Happy Autumn to you all. My name is Lynda Garvin, and I am the new interim county extension director and agriculture agent for Valencia County.
After serving seven years as the agriculture and horticulture agent in Sandoval County and managing the third-largest Master Gardener chapter in the state, I transferred and began my new position in Valencia County on Sept. 1.
I am originally from a suburb of Dayton, Ohio. I spent 15 years of my career traveling and working overseas, mostly on small-scale agriculture production, training extension agents and lead farmers, food security and nutrition linked to reviving local traditional foods and diets.
I am excited to work with you on your production and gardening needs. Together we continue to build resilient and viable livelihoods and community.
October is the month to celebrate the harvest and marvel at all the gifts the seeds, soil, sun and water have given us over the past nine months. While the county’s Farmers Market season is winding down, chile roasting and ristras are visible in parking lots and storefronts.
Pumpkins and apples are abundant, waiting to be transformed into pies, butter and endless other goodies. I love the fall. Summer’s end, the beautiful transition from fall to winter. Warm days as the sunlight, aspens and cottonwoods turn golden.
Now that temperatures are cooling and the summer harvest and landscape beds are winding down, you may be tempted to do your fall clean up, especially as trees begin to drop their leaves.
Before you do, please consider creating protected areas and food sources for birds, pollinators, other beneficial insects. Although you may be used to a pristine lawn and garden beds, resist your need for neatness. Your resident pollinators and birds will thank you.
Did you know honey and native bees pollinate about 75 percent of the fruits and vegetables grown in the United States? Isn’t that worth the effort to create some cozy winter habitat for them? New Mexico has more than 1,000 species of native bees, most of which hibernate underground. Many hibernate in the hollow stems of plants or leaf litter.
Ladybugs and lacewings, both ravenous aphid eaters, also spend the winter in the hollow stems of old flowers. Some butterflies overwinter as eggs or caterpillars buried deep in leaf litter, while others overwinter as a chrysalis hanging from dried plant stems.
If you planted milkweed and other native flowering plants to help the monarch butterflies, you are also providing needed habitat for many other beneficial insects.
Here are some key ways you can protect habitat and food sources for pollinators:
• Do not cut or remove dried stems of perennial plants in your garden until late spring.
• Do not till or cultivate garden beds. Remember those ground-nesting bees.
• Leave leaf litter on the ground, if that is too messy for you, rake leaves into your garden beds as mulch.
Yard and garden tips to help the birds:
• Leave seed heads of annual and perennial flowering plants. They provide much-needed food sources for birds. I know goldfinches love the seeds on my basil plants. Small but important, seeds from native plants provide a store of fuel and nutrients for birds all winter. Native grasses are also important seed sources for birds. Leave them be until spring.
• Leave the leaves. If you have a turf lawn, you can “mulch” the leaves in place by mowing over them. Not only will they provide free fertilizer for your grass. They provide places for birds and beneficial insects to forage.
• Skip the fall “weed and feed” fix for your lawn. Usually, native grasses, shrubs, trees and flowering plants do not need chemical inputs or fertilizer unless they are showing signs of a nutrient deficiency. The extension service can help you with that.
October is also a great time to plant spring bulbs. Crocus, snowdrops, species tulips, dwarf iris and Siberian squill are early bloomers. Next are grape hyacinths, tulips, daffodils, fritillaria and common hyacinths. Late spring to early summer bloomers include alliums, bearded iris and Dutch iris.
Careful planning leads to an outstanding bloom display from early March through early June. Mulch well to insulate the bulbs in winter and protect them from the early spring hot spells that are often followed by a killing frost.
Don’t miss the NMSU twice-monthly gardening series, “Ready, Set, Grow.” Check out the list of classes and registration information at nmsu.edu/desertblooms/ready-set-grow.html
For more information on native bees and beneficial insects, download the following NMSU pocket guides: