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For San Juan County


Selecting Garden Crop

Varieties for San Juan County

by Weldon Hendricks & Bonnie Hopkins, Special to TALON

The San Juan County climate can be as diverse as its culture, and knowledge is power. Exploring the possibilities available to gardeners across the state of New Mexico opens a door to a vast array of vegetable choices. Depending on your location, the climate and length of growing season will help you determine which varieties to plant.

With the most likely cold snaps behind us, the official 2017 planting season has arrived! Typically, San Juan County is referred to as Area 3 in NMSU literature, and USDA perennial plant hardiness zone 5a-6b. The last potential frost date each year typically falls between May 10 - June 1. This provides the area with a growing season of less than 150 days. Higher elevations in the county will have a shorter growing season. Due to cold air being heavier than warm air, valley gardens can also experience colder spring conditions. Southern slope gardens tend to warm sooner in spring than northern exposures. In general, warm season crops can be planted after the final frost date. It is best to keep weather data for your garden yourself, recording extreme temperatures when possible and building a journal of average frost dates, as the region is full of micro-climates and may vary significantly depending on location.

When planting a garden, it is best to focus on the length of the harvest maturity for each crop, as it determines which vegetables can be grown successfully in specific areas. Seed packets give estimates of germination and harvest lengths, while specific crop information can be found in NMSU Extension publications or in various seed catalogs. Harvest maturity dates can be helpful research to complete prior to purchasing crop varieties to ensure a successful crop and realistic harvesting expectations. For example, some tomato varieties can mature in as few as 70 days, while others take well over 100. Many gardeners feel frustration after patiently awaiting their harvest, only to be (unknowingly) disappointed by a late harvesting variety. Planting from starts or transplants give a gardener a jump on vegetable maturity and harvest, helping to reach crop

Vegetable variety recommendations are available on the NMSU website, along with planting dates, instructions, and days to harvest. For example, everybody wants fresh homegrown tomatoes. NMSU circular 457-B lists all the varieties of tomatoes recommended for the Area 3 (San Juan County) growing season. So, try some new varieties. Early Girl is not the only game in town!

The NMSU website information and growing tables can be taken along when selecting the variety of veggies to ensure you get the best harvest possible. Some suggested varieties for Area 3 are:


Beef Master VFN, Better Boy VFN, Cherokee Purple, Early Pick VFN, Extra Early VFNT, Fantastic, Homestead 24, Delicious, Celebrity Hybrid VFNT and Super Beefsteak VFN


Espanola Improved (Hot), Hungarian Wax (Hot), Early Jalapeño (Hot), Nu Mex R Naky (Mild), New Mexico 6-4 (Mild), Nu Mex Big Jim (Mild to Medium), Nu Mex Joe E. Parker (Mild to Medium), and Sandra (Hot).

By having a deep understanding of the varieties that you grow, you gain more growing power. Of course, you can always rely on our wonderful locally owned nurseries to carry varieties that are tried and true to the area. They also have extremely knowledgeable owners and staff that can help guide you if you happen to stop by on a whim to get a few additional plants. AS always, contact Bonnie Hopkins at the San Juan County Cooperative Extension Service, 505-334-9496.

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