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Southwest Yard and Garden

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

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.

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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

swyg1These two branches from the same peach tree at the NMSU Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas on May 29, 2-18 had noticeably different peach sizes. Photo credit M. ThompsonQuestion: My peach tree branches are hanging lower as the peaches get bigger. Is it too late to thin the fruit?

-     Savannah M., Alamogordo, NM

img 4521Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent John Garlisch leads a “Summer Raised Bed Gardening” workshop in Albuquerque the first week of June. Photo credit M. Thompson.Questions: What time of day should I water my raised bed garden? Why is water pooling on the soil surface? When is the right time to pull garlic?

img 4496Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent John Garlisch leads a “Summer Raised Bed Gardening” workshop in Albuquerque the first week of June. Photo credit M. Thompson.Questions: Why do people build raised beds? Why not just plant directly in the soil? What’s the recommended height for a raised garden bed? Am I ruining everything by overcrowding my poor plants? What if my raised bed was ready, but I was too late to plant?

Question: I suspect that curly top virus caused half of my tomatoes to wilt and die last year before July, so this year I’ve covered each cage with shade cloth to keep the beet leafhopper out. If wrapping each plant keeps insects out, how do the flowers get pollinated?

- Mary T., Belen, NM

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