Sally C., Albuquerque
Question: Do you have any tips for growing watermelons and corn?
Knowing the average number of frost-free days and your average last and first frost dates is a significant first step when picking vegetables and specific cultivars (aka “varieties”) that will have enough time to fully ripen during the growing season. By now, the dangers of a late frost are pretty much behind us in all parts of New Mexico. (Knock on wood.) So the worry shifts to when the first fall frost might be, even though it is hard to imagine with temperatures in the 90s across much of the state, and the worst heat yet to come.
Answer: The best time to plant watermelon seeds or set transplants depends on which part of the state you live in, according to the NMSU Extension Circular 457-B, “Growing Zones, Recommended Crop Varieties, and Planting and Harvesting Information for Home Vegetable Gardens in New Mexico.”
Thorough pollination is needed to get corncobs with full kernel set. Sweet corn is wind pollinated, so pollination is enhanced by planting the sweet corn in blocks, rather than one long row so that the plants can easily transfer pollen. Pollination is also reduced during periods of extreme heat. Poor pollination, or drought stress while the kernels are filling out, are the two main causes of poor kernel set in sweet corn.
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Many people pick their watermelons too early (including myself). I know how it goes: they get big, and you get nervous and think, “I don’t want it to split or rot!” But after the size maxes out, there is still sweetening up to do. Without accidentally snapping the vine, turn a debatable watermelon over and take a look at the underside that’s been touching the ground. If it’s white, it’s not done yet. Wait until that white area turns to a colorful yellow.
For Albuquerque and other areas with between 150 and 180 frost-free days on average, it is recommended to plant in May. In warmer parts of the state with more than 180 frost-free days each year, like Las Cruces, Roswell, Deming, Carlsbad and Alamogordo, the watermelon window recommendation is for early April. That doesn’t mean you can’t grow watermelons this year, you’re just starting to push the limits because many watermelons need between 75 and 90 days before they’re ready for harvest, and the average first frost dates in some parts of New Mexico are as early as the end of August.
The best time to plant watermelon seeds or set transplants depends on which part of New Mexico you live in (Photo: Molly Jameson)
The best time to plant watermelon seeds or set transplants depends on which part of the state you live in.
Plant onion starts and potatoes around February 16. Sow the seeds of peas (sugar snap and english) at the same time. If the ground is still frozen, then plant these as soon as the ground thaws.
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Do you want to grow tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants? Start these indoors around February 6. Then, around April 12 you should start watching the weather forecast and, as soon as no frost is forecast, go ahead and transplant those into the ground.
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Fall is the time to plant garlic. Around September 13, take your cloves apart and plant the toes about 3 to 4 inches deep. This may not be accurate! Garlic dates vary wildly around the country. The way to be sure is to use a soil thermometer. When the soil temperature is 60° at a depth of 4 inches, then plant your garlic.
Okay, now here are the cold, hard numbers, along with specific plants:
Cole crops like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage can be direct seeded into your garden around August 19, but because of the heat during that time of year, it’s better to start them indoors around June 30 and then transplant them into the garden around August 9. Do the same with lettuce and spinach.
Most tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, for example, require around 100 days to harvest, therefore you’d want to transplant those into the ground around July 20. Anyway, it’s important to remember that the numbers in this fall planting guide are only a starting point for you! Good luck and good gardening to you.
On average, your frost-free growing season starts Apr 16 and ends Oct 28, totalling 195 days. You will find both Spring and Fall planting guides on this page.
When to Plant Vegetables in Albuquerque, NM Sign-up for our Free Weekly Newsletter from the National Gardening Association: · Gain access to hundreds of Free articles, tips, ideas, pictures