Sandoval Signpost
An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Seed2Need Harvest


DeLavy Cleanup Crew

How does your garden grow?

—Margaret M. Nava

You tilled the soil, worked in lots of wormy compost, planted the best seeds money could buy, faithfully watered the garden, and then watched as weeds took over. What went wrong? Was the soil too rocky? Did you plant the wrong seeds? Did you add too much compost? How about water? Too much? Too little? What do you do now?

If that scenario sounds all too familiar, don’t fret… you’re not alone. In fact, many gardeners—experienced and novice alike—have been confronted with similar problems because growing anything in our Southwestern soil presents a whole string of challenges. But while some would-be-gardeners have given up and buried everything under a thick layer of lava rock, others have turned to the experts for advice. Here in Sandoval County, that means the Sandoval County Master Gardeners.

In operation since 1995, the Sandoval County Master Gardeners (SCMG) is a group of knowledgeable gardeners who assist the Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Service office in providing accurate, research-based gardening information to county residents.  Trained by New Mexico State University (NMSU) horticultural specialists and instructors, these expert gardeners volunteer their time and talents to assist homeowners with their questions, as well as educating garden clubs, community organizations, and other noncommercial horticulture groups.

SCMG Coordinator Chris Behl says, “We have a hotline staffed with master gardeners who can handle all sorts of questions about plant selection, tree pruning, soil prep, insect identification, weed control, composting, bee keeping, and just about any other gardening problem that might come up. We try to give Sandoval County homeowners the freshest information out there to help them solve whatever problem they may be experiencing.”

Certification as a master gardener requires an interview with the Master Gardener Training Team prior to selection, 14 weeks of basic classroom training, 40 hours of internship work, and 10 hours on the hotline. After certification, each volunteer agrees to perform additional work hours and complete 10 continuing education hours every year in order to maintain his or her status.

According to SCMG Assistant Coordinator Connie Walsh, “Aside from manning the hotline and doing home visits, our master gardeners volunteer their time and energy on 76 different projects, such as the Bernalillo Farmer’s Market, the Corrales Growers’ Market, the Idalia Road Marketplace, the Rio Rancho Growers’ Market, Las Placitas Memorial Garden, the Corrales Garden Tour, the Meadowlark Senior Center Rose Garden, and the Corrales Harvest Festival. They also do weed control and maintain a small memorial garden at the DeLavy House in Bernalillo, conduct the Southwest Homeowner Gardener Series in Bernalillo every spring, take part in the annual Water Conservation and Xeriscape Conference in Albuquerque, sponsor the ongoing Gardening with the Masters series at the Meadowlark Senior Center, and maintain the WaterWise Demonstration Garden, located between the post office and Esther Bone Memorial Library in Rio Rancho.” Of special interest, however, is the Corrales Food Pantry Garden, also known as the Seed2Need Garden.

Based on data collected by the USDA, New Mexico was found to be one of the “hungriest” states in the nation, with almost one in four children under the age of five at risk of going hungry every day. In 2005, 238,000 people received emergency food from New Mexico food pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens. With the downturn in the economy and the increase in unemployment, the number of families needing assistance continues to rise.  In 2009, St. Felix Pantry, one of the largest food pantries in the state, provided food to more than 700 families each week. That’s where the SCMG comes in.

Penny Davis who heads up the SCMG Seed2Need program said, “This project involves planting vegetable gardens in the Village of Corrales and donating the produce to local food pantries, primarily to Storehouse West and St. Felix Pantry in Rio Rancho and to the Rio Grande Food Project in Albuquerque. We are partnering with several property owners in the village who have offered us free use of their land, electricity, and irrigation water. Our role is to provide the irrigation system, seed, and labor. Volunteers plant, weed, and harvest the garden and deliver the fresh produce to the food pantries. Last year, we planted eight-tenths of an acre and produced 30,700 pounds of produce. In 2011, we are increasing the size of the gardens to one-and-a-half acres and hope to harvest at least 50,000 pounds.”

So, how is your growing this year? Are you having a few pesky problems that you don’t know how to deal with? If so, don’t give up… call the SCMG hotline at (505) 867-2582, log on to, or send them an e-mail at You can also use these contacts to read the SCMG newsletter, find a list of NMSU publications, learn more about becoming a Sandoval County Master Gardener, or check the list of upcoming events. And, if it looks like your garden is doing exceptionally well and you think you’ll be able to grow some extra vegetables this summer, you might consider donating them to your local food pantry... every little bit helps.

Look “Beyond the Garden Gate”:
Second Annual Corrales Garden Tour

Corrales MainStreet (CMS), with support from Sandoval County Master Gardeners (SCMG), presents the Second Annual Corrales Garden Tour on Sunday, June 5, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The theme, “Beyond the Garden Gate,” indicates that visitors will get to look into the gardens often hidden behind Corrales’ traditional adobe or coyote walls. Visitors can tour six completely different gardens (compared to last year) from the Corrales bosque to the sandhills and get behind the scenes looks at traditional cottage and colorful xeric gardens. The tour offers an inspiring selection of gardens—so valuable after our harsh winter—with opportunities to see how vegetables are integrated into flower gardens, how ponds are integrated into a meandering landscape, and how an abandoned bosque garden was brought back to life. Tour goers can also visit a sand and thread leaf sage property that was transformed into a colorful oasis in the sandhills, explore a garden developed for year-round enjoyment, and see solar-powered greenhouses at another garden. Sandoval County Master Gardeners, in easy to spot red aprons, are available in each garden to answer gardening questions.

Tickets for the tour are available now at three locations in the Village of Corrales: Village Mercantile, Frontier Mart, and Oasis. Seven local garden centers are currently selling tickets and supporting the tour. Tickets will also be on sale at the garden centers until noon on the day of the tour and until 2 p.m. at the three locations in Corrales. Ticket price is $10, with the funds raised during the tour to be used for a landscaping project on Corrales Rd.

For more information, contact MainStreet at (505) 350-3955 or

Corrales MainStreet is a community-based program to encourage the preservation of the Village of Corrales’ traditions, way of life, history, and agricultural roots by encouraging the enhancement and diversification of the economy of the village.

The Sandoval County Master Gardeners is a volunteer organization committed to providing better gardening techniques to the community with the latest, most practical horticultural information available.

SSCAFCA launches recycle roundup effort

A “Recycle Roundup” outreach effort to reduce litter and floatable debris such as plastic water bottles in area arroyos and flood control facilities is being launched by the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA), working in collaboration with the City of Rio Rancho and the Rio Rancho Public Schools (RRPS).

Each year, flood control dams, detention ponds, and other SSCAFCA facilities must be cleaned in order to remove waste that clogs the water quality and drainage facilities required to handle storm-water flow during rain events. Much of the waste is made up of empty plastic drink containers, which are particularly difficult for the facilities, since they float during rain events and clog the facilities. The containers can also be carried with the “first flush” of rainfall through the arroyos and into the Rio Grande.

Because many schools and sports fields border the SSCAFCA arroyos, the first effort of the project is to reduce the use of disposable water bottles in those areas. SSCAFCA, partnering with the RRPS district, have developed a test project in five schools, as well as in the RRPS district office to encourage students, teachers, and staff to fill their reusable containers from the new self-serve dispensers, replacing as many individual disposable water bottles as possible.

The five participating Rio Rancho schools are Shining Stars Preschool, Maggie Cordova Elementary, Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary, Sandia Vista Elementary, and Independence High School. 

“It’s our hope that this project helps all of our schools transition away from individual, disposable water bottles and move toward the use of refillable containers,” said Elena Kayak, energy/environmental specialist for the RRPS Facilities Department. “Many students choose water with their school lunch and until now, it was provided in disposable bottles. Now, they can fill a reusable bottle in these cafeterias. We also encourage students who bring their lunch to begin using a refillable bottle.”

The SSCAFCA Recycle Roundup project is also targeting youth sports teams that practice and play at sports fields near the arroyos. SSCAFCA has collaborated with the City of Rio Rancho Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Department, which has placed recycling containers in the sports complex on High Resort, as well as the sports complex north on Lincoln Road, hanging banners that promote use of the recycling containers.

“We recognized the high cost of cleaning our flood control facilities, and in looking for a solution to reduce our cost, a collaboration developed with the city and RRPS,” said Mark Conkling, chairman of the SSCAFCA board of directors. “Plastic water bottles are a particular problem for us because they float and clog our storm-water facilities. By working together, the three organizations are helping reduce their use and increase their proper disposal. That will reduce the capital cost of cleaning our facilities and also save the school district some money.”

The Recycle Roundup campaign includes a water-bottle character named Plastic Pete, named for PET, the type of plastic used for the bottles and designated by the recycling code “1.” This is the most common type of plastic used, with the United States alone importing more than 17 million barrels of oil annually to make plastic water bottles.

“This project is a step in reducing the use of plastic water containers,” said Trevor Alsop, SSCAFCA environmental services director. “It provides many benefits for our facilities, our community, and our world.” He said that studies show that in the U.S., 2.5 million plastic water bottles are used every hour. Current estimates are that 78 percent of the bottles—more than 10 billion bottles annually—are not recycled. When they go to a landfill, it takes about 700 years for the plastic to decompose.

Many of the SSCAFCA facilities provide open-space watershed parks and trails, which residents can enjoy during dry weather. “We hope that those who use these parks and trails will also help pick up debris in them, which will keep the facility prepared for the heavy rainfalls we get and help save taxpayers’ dollars because less clean up is needed,” added Conkling.

Home composting

—John Zarola, Master Composter
Home composting is a fine way of recycling yard trimmings and kitchen scraps. Desert soils often lack organic matter, which is helpful in maintaining soil microbial health and holding moisture. An end product of the composting process is humus, which is a good organic amendment for your garden soil.

Composting is organized biological decomposition of organic material. In the high desert environment, it is useful to add compostable materials to a containment system. Manufactured compost bins and tumblers are sold at various hardware stores. One could make a bin about 3 feet x 3 feet x3 feet out of recycled materials, such as wood pallets or fencing. Any composting bin or system should preserve moisture, while allowing for airflow.

Kitchen scraps, yard trimmings, leaves, and twigs may be added to the bin as they become available. Each addition should be sprinkled with water and covered to preserve moisture. Turning, churning, and watering of the bin contents regularly helps aerate the mixture and keep it moist. With some care and attention, the material in the bin will decompose in about six to 12 months. Finished compost may be added to garden soil and potted plants.

Those new to home composting who might like to improve their composting skills may want to attend a free home composting class offered by local master composters. 

The following home composting classes have been scheduled in Sandoval County:

  • Placitas Community Library: September 24, from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Meadowlark Senior Center: October 26 at 5:30 p.m.
  • Loma Colorado Library: November 12, from 1-3 p.m.

Current and future classes are listed at

For more information, contact the Sandoval County Cooperative Extension at (505) 867-2582 or toll-free at (800) 678-1802.

Full closure on the Mountainair Ranger District

The Mountainair Ranger District has hit extreme fire danger levels. Fire officials have been monitoring and evaluating the current fuel moistures in anticipation for full forest closure, starting next week. The criteria used for evaluating the closure includes safety and concerns for our communities, forest users, employees, firefighters, and protection of our natural resources. Extremely low fuel moistures, winds, temperatures, low humidity, and drying winds are factors evaluated to support full forest closure. These factors can also result in high fire danger and rapid-fire growth. Fire resources (engines, firefighters, etc.) are now being requested by the Mountainair Ranger District to support and enforce closures. Due to the increase of fire danger, the district proceeded with full closure, starting in mid-May.  

Signs and flyers were placed along highways and posted throughout the communities to remind the public that the Manzano and Gallinas Mountains are closed. The use of all campgrounds, day use picnic areas, and trails on the forest will be prohibited. All National Forest system roads will be closed; state and county roads through the district will remain open. If traveling state and county roads, be aware of other district and state restrictions and/or closures.

The Manzano and Gallinas Mountains will remain closed to the public until sufficient precipitation is received to adequately reduce our extremely dry conditions and reduce the risk of wildfire to a manageable level. To report a fire, call the 24-hour, toll free number at (505) 346-2660, or dial 911.

For further information on fire danger, contact Adrian Padilla or Arlene Perea at (505) 847-2990, or e-mail or

SBA loans may be available for businesses rebuilding from February arctic freeze

Small Business Administration (SBA) loans for businesses still recovering from February’s arctic freeze may be available from the federal government, according to the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM).

The SBA provides small business owner’s access to economic injury loans that provide money for ongoing businesses expenses to recover from the adverse economic impact of a disaster. Economic injury disaster loans are available even if the businesses didn’t sustain physical damages.

Loan amounts and terms are determined on a case-by-case basis. Interest rates as low as four percent for businesses and as low as three percent for nonprofit organizations, coupled with payment terms as long as 30 years, are intended to make the loans affordable.

In order to apply for the SBA loans, a SBA worksheet needs to be completed by prospective applicants. The worksheet is not a loan application, but the first step in the process. Worksheets are posted on the DHSEM Web site at Once the worksheet is filled out, it needs to be faxed to the state’s disaster recovery unit at (505) 476-9650.


Fire restrictions set for BLM public lands in Albuquerque district

Prolonged high temperatures, low rainfall and humidity, and spring winds have increased the fire danger. As a result, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is enacting fire restrictions, effective Thursday, May 19, to help prevent wildfires and ensure public and firefighter safety.

The fire restrictions cover public lands managed by the BLM’s Albuquerque district in Bernalillo, Catron, Cibola, McKinley, Sandoval, Socorro, and Valencia counties.

Effective at 8 a.m. Thursday, May 19, and until rescinded, the following acts are prohibited: 

  1. Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal, or wood stove, except within established campfire rings and grills at Datil Well and Joe Skeen Campgrounds, and the Socorro Nature Area. The use of petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns, or heating devices, provided such devices meet the fire underwriter’s specifications for safety, is allowed.
  2. Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building.
  3. Discharging fireworks or using an explosive requiring fuse blasting caps.
  4. Operating a chainsaw without an approved spark arrester and without a chemically pressurized fire extinguisher of not less than eight ounce capacity by weight and one round point shovel. The extinguisher will be with the equipment operator. The shovel may be kept with fueling supplies but readily available for use.
  5. Welding or operating acetylene or another torch with an open flame, except within an area that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials at least 10 feet on all sides from the equipment.

These restrictions have been coordinated with other land management agencies, the New Mexico State Forestry Division, and affected counties. Fire prevention orders are available at each district office and will be posted to As summer approaches, additional restrictions or closures may be necessary; check for updates at

Questions regarding this order should be addressed to the BLM Fire Management Officer, Todd Richards, at (505) 761-8769 or the Albuquerque district office at (505) 761-8700.

Dealing with bad contractors

—Mike Dooley,

Over a decade ago, I moved to New Mexico, and one of the first things that happened to me was getting “ripped off” by someone in the green industry. After that, I was scammed by a contractor, who actually invited me to his wife’s birthday party (where I gave her a very generous present). As a “Thank You,” he then stole $6,000 in cash and another $6,000 in fraudulent purchases on my business accounts. I must admit that since he was “in the business,” I didn’t do what I recommend. CHECK THEM OUT!

Keep in mind the bad guys know that many of you can be seduced with a super low price. John Ruskin put it best: “The bitterness of poor quality lasts longer than the sweetness of low price.” Amen.

Luckily, we now have the Internet, and checking contractors out is a lot easier. Start with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), but remember that just because someone has a complaint doesn’t mean that the contractor is at fault, so be sure to see how it was resolved. Then go to the construction industry’s Web site. Follow up with the attorney general and finally Angie’s List.

For the Better Business Bureau, go to

For the attorney general, go to for lots of info, or call 1-800-678-1508.

For the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department that oversees the industry, go to, and search “disciplinary.”

Go with well-known businesses to serve you, and read the contract completely. Assume that what is on the contract is all that will be done, and if you want something done that’s not on the contract, add it and have the contractor initial it! 

Happy gardening!

Mike’s new book, Residential Landscape Design for the Horticulturally Hopeless, is available at, Alameda Greenhouse, and Plant World.


Japan would be hard pressed to close all of its 54 nuclear reactors anytime soon, especially given that these plants provide over a third of the nation’s electricity supply and 11 percent of its total energy needs. Pictured: A Greenpeace vigil for Japan in front of the White House in Washington, D.C.

EarthTalk® —E-The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Were Japan to close all its nuclear plants following the recent damage and radiation leaks from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, what could its energy mix look like? Would it be able to provide all of its power in other ways? —Richard Miller, New York, NY

Most experts agree that Japan would be hard pressed to close all of its 54 nuclear reactors anytime soon, especially given that these plants provide over a third of the nation’s electricity supply and 11 percent of its total energy needs. Japan relies so much on nuclear power because it has so few other domestic sources of energy to draw upon. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Japan is only 16 percent energy self-sufficient, and much of this comes from its now-wounded nuclear power program.

Despite producing only trifling amounts of oil domestically from fields off its west coast, Japan is the third largest oil consumer in the world behind the U.S. and China, as well as the third largest net importer of crude oil. Imported oil accounts for some 45 percent of Japan’s energy needs. Besides bringing in a lot of oil, Japan is the world’s largest importer of both coal and liquefied natural gas. Against this backdrop of imported fossil fuels, it’s no surprise that Japan has embraced nuclear power; worldwide, only the U.S. and France produce more nuclear energy.

Factoring in that it would take decades to ramp up capacity on alternative renewable energy sources (right now hydropower accounts for three percent of Japanese energy usage and other renewable sources like solar and wind only one percent) and that Japan must import just about all its fossil fuels, it becomes obvious that the country will need to rely on nuclear power for some time to come, despite the risks.

“Supplying the same amount of electricity by oil, for example, would increase oil imports by about 62 million metric tons per year or about 1.25 million barrels per day,” says Toufiq Siddiqi, a researcher with the nonprofit East-West Center. He adds that at the current price of oil per barrel (roughly $100), switching out nuclear for oil would cost Japan upwards of $46 billion per year. “Further, it would take almost a decade to build enough new oil, coal, or natural gas-fired power plants to provide the equivalent amount of electricity, and tens of billions of dollars per year would be required to do so,” he concludes.

In the short term, the easiest way for Japan to make up for its reduced nuclear output is by importing more natural gas and other fossil fuels, sending its carbon footprint in the wrong direction. What’s less clear is whether Japanese policymakers’ preexisting plans to increase the country’s nuclear capacity—the stated goal is to generate half of Japan’s electricity via nuclear power within two decades as part of a larger effort to trim carbon dioxide emissions—will still be followed after the Fukushima accidents.

The Fukushima plant failures are likely to impact the always evolving energy mix worldwide as well, not just within Japan. Many analysts expect the nuclear disaster in Japan to cause a shift toward the increased use of natural gas worldwide. Of course, the downside for the environment is that natural gas is a fossil fuel, and its use contributes significantly to global warming. While solar and wind power can take up some of the slack, these and other renewables are at least decades away from the scalability needed to power a significant share of a modern, industrial society’s energy requirements.

Contacts: U.S. Department of Energy (; East-West Center (

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E-The Environmental Magazine (




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