Desert Composting

Bernalillo Master Composter, John Zarola came up to Bloomfield to educate folks on proper composting methods for our arid climate. The crowd was full of urban growers, dedicated gardeners, and beginners looking to get started on the right foot. John advised his audience to let go of their composting assumptions. There’s a few simple rules that must be followed but other then that, its hard to mess up.

The Basics:

  • You can compost anything that was once alive (this includes paper and natural fiber products)
  • There are different methods of composting that work in the desert. Research several different options and decide what is easiest for you.
  • Successful composting requires water, air, nitrogen and carbon. Your fill should have a 2:1 Carbon to Nitrogen, or Brown to Green ratio.
  • Browns include: dried leaves and grass, shredded paper, straw. Greens include: kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetarian animal manures, etc
  • Compost piles should maintain 50% moisture, which is about the same water content as a tea bag or coffee filter after it is brewed. Compost piles should always be covered to reduce evaporation.
  • To maintain proper air ventilation, consider layering bulking materials (such as large sticks or pine cones) with denser organic fill (such as kitchen scraps). This allows for proper aeration.
  • Be patient. Decomposition takes time.

Financial Compliance for Ditch Companies

In early March, the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) visited the Farmington area, holding a workshop on the topic of financial compliance. Several funding options were explained, such as those through Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) or Interstate Streams Commission (ISC). New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts (NMACD) can offer things like technical consulting services and develop Preliminary Cost Estimates. NMAA can assist with Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plans (ICIPs) which can help for Capital Outlay requests and other state funding.

BUT if you want to qualify for state funding for design or construction, your ditch must first be in financial compliance. Ditches and acequias are local public bodies, which means they have annual requirements under the Open Meetings Act, tier reporting to the Office of the State Auditor, and financial reporting to the Local Government Division.

Open Meetings Act. This means publishing your meeting schedule in the paper once a year, giving 10-day prior notice to the public before any board meetings, and having a written agenda available 72 hours in advance of each meeting. View the Open Meetings Act guide for more details.

Tier System Financial Reporting. Your reporting requirements differ based on your annual revenue and whether you are expending capital outlay funds. All ditches should fill out the tier certification form annually, and determine what additional reporting is necessary.

Tiers are summarized here, see form for full details:

  • Tier 1 ditches have less than $10,000 in revenue and did not directly expend at least 50% of, or the remainder of, a capital outlay award this year. They are exempt from quarterly reporting and budget approval to the Local Government Division (LGD), and just need to submit at Tier certification form online.
  • Tiers 2 through 6 have revenue between $10,000 and $500,000 and/or have expended at least 50% of, or the remainder of, a capital outlay award this year. These ditches are required to submit annual budgets and quarterly reports to the LGD (see below) and must complete “agreed upon procedures” (AUP) with an Independent Public Auditor to meet requirements for the Office of the State Auditor. See their website for details:
  • Tier 7 ditches have revenue over $500,000 this year, and require a full financial audit in addition to the LGD financial reporting requirements.
  • NOTE: If you have never submitted Tier Certification, AUP, or audit forms to the Office of the State Auditor before, you are required to catch up on past years from 2010 to present before you are considered “in compliance” to receive state funding.

Public bodies that are responsible for submitting an Annual Budget and Quarterly Financial Reports to the LGD can download template forms at Annual Budgets should include the following: Revenue, Expenditures, Cash and Investments, Governing Board Resolution accepting the budget, 4th Quarter Report for year just ended. Quarterly Reports should compare actual financial activity against the Annual Budget.

For questions concerning budgeting and reporting, seek out Tom Dixon, the LGD Budget & Finance Analyst at

NMAA assists acequias with all stages of financial compliance and can recommend and assist in applying for future funding opportunities. They can be reached at (505) 995-9644 or on their website at

Pruning at the Ag Science Center

March 16th kicked off early spring pruning for the Ag Science Center. Extension Viticulture Specialist, Gill Giese came to present and give hands on training in grape vine pruning. The workshop was full of backyard gardeners wondering why their fruit trees haven’t been so fruitful lately.

Pruning is one of the most important activities when it comes to maintaining fruit baring trees and vines. Cutting back the plant is essential to avoid overcropping. Overcropping (in terms of fruit baring plants) is when the tree or vine produces more fruit then what it can successfully ripen.  By cutting off the excess buds, the plant is able to focus more energy into successfully feeding and ripening the few remaining fruits. If one leaves too many buds on the vine, the fruit will never become fully ripe, as the plant is struggling to divide its carbohydrate reserves amongst the many buds it must feed.

When it comes to pruning grapes, there’s a few key terms to know. The cordons or arms are the main branches that arise from the trunk (older than one year). Shoots are the new stems that develop from buds to support leaves and fruit. Canes are shoots that have grown the past year and have become matured wood. You might ask: how can I tell what is new growth and what is mature wood? The answer is to look at the bark. Mature wood will have flakey bark; new growth will be smooth.

Giese educated everyone on a method known as balanced pruning. When pruning grapes, you should aim to remove almost 90% of the new growth. Balanced pruning helps us to gauge this by weighing the wood we have pruned. The common rule of thumb is to leave 20 buds per 1 lb. of wood removed. Growers that are new to pruning often fear damaging the tree; because of this, they often under-prune. Using balanced pruning techniques helps to avoid this.

Kevin Lombard gave everyone the 411 on apple tree pruning. He stated that he likes to think of pruning as “family planning.” He also explained that when you have an orchard that has been neglected for some time (such as the one at the Ag Science Center), you have to accept that it will take time to get the trees back into proper condition. Its better to prune some this year and come back and prune more next year. You won’t see fruitful results if you become impatient and do something drastic like tree topping (cutting off the top of the tree), instead work in sections and walk away often (so as not to get tunnel vision and over-prune).  Kevin’s basic rules of thumb: cut out low hanging branches and eliminate crossing branches.

Feel free to visit the Ag Science Center for more information and happy pruning!

Upcoming Workshop

We’re excited to offer this upcoming workshop with NMAA. Everyone is welcome to attend. Come learn how your ditch board should operate and what hurdles might be getting in the way of funding opportunities.

Happy Holidays!

San Juan SWCD will be out of the office the week of Christmas.

Regular hours will resume on the 2nd of January.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from everyone at San Juan SWCD!

Position Opening – SJWG Coordinator

The San Juan Watershed Group is now hiring to fill its Watershed Coordinator position. Please help us spread the word by forwarding this position description within your networks: SJWG Watershed Coordinator Position

Primary duties of the Watershed Coordinator will be to plan, seek funding for, and implement projects that improve water quality in the San Juan, Animas, and La Plata Rivers. See position description for full details.
This position will be considered open until filled, but we are asking for applications by November 6th at 3:00pm. Questions can be directed to, or to Melissa at 505- 793- 0294.

Upcoming SJWG Meeting

San Juan SWCD board members may be present at the upcoming San Juan Watershed Group Meeting on the 16th of October at the Farmington Civic Center from 4 to 6 pm. No official board decisions will be made- just discussions. Feel free to join.