September 2011

This year has not been a very good one for berry production in Central and Northern New Mexico.  We just picked our first crop of fall raspberries last Saturday the 24th.  This is running 1 month later than the start of berry season last year.  Gardening and growing is a constant process of trial and error and evaluation as we all try to assess what we did right and what went wrong.  Hopefully we can get the “rights” on our side with a minimum of “wrongs” so that we can be more productive, and for growers have a better income.  All of our fall bearing types of berries will produce until the first hard freezes.  It appears that this year the late season will cut the actual total harvest by more than 50%.  I have consulted many growers, state experts and also done research to see if I could find why this happened this year.  Virtually all of them agreed the crops were late and blamed it on our late spring (May) freezes.  When pushed for their reasoning it was basically that the plants got a “late start” in coming up because of the late cold.  Some blamed it on the extreme freeze in February also.   

At the risk of being considered a heretic and going against conventional wisdom, I believe there is another and more logical answer.  In fact, I believe it is the exact opposite of what my contemporaries think.  I am convinced the maturation and late harvest was caused by the record heat this summer.  New Mexico had the hottest August on record this year.  We also had very little monsoon rains to temper and cool the hot afternoons days with either rain or clouds. In regards to late freezes, yes we had them and our last one was on May 16th this year. However consulting my records shows that last year 2010 our last freeze was May 25th,  9 days later than this year! 

Most plants grow best between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Berries are considered to prefer the cooler temperatures. Plants will produce maximum growth when exposed to a day temperature that is about 10 to 15°F higher than the night temperature. This allows the plant to photosynthesize (build up) and respire (break down) during an optimum daytime temperature, and to curtail the rate of respiration during a cooler night. High temperatures cause increased respiration, sometimes above the rate of photosynthesis. This means that the products of photosynthesis are being used more rapidly than they are being produced. For growth to occur, photosynthesis must be greater than respiration.  When increasing the temperature above 85 most plants will stop growth. Add to that a lower humidity and they will attempt to go dormant to conserve their resources. 

In essence I believe the August heat basically put the berry plants “on hold” effectively stopping almost all growth.  This was confirmed by visual observation although no measurements were taken.  Plants all looked good, they just didn’t seem to do anything.  If it had affected just raspberries, I might look for another cause, however since the exact same thing was observed in all varieties of our raspberries and all varieties of our strawberries along with Goji berries I really think this is the answer.  We clear cultivate next to our raspberry rows, which leaves bare dirt and of course this is much hotter than a grassy cover.  It would have been interesting to turn a sprinkler onto some of the plants for 2-3 minutes a couple of times daily and see if cooling them off helped or changed the delayed harvest. 

Next year we will mulch half of our raspberries and see if that does the trick by keeping the surrounding soil temperature lower.  In the meantime we will enjoy eating all we can get of these great tasting berries!



Today is the first day of fall.  A slight chill was in the air this morning and that means its time to …….?

a)  Prune trees

b) Harvest crops

c) Fertilize

d) Start working on the Spring 2012 Catalog

If you picked “d” you would be correct.  We are in the process of laying out the Spring 2012 catalog to showcase the varieties we will have available next year.  I certainly am not a desktop publisher so it is a slow and tedious process, but a rewarding and exciting one none the less.  We will have 16 new and additional apple varieties, 4 varieties of sweet cherries, many european and asian pears along with lots of  other new plants.  I don’t want to give it all away now since you need something to read on those cold and  snowy days this winter!!  If you want to receive copy via email when it is ready just click this link , put catalog in the subject line and hit send.

This is a great site that I ran across a while back. USDA Interactive zone maps. You can zoom into your exact location down to your street! ! There are several maps including first frost date, last frost date, heat zones, plant hardiness zones and more. We are right on the interface between Zone 5B and 6A.