New mexico planting zones

50 Crops for New Mexico

  • Bioregion: All
  • Origin: Mediterranean and Near East. Domesticated 6500 years ago in Egypt.
  • Growing season: Annual crop. Early spring to mid fall.
  • Days to maturity: 50 to 70 days
  • Potential cash return: Huge potential if one can produce it intensively in the end off season (especially in green houses or cold frame) or as value added in salad mixes.
  • Water needs: Medium water requirements
  • Pest resistance or potential problems: High level due to its saponates
  • Cultural significance: European influence
  • Nutritional Highlights: Good amounts of Vitamin A, C & B6 as well as riboflavin, thiamin, silica and calcium.


  • Biocultural crop
  • Bioregion: All except the far North of NM
  • Origin: Central America to Bolivia. 5,000 old crop.
  • Growing season: Depending on the bioregion but the average is mid spring- mid fall
  • Days to maturity: Annual crop. Depends on variety Average 90 days.
  • Potential cash return: The most grown vegetable cash crop in the States, so competition is high so best made into value added products like salsas, chili oil or jams per example.
  • Water needs: Medium water requirements
  • Pest resistance or potential problems: Since chili is such a commercial crop in NM there are a number of pests that plague the chili, number one the chili weevil as well as a number of fungal and viral diseases to be aware of with your cultural practices.
  • Cultural significance: All cultures in NM use chili in almost every meal or at least once a day, and always served for feast days. Used as a spice, condiment and medicine.
  • Nutritional highlights: Substantial amounts of Vitamin A & C. Lowers blood pressure, aids digestion and fights infection.

Sweet pepper

  • Bioregion: All except far north of NM.
  • Origin: Central America & Mexico
  • Growing season: Annual Crop. Depends on the Bioregion but the average mid spring- mid fall.
  • Days to maturity: Average 80 days
  • Potential cash return: Huge untapped market as most growers grow chili, so, way less competition in growing sweet peppers especially colored bell or Pimiento sweet pepper types.
  • Water needs: Medium
  • Pest resistance or potential problems: There are a number of pests that plague sweet peppers, number one the chili weevil as well as a number of fungal and viral diseases to be aware of with your cultural practices.
  • Cultural significance: Not nearly as cultural significance as chili.
  • Nutritional Highlights: Very rich in Vitamin A & C


  • Bioregion: All except in the far North of NM
  • Origin: South America
  • Growing season: Annual crop. Depending on the Bioregion but generally tomatoes are transplanted after last frost, usually end of May- October.
  • Days to maturity: Depends on variety but average is 85 days.
  • Potential cash return: Fantastic cash return if sold in the off season and producing in late fall, winter and spring by growing in green houses, especially heirloom types or made into salsas and pastes.
  • Water needs: Light to medium water requirements
  • Pest resistance or potential problems: In NM rarely susceptible to several fungal and bacterial diseases usually due to excessive water at blossom time.
  • Cultural significance: Bio-cultural crop that all cultures enjoy.
  • Nutritional highlights: Generous amounts of Vitamin A & C and amino-acids (depends on variety)


  • Bioregion: All
  • Origin: Peru, Bolivia & Chile. About 7,000 years ago.
  • Growing season: Mid spring to mid fall.
  • Days to maturity: 100 days
  • Potential cash return: Good potential if one grows the heirloom colored types and supplies the early market or stores them to supply in the off season being in late fall, winter and early spring.
  • Water needs: Medium to High
  • Pest resistance or potential problems: Good cultural practices usually prevent the various fungal and viral problems that potatoes are prone to. They need rich well drained soil and don’t like excess water.
  • Cultural significance: Not considered cultural important in NM but it is the most consumed vegetable in NM. So, a wide open potential awaits for sustainable local food supply.
  • Nutritional Highlights: Fair amounts of Calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin B1, B6 and C.

Sweet potatoes

  • Bioregion: Basin Range and South Eastern Plains
  • Origin: N. W. South America, about 7,500 years ago.
  • Growing season: Late spring- mid fall
  • Days to maturity: 160 days
  • Potential cash return: Fantastic, mostly all imported, no competition in NM and can be stored.
  • Water needs: Light
  • Pest resistance or potential problems: No significant problems
  • Nutritional Highlights: 12- 15 amino acids, substantial quantities of Vitamin A, B1, B2 and C.


  • Bioregion: Mainly Basin Range, Province and Central South Eastern Province but a number of short season varieties grow well in Southern Rockies and Colorado Plateau.
  • Origin: Sub-tropic southern Africa, domesticated 1,500 years ago.
  • Growing season: Annual Crop. Summer, plant after last frost.
  • Days to maturity: Depends on variety, average 90 days.
  • Potential cash return: If one grows small heirlooms yellow or orange.
  • Water needs: Light
  • Pest resistance or potential problems: Very few problems but occasionally susceptible to fusarium wilt and fungal problems usually due to over watering as the fruit is developing.
  • Cultural significance: Used in ceremonial events with indigenous tribes as well as served in feast days.
  • Nutritional Highlights: Moderate quantities of Vitamin B1, B6 & C.


  • Bioregion: Mainly Basin Range, Province and Central South Eastern Province but a number of short season varieties grow well in Southern Rockies and Colorado Plateau.
  • Origin: Sub-Sahara Africa, Middle East. Domesticated 2,500 years ago.
  • Growing season: Annual crop. Summer and plant after last frost
  • Days to maturity: Depends on variety. Average 85 days.
  • Potential cash return: If one grows the extra early types to get first market or the green or white fleshed late season varieties that keep for several months into late fall.
  • Water needs: Medium
  • Pest resistance or potential problems: Cucumber beetles and several fungal diseases.
  • Cultural significance: Used in ceremonial events with indigenous tribes as well as served in feast days.
  • Nutritional Highlights: Rich in Vitamin A and potassium.

Squash- Summer

  • Bioregion: All
  • Origin: Mexico. One of the oldest crops to be domesticated; 10,000 years ago.
  • Growing season: Annual crop.Summer, after danger of last frost has passed.
  • Days to maturity: 55 days.
  • Potential cash return: Pretty good if one grows the heirloom varieties that no one else does.
  • Water needs: Medium
  • Pest resistance or potential problems: The only major problem in NM is the squash beetle.
  • Cultural significance:
  • Nutritional highlights: Seeds (‘pepitas’) rich in zinc

By Josh Jasso, FoodCorps Service Member with La Semilla Food Center

There are a limited amount of places in the country where year-round food production is viable; and even fewer places where year-round growing is possible at 4000 ft. But that’s the place I find myself at: the Paso del Norte region of Southern New Mexico and West Texas, a tristate area with Chihuahua, Mexico.

Serving with La Semilla Food Center, I’ve been tasked with providing teachers and schools with the knowledge and infrastructure to educate about food and its production, as well as managing two, soon to be productive, school gardens in Las Cruces.

We’re at that point of the year where you (finally) can notice the shift in seasons. As the weather transitions from the consistently hot to crisp and cool, you notice the introduction and shift in vegetables at the farmers market and your garden or farm. You can still find those tomatoes and chiles that you love, but now you’re finding spinach, radishes, carrots and other fall crops as farmers transition to crops that can tolerate our pleasantly mild winters. This selection might be available in other climates for longer or more frequently but let’s not forget that we live in the desert, and it takes a hardy type of plant (or person) to be able to exist here year round.

There are transition windows for the seasons, some are obvious, others are more subtle. There’s a fine line between planting radishes and getting a succulent, watery bite, and getting a sinus-clearing, spicy mouth full.

You want warm enough soil to promote vigorous germination and growth, but cool enough days that the radish remains refreshing. A couple of days on either end of the transition period and your crop can be affected.

Plant too early and your fall crop won’t germinate well in the heat. Plant too late and your crop will get wiped out by a hard frost before you get to harvest any of it.

These are problems that a farmer has to deal with, and can only be learned through familiarity and time.

There are ways to mediate these issues, however. Simple things like using row cover to protect your seeds and seedlings will improve germination and growth and help to regulate soil temperatures. Similarly, the same product will help to extend the growing season by keeping soil temperatures warmer for plants when temperatures begin to drop. The method for season extension that is being implemented at our gardens is the hoop house, or low tunnel.

The principle is the same as using row cover or using a green house – creating a microclimate for the plants in which they can continue to grow. With this method in place we should be able to successfully navigate the changing of the seasons and the light frosts that are prevalent in our area.

Interested in learning about techniques to extend your seasons? Visit the following links for more information: Low Tunnel Construction or Raised Bed Gardening Mini Tunnel.

Climate & Geography


New Mexico is 2nd only to Arizona in days of sunshine per year. The climate is dry and extreme weather conditions are rare. Elevations in the state range from 2,817 ft. at Red Bluff Lake in the southern Rio Grande Valley to 13,161 ft. on Wheeler Peak in north central New Mexico. While New Mexico is considered a southern state in terms of latitude, bordering Texas and Arizona to the east and west, and Mexico to the south, its elevation provides for 4 seasons throughout the state.

The normal weather patterns call for warm to hot days and cool nights with scattered thundershowers in the summer and cold nights and moderate days with some snow in the winter. Fall and spring can bring some of the most gorgeous weather, with spring being the most unpredictable.


The land area of New Mexico is 121,365 square miles. It is the 5th largest state in the union. The diverse landscape includes deeply forested mountains to the vast desert of White Sands National Monument. In fact, 6 of the 7 life zones found in the world exist in New Mexico. These life zones are classified by vegetation types and vary by altitude and orientation to the sun.

New Mexico has 3 topographic zones. The Rocky Mountain zone extends through the north central section of New Mexico. The plains extend from the eastern border west to the first range of the mountains that extends from the Sangre de Cristos south to the Guadalupe Mountains. The intermountain plateau includes the remainder of the state.

Mountains are New Mexico’s most memorable natural characteristic. They are present in or visible from all but a few counties on the extreme eastern border, and they impact the climate and provide a watershed for most of the state. Above timberline, year-round snow peaks exist in every quadrant of the state. New Mexico mountain ranges include the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Brazos, Mogollon, San Juan, Zuni, San Mateo, Datil, Gallinas, Jicarilla, Capitan, White, Sacramento, Guadalupe, Sandia, Manzanos, Pinos, Oscuras, San Andres, Organ, Fra Cristobal, Caballo, and Magdalena.

Plains still cover the largest percentage of the state’s topography. The Great Plains proper reach one-third of the way across New Mexico. Geographers distinguish 2 sections of the plains: the lava-capped uplands of the northeast corner and the Llano Estacado (“staked plains”). The Llano Estacado is bounded roughly by Interstate 40, the Pecos River and a line joining Roswell and Hobbs. Other areas of plains include the southern desert region extending from Las Cruces to Lordsburg, the northwest plateau area, and various basins. These areas are sometimes referred to as valleys and include the Tularosa and Estancia valleys and the Plains of San Agustin.

Santa Fe’s designation in USDA’s 2012 Plant Hardiness Zone Map

New Mexico USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map (click to see full size)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an updated version of its Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The previous map, published in 1990, determined zones using weather data for 1974 through 1986. The new map analyzed 30 years of data, 1976-2005, to determine more accurate average minimum temperatures across the country.

This tool, jointly developed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Services and Oregon State University’s PRISM Climate Group, provides greater accuracy and detail than the 1990 version. It is now available online: The new Internet-friendly map offers a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based interactive format. The map website also incorporates a “find your zone by ZIP code” function.

The new version of the map includes 13 zones, with the addition for the first time of zones 12 (50-60 degrees Fahrenheit) and 13 (60-70 degrees Fahrenheit). Each zone is a 10-degree Fahrenheit band, further divided into 5-degree Fahrenheit zones “A” and “B.”

We tested this new tool and determined Santa Fe has changed slightly and is now officially in 6b (-5 to 0 degrees Fahrenheit).

Upon close examination, our nearby mountainous region appears to straddle two zones, 6a and 6b, and if you live in the foothills at higher elevation then you may be closer to 6a. Santa Fe was formerly in climate zone 5 and as a result of this new map, our zone has changed and due to data reflecting the minimum temperatures are not as cold on average.

David Salman, President and Chief Horticulturist at Santa Fe Greenhouses/High Country Gardens, points out further, “Over the past thirty years that I have been gardening in SF, I have definitely seen the winters becoming warmer and the range of plants we are able to grow here has expanded as a result.”

The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location.

Anyone may download the map free of charge from the Internet onto their personal computer and print copies of the map as needed.

To read the full press release on the new Plant Hardiness Zone Map, .

ABQ-BERNCO Seed Library

High Desert Gardening

The Southwest in general is often characterized by low humidity, infrequent rainfall, plentiful sunshine, alkaline soil, drying winds, wide temperature swings and unpredictable freeze dates. But here in Albuquerque variety seems to be the spice of our weather’s life. During a good summer monsoon season, high humidity, high temperatures and scalding sun can be a challenge to a home gardener. Winters can also be unpredictable, with some years bringing mild weather and other years bringing snow and ice and nights dropping into single digits. Spring winds have been increasing in strength over the years and can now often damage unstaked or taller, vulnerable plants. Furthermore, Albuquerque is located in a rift valley, where an elevation change of more than a thousand feet takes place between the Rio Grande river bosque area and the foothills of the Sandia mountains. Soils can range from sand to clay to decomposed granite and caliche, and often needs to be amended before gardening can begin. Finding plants that can survive and thrive amidst all of these varying factors (and more) is a continuing exploration for all Albuquerque area gardeners.

Water Wisdom

Water is a precious resource in the high desert zone. There are several ways a high desert gardener can reduce water use, and conserve the water that has been applied.

Scheduling. Watering during the late-afternoon windy period will see a startling amount of the water lost to evaporation. During hot periods water early in the morning, or early in the evening (or even at night) after the winds have dropped.

Water close to the ground rather than sprinkle. Overhead sprinkling, while covering a large area of the garden at once, often results in loss to evaporation. Too, where plants are planted close together, some of the water may remain on the leaves and not actually reach the ground. Use soaker hoses and drip irrigation if possible to help direct water only to where it’s needed.

Mulch! Mulches protect the soil from both sun and wind, greatly improving moisture retention and reducing loss. Even a simple mulch may reduce water loss by two-thirds — not only a more efficient use of water, but also a significant reduction in the gardener’s water bill. See the Mulching Subject Guide.

Soil Wisdom

Soil amendments. Most Albuquerque soils can benefit greatly from the addition of soil amendments. In fact, it can safely be said that it is almost impossible to add too much humus to our soils! The best amendment remains compost (see the Composting Subject Guide), but there are a wide range of soil amendments available to the gardener. There are seven official Master Gardener gardening zones in the Albuquerque area, not to mention the microclimates to be found in your own yard. Mixing in compost and other soil amendments specific to your yard or growing area will greatly improve moisture retention.

Drainage. Some gardeners face the caliche layer — a mineralized zone formed where groundwater bringing up solutes from below meets rainwater percolating down from above. Caliche is a natural form of concrete that can be completely impermeable to water, a layer that stops plant roots and prevents natural drainage. Where caliche is encountered you must either use only shallow-rooted plants, dig/chop through the caliche, or consider a different area for your garden.

Another factor of drainage is concentrating water near plants — where common practice in wetter climates is to plant on hilled-up earth to drain rainfall away, many plants in the Albuquerque area might do better in depressions where the water is kept around their roots.

Planting Wisdom

Use region-appropriate seeds & plants. Many varieties of popular plants are adapted to high desert conditions — such plants are often labeled as “drought tolerant” or “low water use”.

Location. Even a small garden often has microclimates, areas with different conditions that affect plant growth. Things that affect microclimates are the amount of direct or reflected sunlight, windbreaks (or lack thereof), and “altitude” (lower areas or pockets collect cooler air).

An area closer to your home also naturally tends to get more attention, and plants nearer your water supply tend to get watered first.

Containers. Planting in pots, raised beds, or other containers can make it easier to control soil conditions, concentrating amendments and water. Smaller containers can also be moved into different microclimates, or even brought inside.

Companion planting. Some plants do not share soil well, while others help one another thrive. This effect may be due to something as complex as the chemistry of root exudates, or as simple as a taller plant shading a delicate plant from hot afternoon sunlight.

Spacing. The spacing of plantings can also be an important factor. A square bed of beets, spaced so that their leaves almost touch when mature, will shadow the soil beneath in a way that does not occur in a straight row, keeping the soil cool and conserving moisture. Similarly, alternating rows of taller and shorter plants may be beneficial if the shorter plants (such as lettuce) prefer cool conditions, or detrimental if the taller plants intercept too much sunlight.

New Mexico Planting Zones – USDA Map Of New Mexico Growing Zones

Click on the image above to see a larger version.

Gardening Help – New Mexico Planting Map

New Mexico experiences a wide range in average winter extreme temperatures, from a chilly 4b in the northern part of the state to a very warm 9a in the south. There are many flowers, shrubs and trees that thrive in all parts of this state and knowing which planting zone you live in will help you make the best selections for your area.

The 2012 New Mexico USDA planting map, as pictured above, is based on data collected from 8,000 weather stations all over the Untied States over a period of thirty years. Previous USDA plant hardiness maps only considered data from a fifteen-year period. The new map changed somewhat from older versions to take into consideration warmer average winter temperatures as well as elevation data, proximity to a large body of water and areas where urban heat is a factor.

If you are wondering what plants would do best in your garden and landscape, you can enlarge the New Mexico plant map above to find your growing zone. Once you have determined which zone you are in, you can use that information to make educated decisions regarding the plants that will thrive in your garden.

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