Growing with the River

It’s planting season, that wonderful time to get our hands in the soil and to imagine enjoying the harvest with family and friends.


It’s planting season, that wonderful time to get our hands in the soil and to imagine enjoying the harvest with family and friends. It is also time to remember and be grateful for our water. The Animas and San Juan Rivers supply most water needs in San Juan County. Dennis McQuillan, Chief Scientist for the New Mexico Environment Department, reminds us that “Animas River and San Juan River water meets all irrigation and livestock-watering standards set by the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission.”

All rivers are open water sources and are exposed to everything in the environment including animals, trash and blowing soil. For these reasons it is good to remember safe watering and food handling practices. Gardening methods that reduce risks associated with using open water sources and may even improve your garden include:

• Using watering methods that may reduce contamination by preventing water contact with the parts of the food that you eat. Great ideas include using cages for your tomatoes or trellises for your cucumbers.

• Applying mulch, like grass clippings, woodchips or tree leaves, can prevent dirt from blowing onto your food, conserves water and may reduce weeds.

• Washing all produce with drinking water is a great habit to practice regardless of where your food comes from. Simply running fresh water over your food is a good place to start, but using a food brush to scrub things like apples or mushrooms is even better.

• Drying your food with a paper towel may also help to remove anything that was left behind after washing.

• Washing your hands is a key step in keeping your family healthy. Always remember to wash your hands after gardening or using river water. Washing for at least 20 seconds using hot water and soap is an important habit to form for good health.

There is healing in nature and in growing. Enjoy our rivers by visiting the Aztec and Farmington River walks. Picnic with family and friends under our enchanting skies. Garden, visit growers markets, and share the fruits of your gardening labors. Poet Alfred Austin once said “The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”

For more information about growing in San Juan County contact Bonnie Hopkins at the Extension office, 505-334-9496 or visit For information about water quality contact the New Mexico Environment Department 1-800-219-6157 or visit


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