Northeast Heights home to 'wild' poppies - Albuquerque Journal

Northeast Heights home to ‘wild’ poppies

Q: The Northeast Heights have an amazing abundance this year of a purple/orange wild poppy. They are sprouting everywhere. In yards, along sidewalks, every crack and cranny seems to have a few. I don’t remember these coming up before this year. Any idea their origin? – D.G., Albuquerque

A: What you are noticing is Mother Nature at work.

Last week I answered a query from an unsuccessful poppy planter and thought that probably her seed had been planted too deep initially. Well, that’s what you are seeing. The “proper” planting of poppy seed.

Somewhere in the area someone planted poppies. They grew to maturity and were able to set seed. The wind then blew the seed, spreading it all over. During the balance of the growing season each of those seeds got covered with just enough dust/sand to keep it in place. The perfect mix of cold and wet weather this past winter allowed those seeds to get ready to grow, and voila, there are poppies popping up everywhere.

I’ve seen this phenomenon happen in a couple of other places here in the Metro. At the corner of 12th Street and Central Avenue, along the berm east of the blue hotel, there were gobs of poppies until that space was tidied, regraveled, and has now a few paddle cactus planted while getting spruced up for a filming in the area. The smallish poppies were a riot of color but alas, they are gone.

In the university area you can see this happy accident happening there too. If you know the direction of the prevailing winds in your area, you might just be able to trace back to the original planting. I’d just be happy, enjoy the gift of Mother Nature at work and smile. It’s all a good thing.

Unless you maybe have a “Johnny Poppy-Seed” walking, spreading the wealth. That’s a nifty thought, too.

Q: My grandparents always planted a lot of marigolds in their vegetable garden. Pop said they (the marigolds) kept the bugs away. Is there any truth to that idea or is it a myth? – M.T., Albuquerque

A: I believe that Pop was correct. Marigolds do have certain properties that are natural insect repellents. So planted amongst your veggies, they do offer a certain amount of protection.

Not only that but they are pretty and offer pollen for beneficials at the same time.

Another well-touted plant is the pyrethrum daisy, commonly called painted daisy. They are a relatively easy to grow clumping perennial plant that, planted as a border surrounding your veggies, could offer some protection too.

Planting marigolds by seed is so very easy and you get the added benefit of being able to harvest their seed to be ready for next year’s gardens. Marigolds come in such varied color and size choices, your veggie garden will be extra pretty while the veggies are growing.

Yes, Pop knew his stuff. So while out there diggin’ in and planting your veggies this year, sprinkle some marigold seed or get young plants ready to transplant into the space. Your efforts will assist a healthier garden area and you know Pop would be proud.

Happy Diggin’ In!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to


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