xiA Nonprofit Organization Serving Taos & Northern New Mexico
xiCreating Media Voices for Youth, Arts & Activism

Planting Guides by Lynda Prim for Lisa Fox's Farming in Winter Program

Planting Timetable | Herbal Companion Plants | Cover Crops Overview | Specific Cover Crops
Green Manures | Crop Rotation | Succession Planting | Fall Planting

Garden Planting Timetable for the New Mexico's Southwest Mountains (7,000 Ft.)

by Lynda Prim & slightly adapted & enhanced by Robin Collier for Cultural Energy's Web site
Lynda Prim is the Farm Manager at "Resting on the River" - Marsha Mason's organic herb farm in Abiquiú

The planting dates presented here have been found by area gardeners and farmers to be the best and safest for seed starting, transplanting and growing of crops in our climate. Actual weather conditions might require adjustments for some of the dates each year. These dates are just guidelines.

With season extenders like cold frames and Wall's O'Water, you can extend back the planting dates 2 to 8 weeks, depending on how well the seedlings are protected from cold and freezing temperatures. You can also extend the harvesting periods 2 to 8 weeks or later in the summer and fall with season extension such as greenhouses and plastic tunnels.

Taos (7,000 Ft.) is located in Zones 4-5
Allow for shorter growing season at higher elevations (8,000 ft.) such as Picuris, Vadito, Peñasco, Ojo Sacro, El Valle, Trampas & Truchas and a
longer season at lower elevations (6,000 ft. ) in Pilar, Rinconada, Dixon, Velarde, Chimayó, Española, Chamita, El Rito, Ojo Caliente, La Madera, and Abiquiú.

March 1

Seed indoors - Onion family, celery.

March 15

Transplant outdoors - Garlic bulbs if you did not fall plant them.

April 1

Seed indoors - Brassica family: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts: perennial & hardy annual herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, parsley, savory).

Direct seed outdoors - onion family.

April 15

Seed indoors - Tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, peppers. These crops will need to be transplanted into larger pots before being transplanted outdoors.

Direct seed outdoors - Lettuce, spinach, endive, kale, radicchio, radishes, turnips, peas, lentils, favas (habas), garbanzo beans.

Transplant outdoors - Onion sets, shallots.

May 1

Seed indoors - Most annual flowers (marigolds, cosmos), cucumbers, melons, (squash prefer direct seeding), okra.

Transplant outdoors - Homegrown onion seedlings (started indoors from seed March 1).

Direct seed outdoors - Calendula, cilantro, parsley.

May 5

Direct seed outdoors - Brassica family: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, Chinese greens (tat soi, pak choi, mizuna, etc.), and leafy greens (chard, collards), lettuce.

May 15

Direct seed outdoors - Potatoes, most annual flowers. These plants will need frost protection during cold spring nights, but this planting date gives them more time to mature before the end of our short growing season.

Transplant outdoors - Celery, Brassicas (started from seed indoors April 1), leafy greens, perennial & hardy annual herbs (started from seed indoors April 1)

June 1

Direct seed outdoors - Corn, amaranth, quinoa, cucumbers, melon, squash (prefer direct seeding to transplanting), warm season beans (pintos, black beans,tepary beans, green beans).

Transplant outdoors - With frost protection or wait until June 15 to set out warm season plants, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons, squash, marigolds.

June 15

Average date of last spring frost (50 percent chance of frost) Beginning of our official growing season.

Transplant outdoors - Any warm season plants notyet planted: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons, squash, marigolds.

July 15

Direct seed outdoors for late harvest - Fall leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, lettuce, endive), Peas and beets.


Direct seed outdoors - Lettuce, spinach, radishes for second crop.

October 1

Average date of first frost (50 percent chance of frost). Be prepared with frost protection for tomatoes, peppers and other plants that are still ripening.

Fall planting for next year - Plant as late as possible before the first snow: garlic, onions, peas, radishes, and spinach. Requires winter moisture so may fail in drought years, or if we have a late warm spell after planting. Plant garlic bulbs until October 31.


A few common examples that are easy to grow in the garden:

Chamomile - daisy-like flowers attract many insects, most importantly beneficial hover flies and wasps. The low-growing Roman variety can be planted as a lawn or on walkway and paths.

Calendula (Marigold) - attracts beneficial insects, and an inter planting protects plants from asparagus beetles, tomato hornworms. other insects due to a masking effect or a repellent created by the pungent seem of its foliage.

Lemon Balm - the white flowers attract so many honeybees that this plant is sometimes called the "bee herb." Planted among members of the cabbage family, lemon balm may help to deter insects, perhaps by masking the cabbage smell.

Lovagae - is a good trap crop to lure tomato hornworms away from tomatoes. The umbrels of the tiny greenish yellow flowers attract parasitic and predacious insects to the garden, and the bushy plants provide shelter for predatory insects.

Yarrow - bears flat flower clusters that attract insects, including many beneficials. The ferny foliage provides good cover for lady beetles and other predacious species.

Zinnia - Butterflies and beneficial insects are drawn by the flowers: birds often appreciate the seeds.

by Lynda Prim

Green manures are crops that are planted specifically for their soil-enhancing qualities. Many farm crops such as clover, alfalfa, vetch, field peas, oats winter wheat and winter rye can be soil rejuvenators for soils. Cover crops protect areas of the soil between plantings and build soil fertility - as living mulches or turned in as green manure. Legume cover crops, such as peas, clovers, cow peas, fava beans, and vetch, store nitrogen for future use by other plants.

Combinations of cover crop plants are useful, for example: peas, fava beans and vetch or a legume in combination with a grass such as winter rye or oats with field peas.

When planting cover crops, remember that all of these plants provide habitat for beneficial insects and soil organisms. To enhance the attraction of beneficials interplant wildflowers and other insectiary plants.

Legumes and Nitrogen Fixation

Specific soil bacteria live in association with the roots of legumes. Through this mutually beneficial association, the bacteria provide the legumes with access to nitrogen in the air, while the legume roots provide nutrition to the bacteria. The captured nitrogen is stored in nodules on the roots.

Whether the legumes are turned under, killed by winter temperatures, or mowed and composted, the nodules remain in the soil for other plants to use. Since nitrogen is an important food, this natural process adds plant food to the soil.

Legume Inoculants If you have not grown a specific legume in your soil before, it's beneficial to purchase inoculam bacteria when you purchase the legume seeds. The inoculant comes in the form of a powder that looks like fine compost and contains the symbiotic bacteria specific to that legume. You mix the powder with the seeds before sowing. Inoculants can be purchased where you buy legume cover crop seed and are a time dated product, so be sure to check the date on the package.

You can sow legumes for green manure crops or cover crops in any space in the garden where you aren't currently growing another crop and want to improve soil fertility.

Planting and Harvesting a Green Manure Cover Crop

To sow a green manure/cover crop it is necessary to prepare the surface of the soil by tilling or raking to break up the surface and to be able to cover the seed. When the soil is prepared, broadcast the cover crop seeds as evenly as possible over the soil surface. The seeds can be covered by raking them into the soil enough to cover them without burying them too deep. Then tamp the soil lightly with the back of the rake or with your feet to make sure the seeds are in contact with moist soil. It is helpful to pre-imgate unless the soil already has good moisture. For field scale - cover crop seed can be drilled or broadcast and harrowed.

You can plant a green manure/cover crop anywhere you need it as the next crop in a rotation with vegetable crops, although it isn't worth the trouble if the green manure/cover crop will be growing less than 6 to 8 weeks. Once you have grown a green manure or cover crop, you have to chop up and bury the plant material or remove it from the garden to obtain a seedbed for the next vegetable crop. A hand sickle, scythe, or push mower are the best tools for mowing the cover crop. You can incorporate the green manure residues by turning the soil shallowly - by hand with a spade or rototiller.

It is best to turn the soil shallowly, 4 to 6 inches, so that you don't turn the living part of the soil. The earth's stages of the decomposition process, right after the residues are incorporated into the soil, can inhibit seed germination and root growth. A thin layer of compost can be sprinkled into a cover crop before it it's turned into the soil to help the decomposition process and humus formation.

An alternative method of managing a green manure crop is to mow the crop off as close to the ground as possible with the tools mentioned above and gather the plants material up to add to a compost pile. After removing the valuable green manure crop, chop the surface clean with a hoe to prevent regrowth. To prepare the planting bed, rake the growing area smooth and spread a light layer of compost on the surface. A garden bed or field prepared this way is ready for planting transplants or large seeded crops such as corn, squash or beans. This technique is too rough for smaller seeds (like lettuce) that need a finer seed bed.

This system will still protect the soil through fall and winter but will save work the following spring. Good choices for this method are green manure crops like peas, or oats mixed with peas. that grow well in the cool weather of late summer, fall, and early winter but are not hardy enough to survive winter except in warmer climates. Even if the plants are winter killed and not chopped up, the residues will protect the soil for the remainder of the winter. In spring you can rake the bed clean and add the plant residues to the compost pile, then plant larger seeded vegetable crops.

When mowing short-term or long-term cover crops, leave some areas unmowed to preserve established beneficial insect habitat.


Fava Beans (annual)
-There are numerous varieties that can be used. some local (known as "habas"), but Bell Beans are a small fava used specifically for cover cropping.
- Fixes nitrogen. Crowns 3' to 6' tall.
- Plant in spring. 2 - 4 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.

Lupine, Sweet Grain (annual)
- Cold tolerant legume, aerates the soil. Like buckwheat, it accumulates insoluble phosphorus when turned into the soil and returns it in a plant-available form.
- High protein grain source.
- Plant early fall. 80 - 125 lbs. per acre.

Buckwheat (annual)
- Warm-season cover crop.
- An aggressive plant that assists in weed control, builds and loosens soil.
- Tolerates poor soil. Buckwheat's ability to use phosphate unavailable to other crops, thereby increasing the amount of phosphorus available to following crops, is one of the reasons it is useful as a green manure


Winter Wheat (annual)
- Good cover crop and winter soil stabilizer. Germinates in the fall and lies dormant in the winter.
- Sow in early fall. 2 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.

Winter Rye (annual)
- A very productive plant tolerant of poor soils. Stays green in winter.
- Provides very good weed competition.
-Till in before the stems grow stiff and difficult to till.
- Sow in fall. 2 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.

Oats (annual)
- Red and while varieties work equally well.
- Suppresses weeds by an excretion from its roots.
- Vigorous and and fast growing cover crop.
- In an organic system, oats are managed as a light feeder and can be used as a nurse crop to establish a clover or legume crop.
- For soil protection that will winter kill.
- Sow in spring or summer. 2 1 /2 lbs. per 1.000 sq. ft.

Barley (annual)
- Does well in dry. cool, or poor soils.
- For soil protection that will winter kill.
- In an organic system, spring barley is managed as a light feeder and can be used as a nurse crop to establish a clover or legume crop.
- Sow in tall or early spring. 2 1/2 lbs. per 1.000 sq. ft.



Salina Strawberry clover (perennial)
- Drought and alkaline tolerant. Can also tolerate standing water.
- Low growing, so it's useful as an under story or living mulch crop.
- Makes a sod-like cover which has resistance to foot traffic making it a good choice for paths between growing beds.
- Sow in spring. 1 - 2 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.

White Dutch Clover or New Zealand White Clover (perennial)
- Not drought or heat tolerant, but an excellent, low-growing cover for use as a living mulch with vegetable row crops. For this purpose, it could be intersown together with Salina Strawberry clover.
-Tolerates shade.
- Sow in spring. 1 - 2 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.

Purple Prairie Clover Pelalosiemumpurpurdim (perennial)
- A very drought tolerant, nitrogen-fixing native plant. Good for long-term or permanent cover crop.
- Provides nectar and habitat for beneficial insects like Trichogramma wasps.
- Sow anytime except for 2 months before first frost. 2 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.

Veich (annual)
- Many varieties, e.g. hairy, common, purple, etc.
- Shonierm legume green manure for nitrogen fixation, so it's good in a garden rotation.
- Sow in spring or late summer.
- A good mixture to sow in spring-summer is with rye or oats.
- When sown in late summer, regrowth in spring is gorgeous and the plants produce a lot of nitrogen, for tilling in before planting spring garden crops.
- One lb. per
l,000 sq. ft.

Field Peas (annual)
- Austrian Winter peas and Maple peas are good varietal choices.
- Legume green manure for nitrogen fixation with vigorous early spring growth.
- Sow in early spring. 1 - 4 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.

Cowpeas (annual)
- Many varieties, some are native.
- Good in combination with buckwheat for a summer cover crop.
- Sow after danger of frost and soil is warm, 2 - 4 lbs. per acre.


Crop rotations formed the traditional base for agriculture in many areas of the world and probably date to the beginning of settled agricultural systems.

Crop rotation is the practice of changing the crop each year on the same piece of ground. Ideally, these different crops are not related botanically.

The key to a good rotation is to have a diversity of crops - crops that are from different plant groups, that are seeded at different times, and that have different nutrient demands. It is important to understand the principles of crop rotation so they can be adapted to your garden. Unfortunately, copying a rotation used in a successful organic garden will not necessarily work because each garden is unique.

When choosing the crops to make up your rotation design, there are several functions to consider:

1) the role of the crop in building up the soil organic matter

2) provision of adequate cover to protect the soil from erosion

3) contribution or drain on the soil's nutrient level

4) ability to compete successfully with weeds

5) inherent pest resistance

Rotations improve insect and disease control by managing the system to benefit the crop. Monoculture encourages many pest problems because the pests specific to a crop can multiply out of proportion when that crop is grown in the same place year after year. Therefore, pests are most easily kept in control when the soil grows different crops over a number of years.

The key to understanding how rotations work is that crops are moving throughout the garden over time. So, in designing a rotation you have to consider both the crop sequence and time. For example:

- Brassicas (cabbage family) follow peas because the pea crop is finished by late spring and the brassicas can be planted and harvested by late summer, the ground cleared, and a green manure crop planted by early fall. Also. the peas are a light feeder that supplies nitrogen to the soil and brassicas a heavy feeder that needs extra soil nitrogen.

- Tomatoes should be a few years away from their close cousin, potatoes in a rotation, so root crops (such as carrots or beets) could be grown after tomatoes (heavy feeders that take up a lot of nutrients, including nitrogen), followed by beans (supply nitrogen to the soil)

Some patterns that help in designing a rotation
1) Legumes are generally beneficial preceding crops.

2) Onions, lettuces, and squashes are generally beneficial preceding crops.

3) Corn and beans are not greatly influenced in any detrimental way by the preceding crop.

4) Manuring and fertilizing- help, but do not totally overcome, the negative effects of a preceding crop.

5) Onions often are not helped when they follow a legume green manure.

6) Carrots, beets, and cabbages are not good to precede another vegetable crop.

7) Squash and potatoes are good "cleaning" crops because they are hill cultivated and then vine which keeps them fairly weed free.

8) Squash is a beneficial preceding crop for roots.


Succession planting is planting short rows of fast-maturing crops every week for 3 or 4 weeks (this depends on the first frost date, which here can be as early as late September).

Another method of succession planting is to sow seeds of the brassica family crops directly into the soil at the same time you set out seedlings of these crops. Seeds of early cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower will mature later than those grown from seedlings, but because they are cold hardy, will still be ready before harvest time.

Some vegetables, like radishes and peas mature and go by very quickly so planting them at intervals throughout the season provides a continuous harvest. Radish seed can be mixed with carrot seed to use space more efficiently because they mature well before carrots. This technique also saves some thinning of the carrot crop.

Lettuce and spinach bolt and go to seed quickly in warm weather so small successive plantings will help provide a steady harvest.

Peas and beets can be planted in the spring for an early harvest and again in summer for a fall harvest. Lettuce, spinach, radishes, chard, and kale can also be planted in mid-August and will provide a few weeks harvest of young, tender vegetables before hard frosts.


Spring weather in our climate can be unpredictable. One way to get around that unpredictability is to plant seeds of hardy plants in very late fall, just before winter. Since weed seeds lie dormant until spring, the seeds of some hardy cultivars can also remain dormant until winter breaks, although weed seeds tend to grow more easily than the seeds of most cultivars.

Garlic is fall planted here. Fall planting onions, peas, radishes, and spinach, especially in years when snows come early and there is good snow cover most of the winter, is usually pretty effective. This method doesn't always produce as good results in terms of germination as spring planting mostly because the seeds need adequate winter moisture which isn't always available here. Also, if the seeds start to grow during a warm spell, they can be lost if there is another hard freeze. If you attempt fall seeding, plant as late as possible before snowfall.