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Garden Tips

Watering tips

The soil in Albuquerque varies from granite in the Northeast Heights, heavy clay soil that developed over time in the river valley, and to sand on the West Side. Each of these soils requires attention when watering.

  1. For plants installed during the main growing season (mid-April through the end of October):
    • In general in the North East Heights, turn on the drip irrigation for 20 minutes a day until fall. On the West Side in the sand, you may have to split up watering to am and pm due to water draining so fast! In the valley in areas that do not drain well, your plants may require less water.
    • To prepare for winter, start weaning plants off of water, decreasing frequency until you are watering only two to three times a month during December, January and February (on the warmest part of the day when it is above freezing).
  2. Plants installed in late fall or early spring November, or March to mid-April:
    • Turn drippers on for 20 minutes every other day until season change.
    • Watch weather conditions for plants installed March through mid April. If our summer heat goes to 95 degrees or above for an extended period of time, increase watering to every day. Your plants generally will tell you when they are thirsty! Like you, they will wilt in the extreme heat. You just need to get them past the high heat, then you can reduce back to every other day once the temperatures moderate.
  3. Lawn Watering
    • When the lawn first goes in it needs to remain very moist (not deep soaked) until it roots. You don’t need to waste water “deep soaking” yet because we don’t have any roots down deep yet. Pick up a piece of sod just before the next watering cycle and if it is still wet then that is all we need at this point. During warm months the grass will begin to root within about a week or two. Look at the bottom of the grass and you will see little white roots to confirm that this is happening. During colder months this will take a few weeks longer. Just keep watering and it and it will root.
    • Once you can no longer easily pull up a piece of grass it is rooted. And you can start the long process of getting the roots to go deep into the ground and finally develop a little drought tolerance. If you continue to water a little everyday then the roots stay close to the surface and will never develop the deep roots that are necessary for drought tolerance. Then start a little game with yourself. Instead of seeing how green you can make your lawn by over watering try to see how little water you can use and get similar results. This is achieved by less frequency but deeper watering.
    • New Grass Plantings 3 times a day for 15 to 20 minutes till rooted. Then 1 time per day for 15 to 20 minutes thru first growing season. If sod is installed in summer heat, or just before it gets really hot, be prepared to water 2 times a day, evaluating if you just need an additional 5 minutes in the evening or if you just split the current amount of time in half.  Water once in the early morning and the second late afternoon to early evening. Do not water at night as this increases the chances of powdery mildew in the lawn.
  4. Additionally:
    • Lawn grasses, annuals, hanging baskets, root bound plants, plants in pots and plants purchased in 4″ pots or smaller, need to be watered daily if planted in the heat of summer.
    • Extreme xeriscape plants will need about half as much water to get established but will always do better with occasional deep watering even after established. If it rained ¼ inch or less, water anyway! Looking at the soil’s surface will tell you nothing, you have to get your finger dirty!

Insect, virus or fungal damage

  • Look for chew marks, grainy looking leaves, twisted leaves, sap dripping from bark, powdery deposits on leaves, or sticky substance on leaves.
  • Take a light colored piece of paper and hold it under a branch-tap it briskly with a pencil-wait a moment and look at the paper for insects the size of a grain of sand.
    • If they move they are alive. If they don't it is just dirt or it could be eggs.
    • Small reddish specks that move are Red Spider Mites.
    • Cigar shaped specks that have antenna are Thrips.
    • If it is a sticky substance all over the leaves, it is often aphids. If you also have ants, they are attracted to this sticky substance excreted by aphids.
  • If you are not sure what you have then bring it into the nursery and we will be glad to help with the ID. Most insects (not all) that you find in the garden will be killed by horticultural soap, oils or Neem products (and these are very user friendly). Please be sure to read the directions.

Yellow leaves on plants

  1. Yellowing of leaves can be caused by over-watering, especially in sandy soils, resulting in a loss of nutrients. How do we tell what nutrient deficiencies are causing the discoloration?
  2. If the veins of the leaf are green but the leaf itself is turning yellow–add iron.
  3. If the whole leaf is turning yellow (especially the older leaves) — add nitrogen.
  4. Over watering symptoms look the same as under watering symptoms. Usually it starts with the edge of the leaf dying more or less evenly (marginal necrosis), then the leaf turning yellow and falling off. In the case of most plants in our environment, more is not necessarily better! Be careful not to over water!


  1. There are three numbers on the fertilizer bag:
    • The first number is the most important partially because it is the most leachable from the soil is Nitrogen; Nitrogen makes for green color and growth.
    • The second number is Phosphorus; Phosphorus promotes blooming.
    • The third number Potassium; Potassium helps in the root and stem development.
    • Other than that there are an additional 13 elements needed for a healthy plant.  A good balanced fertilizer has many if not all of them.
  2. Rose fertilizer, lawn fertilizer and indoor plants.
    • Rose fertilizer will have more Phosphorus to promote bloom
    • Lawn fertilizer does not need as much Phosphorus because lawn grasses don’t really bloom so lawn foods have Nitrogen to make your grass green.
    • Indoor plants need water soluble fertilizer so the salts don’t build up in the soils.
  3. DO NOT USE WEED-N-FEED FERTILIZERS. The part of this product that helps your  lawn can migrate to shrubs and trees in close proximity to lawn and either damage them or kill them.

For information on Albuquerque water rebate program: Albuquerque Bernalillo Country Water Utility Authority Logo

Visit www.abcwua.org for more information on this program.