By Sgt. Barry St. ClairDecember 13, 2011
Master Gardeners, agriculture and water usage researchers, gathered in the frosty morning air Dec. 6 at Texas A & M AgriLife Research Center in El Paso, Texas. They to discussed gardening plans for 2012 and water usage within the Paso del Norte and Fort Bliss communities while walking through demonstrations gardens here.
The El Paso County Master Gardener program cares for a variety of demonstration gardens at the AgriLife Research Center campus. They work in partnership with Challenge Academy's troubled young people teaching gardening practices and outdoor active living at Ascarate Park. They are involved with El Paso Department of Parks and Recreation to maintain El Paso Municipal Rose Garden and other horticulture projects within El Paso County.
Denise S. Rodriguez is the program coordinator for the Master Gardener volunteers as a county extension agent. Rodriguez and Master Gardeners Rex Morris and Virginia Morris gave a guided tour of the various demonstration gardens.
"We have a variety of demonstration gardens that show what to plant and what not to plant for this region," said Virginia Morris as she walked along the pathway through the Xeriscape garden pointing out various landscape trees and plants. "We also have water harvesting system which captures water from the roof to water evergreen landscape gardens."
"The water is stored both in landscaped ditches as well as water barrels to water the trees and plants," Said V. Morris.
Water storage at Elephant Butte reservoir is at less than 10 percent of capacity. "Rainfall or snow runoff is not expected to change much in 2012," said Genhua Niu, Texas AgriLife Center researcher.
Faced with similar water availability issues, Archi's Acres, farm staff in southern California operated by Colon Archipley and Karen Archipley is demonstrating sustainable agricultural practice while using up to 90 percent less water to produce crops.
They partnered with Mira Costa Community College and created the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) program to train active duty military and veterans for strategic sustainable agriculture employment.
"This program has the potential to work great in our region as well," said Rodriguez, pointing to the demonstration gardens.
Rex Morris showed the Master Gardener plots, the vegetable garden and fruit orchard.
"We have discovered that the Rio Grande River has both saline and chlorine which effects the plants and production especially during a drought like we have been experiencing the past couple of years," said Rex Morris.
"With continued irrigation and the use of manure from the area dairies, the soil can build up salt faster than it can leach away in an arid climate," R. Morris said.
"Both the water salinity and the arid conditions make gardening, landscaping and farming a challenge in this region," said Virginia Morris. "But the Master Gardeners are happy to share what we have learned with anyone whether they are looking to grow a tomato in a flower pot, an orchard of pecan trees, or would just like tips on regional plants and lawn care."
"There is an excellent opportunity for Soldiers, family members and veterans to get involved as volunteers with community projects," Said Rodriguez. "AgriLife Extension provides outreach and continuing education programs in El Paso County."
"The Master Gardeners mentor youth at events like Kids, Kows and More, Junior Master Gardeners, 4-H and support the community gardens at Old Fort Bliss Museum," said V. Morris.
To volunteer or get more information, contact Denise Rodriguez at 915-860-2515 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.