Fall is the Best Time to Plant

Fall Is Best for Planting in New Mexico

by Mike Dooley

Fall is here and every writer in New Mexico is waxing sentimental about the smell of roasting chile. I also ponder chile as fall arrives, but another issue comes to my mind: fall planting.

In most other parts of the country, spring is king. Flowers emerge from their winter dormancy and love is in the air. In the high deserts of New Mexico, spring means dust is in the air and “the air” often moves at 40 to 50 mph. Seemingly undaunted gardeners head to the local nursery to buy plants that sit on the back porch waiting for the wind to calm so they can be planted. Sports guys use the excuse, “Honey, we really shouldn’t plant in wind like this,” as they head back to the TV with a devilish smile.

Actually they are right. Spring is not the best time to plant in the high desert. Fall is the best time to plant most plants. Your sports fan is now going to tell you the plants will freeze in the coming winter, but this excuse is very weak. Ask any longtime landscape contractor and they will tell you that when they install plants in September, October and even November, they have fewer losses.

Fall weather is much more dependable in New Mexico. Most of our festivals are in the fall for this reason. As for your husband’s concern about freezing — here is the rule: If the plants were grown in a greenhouse and then brought out into freezing conditions, he might have a point. Most plants grown to be planted in your yard are grown outside, however. The nursery plants live the whole winter above ground and are mostly unprotected. So get out there!

Fall is for planting — spring is for flying strong kites.

Happy Gardening!