Five Taos Landscaping Tips – “The Secret is in the Soil” | Enchanted Homes

Jennifer Laabes of Taos Landscaping and Julie Shedko of Lettuce Grow have been working to restore the land in Ranchos de Taos that once housed Blossoms. At the same time, they are collaborating to provide clients with landscaping that is beautiful, functional and healthy.

Taos Landscaping has been women-owned since 1980. Laabes purchased the business five years ago. Their crews design, install and maintain landscapes.

After moving to the area in 2010, Shedko ran an educational farm in El Prado for six years. Through that work, she observed that the poor condition of the soil was detrimental to plants and trees’ growth and health. Shedko then pursued an education in soil biology through the Soil Food Web and the teachings of Dr. Elaine Ingham. Now, she shares that knowledge about building biodynamic composts and teas with her company and as a consultant at Taos Landscaping.

Together, Laabes and Shedko restore and shape the landscape for their clients. Here are five tips for landscaping in Taos, from them to you.

Consider the existing structures, assets and limitations, as well as your goals for the site. Are there features you hope to incorporate and a preferred aesthetic? Do you like a wild effect or something more cultivated? Plan for it before you get to work transforming your outdoor space.

Soil health is crucial to the wellbeing of plants and trees. The Green Revolution, which introduced chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides, increased crop yields around the world. The goal was to feed an exponentially growing human population. This has not been achieved without a cost. Many areas farmed this way have an imbalance of microorganisms in the soil. Local samples that Shedko has analyzed under a microscope reveal a prevalence of bacteria, scant fungi and fewer predatory microorganisms. This means plants and trees have become starved for nutrients that a functional system would provide.

Shedko assesses a client’s soil, determines what, if anything, is out of balance, and then creates compost and compost teas — an easier, more economical way to apply the compost — in addition to worm castings from worm bins to help restore the vitality of the site’s ecosystem. As this occurs, there’s an increase in garden and farming yields; costs diminish annually because of a reduced need for external fertilizers and pest controls.

You can create your own compost with the guidance of a soil specialist like Shedko. Beneficial microorganisms are generated through the composting process, if it’s done correctly. Several applications of the compost tea throughout the growing season, and one the following spring, rebuild the equilibrium of necessary microorganisms, leaving plants and trees robust and thriving.

Laabes suggests diverse plantings to benefit soil health. Select native species or ones that will thrive here. Choose penstemons for a riot of color, blue grama grass for movement, Apache plume and crabapples for texture and vibrancy, piñon and ponderosa for their beauty and resiliency. Consider bloom times: plant flowers that peak at different times from spring through fall. Create microclimates that provide shade and wind protection so a variety of plants will thrive.

Using less water and using it more wisely is key to successful landscaping, and essential in our arid, drought-affected desert Southwest. Taos Landscaping specializes in xeriscaping: minimal water usage, drought-tolerant plants, and covering the bare earth with rock and stone. It’s a complement to the drip irrigation system that you or they can install. Use timers to water early morning or evenings to avoid moisture loss from sun and wind. For those with access to an acequia, they can help you integrate this resource with your watering plan.

Ground covers and mulches are part of a functional landscape. Shedko notes that “earth wants to be covered.” Cover crops (think rye, wheat grass and vetch), mulch and the weed barrier and gravel combination often implemented in xeriscaping help retain moisture and topsoil, while reducing nontoxic weeds and helping with soil vitality.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.