Taos Area Corn Planting

Don't Plant Your Corn...

On Wednesday, 19 April, 1995, Denise Blanchette posted the following to the Taos community. The responses were wide and varied, very much like the landscape and weather in Taos.

In the past few days I have heard several people state that you should not plant until the snow is gone from a certain mountain top. Does any one know which range this mountain is in (south or north), the name of the peak and how I can recognize it?

Also, does anyone have any other ways folks might tell when its relatively safe to begin planting?

Denise Blanchette

Here are the responses:

Denise, There are a number of veggies you can plant now (even if it snows). Snow peas, some types of lettuce, kale, Swiss chard,and many wonderful greens. Check the back of seed packages for info on early varieties. Good luck and come visit my garden. Rich Thibodeaux

I don't have any big answers ... but I heard that you can plant peas in january or just as soon as you can cut into the ground ... I did ... and they are now growing. - tom bruce

Denise, I was born and raised in this town. For every year, (32 of them), I could tell you a different theory. My family is big on gardening, I remember my grandmas' gardens as being some of the best around. My 81 year old grandma still has one of the prettiest flower gardens only a block from the plaza. She plants according to when they bloom, their adaptability to our climate, (VERY Unpredictable), and what she fancies. Tubers are safe to start, as well as onions, garlic, scallions, chives and things of that variety. The snows seem to be lingering more than usual this year so I wouldn't use the mountain top method this time anyway. Hard freezes are what damage plants beyond hope. If you can star tomatoes, chilis, peppers, and other more fragile and longer maturing plants inside, you will get a head start, and can put them out later in the spring when temperatures are less likely to drop below freezing. Squash varieties do well in Taos. Corn should be started early. If you do plant outside, be prepared to cover the fragile, small non-tuberous plants if the temperature should drop. Tobers should be o-kay if the freeze doesn't last too long. Frost may wilt of kill some of the leaves on your plants, but if the main stalk is unharmed, the plant should recover. Peas are very hardy. I often plant a variety. The only precaution with them is the like to cross pollenate, so space them several feet between varieties to prevent having a hodge-podge pea. Given the snow today, who knows? growing season could be extremely short if we get an early fall as well. You can also get advise from the local greenhouses. Buying starters from them is also an option though it can get costly. Good luck!

Mitzi Howell

This will be my 4th year planting. 2nd to 3rd week in May seems best, but I know people who plant the cool weather crops like peas in early April. No matter how nice April may look, and it's looked pretty ugly so far, there is always a freeze that makes any non-freeze resistant sprout less than hearty.
Marty Meltzer

Dear Denise, Cold-weather plants like peas and radishes and beets and carrots can go in now or yesterday. Otherwise, in this high semiarid environment there is no really set date by which to plant. Sometimes the mountaintops have snow all summer. Lot o' good that'd do you, no? Most warm-weather plants can go in (in my experience since 1974 hereabouts) around 10 May.
Good luck.
John C. McLoughlin

hi denise, wait till june 10. cover till the first of july, then let er rip. good talking to you, Robin Rice

I have heard that the peak is Taos Mt. I, myself, have not lived here long and can not verify that. As far as I know people plant in May or June outside for the first time depending on their opinions. Good luck. I'll be interested to know what you learn. Rowena Muirhead

Dear Denise-As Mitzi said, you can't go wrong with root crops. I generally start things like tomatoes and peppers inside in early March. The growing season is too short to direct seed them outside. There are some very handy aids called Walls of Water, sold in many seed catalogs and some nurseries. You could buy tomato and pepper plants now, at nurseries in Santa Fe, and plant them now in the walls of water which are small plastic tents that hold water and insulate the plants down to about 25 degrees. They work for me. Feel free to write back if you have more questions.
Tony Chiodo

I had heard that the mountain you referred to is the burn scar on the mountain south of Taos Canyon. Though this spring has been so warm that it is almost snow free already. You can plant anything that is frost tolerant already: lettuce, onions, peas, brocolli. The problem plants are the ones that will be killed by a late frost: corn, tomatoes, beans etc. I live at 8000 feet and generally wait until mid May to start planting those and I either expect to replant or be prepared to cover them.
Ham Brown

Dear Denise,
I've been gardening here for 15 years. I live at 7800 feet in Seco, though, so I'm a pessimist! Down in Taos, my friend Julia plants RIGHT NOW things like spinach, peas, beets, lettuce, carrots, assorted greens (like the Yuppie Greens in bulk at Cid's), turnips, scallions, and oriental stuff like bok choy (but not head cabbage or broccoli yet). Even if it snows on top of your planting, these things usually germinate all right. Peas are the most pea-culiar of those items above -- sometimes they WILL rot if it's too cold. They are worth the risk, though.

I would not hesitate to put in lettuce, scallion, turnips, greens, spinach (especially spinach) even as we speak -- that is, if your soil is not too soggy after all this rain. Mulch with whatever you have -- straw is what I use, and if you're very paranoid, put clear plastic down over top of the straw at night, but be sure to remove it during the day (after the sun is up) or possible emerging seedlings will broil.

Good luck! I am enjoying your enthusiasm in a vicarious way, because I am not able to garden much this year and I'm green with envy!

Barbara Bentley

Denise Blanchette asked about mountain indicators of the time to plant, and has received several answers.

My longtime advisor on matters agricultural was Claudio Montoya of El Prado. He showed me the image of an Indian woman in profile in the cirque of the mountain that lies between Taos Mountain and La Cuchilla, and told me that I should not plant until she is clearly outlined. The image is not visible from Taos, but can be seen from El Prado, Arroyo Seco, Arroyo Hondo and my own Des Montes.

I don't really pay much attention to the lady. For fifteen years now, I have planted peas, beets, lettuce, chard, spinach and onions by the fifteenth of April, weather and digging allowing. For all else--corn and beans, squash, cabbage, I wait till the first of June. I have experienced at least one mid-June frost which curled the beans and stunted the zucchini, but all survived.

Given the variety of the terrain around Taos, it is not surprising that we have a variety of micro-climates. What is true for Des Montes doesn't apply in Ranchitos. Don't expect more than a ninety-day growing season, and do expect that your neighbor up the road will grow what you can't, and vice versa.

George W. Zopf

regarding corn, the perennial wisdom i have followed is to not plant it until the oak leaves in your micro-climate are the size of squirrel's ears.

Tracy McCallum