Summer Faqs 


36. (June) Can I plant grass seed now? What kind?

June is an appropriate time to seed warm-season grasses in Albuquerque. Cool-season grasses are better sown in the late summer/fall. Refer to the following table (excerpted from for the correct timing for different grass species.

Grass Seeding time

Bermudagrass May 15 - Aug 1
Blue grama May 15 - Aug 1
Buffalograss May 15 - Aug 1
Zoysiagrass May 15 - Aug 1

Fine fescue Aug 15 - Sept 15
Kentucky bluegrass Aug 15 - Sept 15
Perennial ryegrass Aug 15 - Sept 15
Tall fescue Aug 15 - Sept 15

37. (June) How do I choose a turfgrass and establish it?

So, you’re starting a new lawn. You need to decide what kind of grass you want, then prepare the soil properly, be sure to irrigate well enough to establish it, then try not to “over love” it with fertilizer.

Here’s a nice publication on turfgrasses for our area.

You have 2 choices, cool-season or warm-season. Cool season grass greens up early and stays green longer, this is what is in the parks all around Albuquerque. The downside is, these grasses take more water than the warm-season kind. The warm-season grasses stay brown longer, but they require less water. The only warm-season grass that can take a lot of traffic (dogs and kids) is bermudagrass. However, this is a very invasive grass. You’ll be fighting to keep it out of your planting beds. Once you go bermuda, you CAN’T go back!! The grasses in the publication that are not recommended for home lawns in the Albuquerque area are bentgrass, St. Augustine, and fine fescue is only good in shady locations.

Once you pick your grass, read this publication and follow the recommended soil prep, seeding or sodding dates, fertilization, and watering guidelines:

If you have trees and shrubs growing in or near your lawn, be careful not to rototill through their roots! If this is the situation, you’ll have to “fluff up” the soil amongst the roots by hand to avoid detrimentally damaging your trees and shrubs. There is a critical root zone for trees. If you measure the diameter (in inches) of a tree at breast height and multiply this number by 1.25 and express the results in feet (don’t convert anything, just read the result in feet), this is the critical root zone. For example, your tree is 10 inches in diameter at breast height, multiply by 1.25 which equals 12.5. So, try not to rototill within 12.5 feet of the tree trunk. In many cases, this can be the entire yard!

38. (June) My lilac bush has powdery spots on its leaves. What is it? Can I get rid of it?

This is powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is not a fatal condition; it’s more of a nuisance. If you would like to try to improve the condition, follow these recommended cultural practices (excerpted from However, do not expect to eradicate the disease. Something not mentioned in the following list is to avoid sprinkler irrigating shrubs. Instead, water them at the ground level. This will help reduce canopy humidity. Also, irrigating in the morning as opposed to the evening may help.

• Prune out infected plant parts if possible.
• Remove fallen leaves (reduce overwintering inoculum).
• Destroy all infected plant material.
• Increase air flow around plants and prune or thin plants in
overcrowded areas thereby reducing humidity in the plant
• Selectively prune other trees and shrubs to reduce shade.
• Maintain appropriate fertilizer levels.
• Avoid excessive nitrogen applications.
• Provide adequate water.
• Where mildew has been a persistent problem, replant using tolerant cultivars.
• Contact and systemic fungicides are available for most plants. However, proper timing of applications and thorough coverage of all above ground plant parts is critical for control.

39. (June) What can be used on top of the soil in a raised bed?

Applying mulch to the soil in a raised bed garden (or a non-raised bed for that matter) is a great idea. Mulch insulates the soil and helps reduce water evaporation from the soil. Many different materials can be used as mulch. Please see the following publication for a detailed discussion on mulch: I prefer to use organic mulches such as compost, wood chips, pecan shells, leaves, shredded bark, etc. Organic mulches (as opposed to mineral or synthetic such as rock or rubber respectively) decompose over time and add nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

40. (June) The top third of my desert willow has dead twigs. The rest is healthy. We’re in the process of xeriscaping our yard.

The dead branches have many potential causes. More information is needed to answer this question. It could be water and/or heat stress. Is the tree adequately watered (deep soakings at the dripline of the tree)? Is the tree over-watered, especially at the root crown (the base of the trunk)? Both prolonged inadequate watering or overwatering at the root crown can cause dieback of branches. The recent change to the landscaping is a potential cause. However, branches do not die over night. If the landscape was very recently altered, this is probably not the cause. If recent landscape work has severed roots, the only thing to be done is water the tree well at the point in which the roots were severed and hope it rebounds. If the tree is not being adequately watered, water it. Finally, there may be some circling and girdling roots that are causing the branch dieback. Try giving the tree a firm shove and if it moved easily, then the root system is not well established and the homeowner should not expect a long life out of the tree.

41. (June) Something is eating my petunia and geranium blooms. What can I do?

This sounds like the tobacco budworm, which feeds on the buds and petals of both geranium and petunia.
Monitor for budworm to detect an infestation early. Check buds and flowers for small holes. If the caterpillar (small greenish-yellow caterpillar) is found, the most practical control is hand picking. Tobacco budworm larvae are most active during dusk so scout for the caterpillars and pick them off at this time. During daylight, they tend to hide around the base of the plant.
The tobacco budworm is a difficult insect to control with insecticides. Synthetic pyrethrins (but not the natural pyrethrins) can provide good control. Spinosad should also be effective. Bt can be used but will have limited effectiveness on geraniums where the caterpillar drills into flower buds and will not readily ingest the Bt. Bt will likely be more effective on petunia.
If potted geraniums are kept between seasons, remove the soil to eliminate pupae and repot the plants before overwintering.

42. (June) The Piñon pines in my neighbor’s yard have mistletoe. Mine are fine. How can I keep it from spreading to mine?

Piñon trees are commonly infested with dwarf mistletoe. This type of mistletoe spreads its seeds via explosive berries. If your neighbor’s trees are more than 15 ft away from your tree, it is unlikely that the seeds will actually be spread to your tree. If the trees are closer than that, simply focus on keeping your piñon healthy and vigorous by providing it with adequate water. Monitor the branches periodically for the mistletoe. It you notice a new mistletoe plant and it is at least 6 inches away from the main trunk of the tree, prune it out. If it is too close to the trunk, just break off the plant before it produces seed to reduce the chances of it spreading further in your tree. If the infestation moves to your trees, just remember, trees infested with mistletoe can have long and healthy lives. There is no chemical treatment to rid the tree of mistletoe.

43. (June) What do I need to do to keep squash bugs off my summer squash and cucumber plants?

According to Dr. Sutherland (NMSU Entomologist), squash bugs are very difficult to control. Manual removal is the most effective manner for homeowners to manage this common garden pest. Most insecticides available to homeowners (organic or otherwise) have limited effectiveness when used to treat the insect in the adult stage. They are most effective within a few days after the eggs hatch. She suggests that you take a hint from their name and "squash" the squash bugs. Be sure to inspect the underside of the leaves for bugs and clusters of reddish-brown eggs. She suggests that you hand pick (or scrape) the bugs and their eggs from the plant into a bucket of soapy water. In some cases, a severely infested leaf may be completely removed and many of the pests killed in the process.

44. (July) I had a tree cut down. How can I keep sprouts from coming up around the stump, preferably without chemicals?

Certain tree species (i.e. Siberian elm, tree of heaven) sprout profusely from cut stumps. If you could turn back time just a little bit, the most effective remedy to prevent resprouting is to paint Glyphosate (Ex: RoundUp) on the freshly cut stump (within minutes of cutting it) in the late spring or early fall (fall application is generally recommended). When applying Glyphosate in this manner, there is little chance of accidental exposure on neighboring plants and the area in which chemical is applied is very small. I am definitely a proponent of using chemicals only when necessary. This is a situation where chemicals may really help you out.

I suppose in this situation, you could create a freshly cut stump if the stump is tall enough, then apply the Glyphosate to the newly cut stump. If this is not possible, just repeatedly cut off the resprouts before they are about 8 inches. This will eventually deplete the stored food in the stump and roots. You could even try painting some Glyphosate on the freshly cut sprouts to hasten the process.

45. (July) I am growing potatoes from seed potatoes. How do I know when the potatoes are ready to dig? Do they need fertilizer? What kind?

The following information was excerpted from starting on pg 12.
Plant potatoes by cutting tubers into sections averaging 1 ½ to 2 inches, each containing at least one good eye or bud. When cutting tubers for planting, let the sections dry out in the shade for a day or two so that the cut surfaces of the sections or "seed pieces" develop cork or scar tissue. This reduces the chances of tuber rot after planting.
Plant potatoes in a trench 6 to 8 inches deep, spacing the seed pieces 12 inches apart. The soil beneath the trench should be well-conditioned with compost. Cover seed pieces with 1to 2 inches of soil and compost, then irrigate. As foliage develops and plants reach 5 to 6 inches tall, backfill the trench with a mixture of soil and compost throughout the first part of the summer, hilling up the soil around the developing foliage. Keep at least three quarters of the foliage above the soil line. Mulching the bed with straw keeps tubers cool. Tubers form on many stems rising above the seed piece and they must be kept cool. Seed pieces placed too close to the soil surface during hot weather form too much foliage and no tubers. Over-stimulation with nitrogen fertilizer can cause the same problem.
Potatoes can be harvested as new potatoes when the tubers reach a desired size. Skin on new potatoes slips easily from the tubers. Immediately use new potatoes because they have a short storage life.
As potato plants mature, growth slows and tops turn yellow and begin to fall over. Skin on the tubers becomes thicker, tougher, and more firmly attached. Dig potatoes carefully with a spading fork or shovel.

46. (July) The junipers along the median strip have dead brown patches scattered through them. What is the matter? How do I fix it?

Dead patches in junipers could be due to overzealous pruning, lack of adequate water, a foliar fungal infection from Phomopsis (which will only infect a stressed plant), or perhaps some bad drivers?? Unfortunately, unless you have some control over how the junipers are managed in the median, your hands are tied. If you do have some control, please check that the plants are receiving some irrigation every now and then. Check that they are not surrounded by rock with black plastic underneath. If so, and you have the power to change these deficiencies, please do!


47. (July) My mulberry tree has brown to black wet spots running down the trunks from where some branches were cut off. Some of it was there last year, but more of it now. Is this a problem?

This condition is not dangerous for your tree and, in fact, it is very common.Your mulberry tree has slime flux or bacterial wetwood. This is a bacterial infection that raises the gas pressure of the tree and causes bacteria to ooze out. The ooze may be slimy or frothy and may be smelly. The bacteria enter a tree through a wound. Pruning cuts are a common entry point. Once the bacteria infect the main trunk, there is nothing that can be done. If the infection is only on a lateral branch, the branch may be pruned out. There is no cure for the disease. Just keep the tree watered and well cared for and you should enjoy many more years of mulberry shade in your yard. Please see the following publication for more information on slime flux:

48. (July)There are perfectly round cuts in my rose leaves at the edges. It looks as if someone took a cookie cutter to them. What is the problem?

The cookie-cutter shaped holes on your rose leaves are due to leafcutter bees. Leafcutter bees are important native insects. They use leaf fragments to construct their nest cells. The leaf damage they cause is negligible. They are efficient pollinators. Consider yourself lucky to have these bees visiting your yard!

49. (July) I’m looking for a low-water and “tough” lawn. There won’t be much traffic on it. What should I plant?

If the site is sunny, does not receive much traffic, and a rather uneven “prairie” look is acceptable, I would recommend a blue grama or buffalograss. These are warm-season grasses and the best time to seed them is between May 15th and August 1st. Please read the following publication for a detailed explanation of grasses suited to NM (

50. (July) “Bugs” are eating my chard. What should I do?

These sound like flea beetles. They are small, shiny beetles that produce characteristic “shot hole” damage to leaves. These pests overwinter as adults in debris. Cleaning up extra debris at the end of the season may help reduce flea beetle numbers the following season. Management and prevention options include placing row covers over your crops, employing good sanitation, and as a last resort, spinosad, permethrin, or pyrethrin insectides. You may find this Colorado State publication on flea beetles useful,

51. (July) My tomatoes are taking a long time to ripen. What am I doing wrong?

The optimum temperature range for ripening mature green tomatoes is 68 to 77 degrees F. If temperatures become too hot, ripening will slow down. When temperatures remain too hot for a long period of time, ripening will cease. Wait for the weather to cool down and the tomatoes should continue to ripen as expected.

52. (July) My Yucca has a rotted main stem, and wet-looking inside. The leaves pull off easily. What to do?

This is probably the yucca weevil. This insect bores into the yucca trunk and invites bacterial infection. The leaves begin to turn yellow and die, and a putrid smell emanates from the infected trunk. Eventually, the plant falls over and dies. The recommended treatment is to remove any yuccas that are infected. Do not leave them near any remaining uninfected yucca or agave plants. Treat the soil with insecticide labeled for control of grubs (beetle larvae). Do not replant the area with new yucca plants for 2 years to be certain that the larvae, pupae, and adults are not remaining in the soil. Before removing your yucca plants, confirm that yucca weevil is the problem by contacting the Extension Office.

53. (July) I have caterpillars growing on my tomatoes and they are eating the foliage. How can I get rid of them?

You have the dreaded (and common) tomato hornworm. The adult form of this caterpillar is the very large hawk moth. The best way to control tomato hornworms is to scout for them often and hand pick them off of your plant. Plunk them in a bucket of soapy water to finish the job. Because the caterpillars blend in so well, look for small raspberry-like poop sitting on top of leaves to clue you into the fact that the caterpillars are present!


54. (July) My tomato plants have big yellow spots on the leaves. I water every other day. Should I fertilize them?

The big yellow spots on your tomato are probably not due to a lack of soil fertility. My first thought is that your plants are probably infected with one of the wilt diseases (Verticillium or Fusarium). These are soil-borne fungal pathogens that are favored by wet soils. You should bring in a sample to the County Extension Agent for plant pathology analysis. Once the disease is confirmed, destroy any remaining plants that are infected. Do not plant tomatoes in the same location if your garden for about 4 years or try solarizing the infected location with a clear plastic for one season. In the future, be sure to supply adequate water to tomatoes, but do not over-water them. Before you irrigate, dig into the soil with your fingers to feel the soil moisture. If the soil feels moist just 1 or 2 inched below the soil surface and your plants are not wilted, try waiting at least another day or two before irrigating again.

55. (July) I have this weed. I think it is lamb’s quarter. Can I eat it? How to fix it?

If your weed is indeed lamb’s quarter, it may be eaten. Please verify the identification of the plant before consuming it. Bring one of the plants to the Extension Office for proper identification. Once you verify the identification, lamb’s quarter leaves may be used like spinach. The tender young leaves are the best. Steam the leaves, add them to a salad, or put them in a soup or a quiche. Do not use the plant for edible purposes if it was grown in a heavily fertilized field (it may contain harmful levels of nitrates) or in a field in which herbicides were sprayed. Also, according to a University of Vermont publication, people with arthritis, gastric inflammations, hepatic conditions, gout, rheumatism, or prone to kidney stones should use caution with lamb’s quarter and other similar plants containing oxalates.

56. (July) I have brown spots in my lawn. Could it be due to grubs? How to kill them?

Brown spots in a lawn could be due to grubs. Grubs are the larvae of June beetles. They look like large C-shapes “worms” with brown heads and six legs. Grubs eat the roots of grass, causing the grass to die. With the roots removed, the grass can often be lifted from the soil like a rug. The presence of the grubs at the edge of the brown spots, where the living and dead grass meets, is a clue that grubs are responsible for the brown spots.

After determining that grubs are responsible for the brown spots, treatment is warranted. Timing is important. The June beetles mate and lay eggs between May and July. The grubs hatch and feed voraciously on grass roots. This is when the most damage to your grass occurs and the best time to treat. Use a grub control with the active ingredient Imidacloprid in July. The grass absorbs the Imidacloprid and becomes a poisonous treat for the feeding grubs. Spring treatment of grubs is not recommended because the grubs are about to mature into adults. At this time they are not feeding much, therefore not causing much damage. More importantly, they won’t ingest much of the poisoned grass roots making treatment ineffective.

57. (July) My tomatoes are splitting their skins, “like they’re getting too big for their skins.” What is the matter?

The tomatoes are getting too big for their skins! Splitting is caused by fluctuations in soil moisture. If tomato plants with maturing fruits are suddenly heavily watered (perhaps by monsoonal rains), the plants absorb water, the fruits expand internally, the tomato skin cannot expand very much, so it splits. Try to keep tomatoes evenly watered to prevent splitting. Some varieties are more resistant to splitting, but they may have tougher skins.

58. (Aug.) How to harvest Spaghetti squash?

The rind should be firm and glossy and resist denting with a fingernail. The fruit turns color from a creamy white to a golden yellow. Harvest before a heavy frost.

59. (Aug) What can I plant in my vegetable garden now?

Now is the perfect time to start cool season vegetables. Some examples are: carrots, lettuce (leaf and head), onions, turnips, spinach, and kohlrabi. NMSU has a couple of useful publications to help you decide when to plant what. See the following links.

60. (Aug.) Elm and cottonwood trees have new sprouts coming up from roots. How can I kill them?

Unfortunately, if you desire to keep the tree, there is no way to permanently kill the root sprouts. If you were to apply an herbicide to the sprouts, you run the risk of damaging the tree. If the sprouts are coming up in a lawn, just mow them and don’t worry about them. If the sprouts are coming up in an area other that your lawn, simply cut the sprouts off. Continue to do this as needed.

61. (Aug.) I was given a dish garden of cactus as a gift a couple of months ago, but now the plants are looking awful. They have white stuff on the “branches” and joints. I tried to wipe it off, but it turned red when I did. What is it?

This sounds like cochineal scale. They are sap-sucking insects with a fluffy waxy outer coating. Insecticidal soap or neem oil may provide some control. But, these products will not penetrate the waxy coating easily. A pretreatment with a strong stream of water or dabbing the scale with alcohol will damage the waxy coating. Follow up with neem or insecticidal soap.

62. (Aug.) My 30 year-old tree in the front yard next to my neighbor has been losing its leaves. The part on our side of the wall is green. It gets watered every time we water our lawn, which is on the other side of the tree. But my neighbor took his lawn and weeds out by the wall and has gravel in it now. Why is part of it dying? It was fine last year.

Tree roots grow shallow and they are far-reaching. They grow only where the soil is moist and loose. Roots do not know property boundaries. If your neighbor has had a nice, well-watered lawn through the years, it is very likely that some of your tree roots have been inhabiting this space for many years. Your neighbor has been helping to water your tree. When he removed his lawn and stopped watering those roots, the tree suffered. Perhaps you can talk with your neighbor and gain permission to water your tree roots once a month or so?