation techniques such as drip irrigation and mulching, Smeal said. It has four sections with identical plants and different irrigation treatments, including one section that receives only natural rainfall. Smeal will compile results into irrigation recommendations for posting in a new NMSU database of xeric plants, and for a 2006 photo publication about the xeric garden.
Initial results show that even with no irrigation, most native plants will survive, Smeal said.
"Most plants in the no-irrigation section survived last year, although they grew slowly or not at all," he said. "We obtained the best results when applying only 75 gallons of water per plant during the growing season. That's equivalent to just one-sixth the water required even for drought-tolerant turf."
Smeal will present research results during the tour. In addition to the xeric garden, he will show turf plots used to test water requirements of native and nonnative grasses. Research assistants Zach Williams and Margaret West will also discuss the seven principles of Xeriscape: planning and design, efficient irrigation systems, mulch, soil preparation, appropriate turf, xeric plants and maintenance.
Participants will receive garden brochures and information about Xeriscaping. The tour takes place from 9 a.m. to noon at the center, located at 300 Navajo Rd.
For more information, or if you are an individual with a disability in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, call Smeal at (505) 327-7757.
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