Southwest Yard and Garden

This column comes through the Grant County Extension Service out of New Mexico State University.

by Marisa Thompson, with guest contributor, Dr. Amanda Skidmore, NMSU Extension Integrated Pest Management Specialist for Urban and Small Farms

Question: I've always been told that squash bugs shouldn't be squashed, but should be placed in a covered jar or container because, when squashed, they emit a pheromone-binding protein that the other squash bugs can sense from distances and will be attracted to their brothers in my yard. Is this fact or fiction?

-Carol B., Los Lunas

Question: Back in April, I had questions about what turned out to be aphids on my peach trees. Now my melon plants are covered in squash bugs. Is there anything I can do to control them this late in the season?

Lorraine J., Los Lunas

Answer: I wish I had better news for gardeners with the squash bug blues. Squash bugs are difficult to control, and even more so as the bugs mature because insecticides are a much less effective tool. 

Some people delay planting squash until July to avoid the squash bug, but this tactic is not foolproof. As many gardeners have reported this year, delayed planting seems to work some years, but not reliably. 

Guest columnist this week: Alissa Freeman - Senior Program Specialist and Director of the pollinator-friendly NMSU Learning Garden at the NMSU Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas.

Question: I recently attended a native plant seed-saving workshop and collected a few different native plant species. How do I grow these seeds?  

Emilio B., Belen, NM

Answer: Not only are native plants a beautiful addition to any landscape but they also require less water, are adapted to our climate, and are a vital resource for native bees and other pollinators. Many native plants are available commercially, but it can be a fun and rewarding experience to try growing native plants at home. The first step is collecting seeds—go on hikes, walk around the bosque, and find your favorite areas that have plants of interest. When collecting seeds, make sure they are dry and ready to harvest and only collect a small percentage of available seed to keep the plant population healthy. Following seed collection, clean the seeds by peeling away excess plant material. Be sure to dry seeds out before storing in a cool, dry location to prevent molding.  

822swygRose leaves with symptoms of salt burn. Photo credits L. Peters.

Question: Can you tell what seems to be plaguing the various rosebushes in my backyard?

– L. Peters, Sandoval County, NM

Guest columnist this week: Alissa Freeman - Senior Program Specialist and Director of the pollinator-friendly NMSU Learning Garden at the NMSU Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas.


Question: I’ve heard that homegrown tomatoes shouldn’t be stored in the refrigerator because they’ll lose their flavor. How does that work?

Sarah M., Las Cruces

Answer: The short answer is that volatile organic chemicals (aka volatiles) in tomato fruits are responsible for providing complex flavors—beyond plain old sweet and tangy tastes—and many of these volatiles are released when chilled to around 55°F or lower, thereby creating a noticeable loss in flavor. That’s why we’re told to keep tomatoes out in the open instead of in the crisper. The long answer winds up being a rich story of customer relations, plant breeding, plant physiology, chemistry, marketing, classical music, disappointment, and hope. 

Question: I’m adding plants to my home landscape, and I’d like to make it a bird-friendly habitat. What are some bird-friendly plants?

- Yours Truly (Marisa Thompson), Los Lunas

rust on hollyhock eileen r. las cruces 7 11 19Undersides of these hollyhock leaves are covered with rust pustules. Photo credits Eileen R.Question: What’s causing this rash of dark brown fuzzy spots on the undersides of my hollyhock leaves, and is it killing my plants?

- Eileen R., Las Cruces