Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, October 08, 2016

When Pigs Fly! "You can't grow that in the desert." YES, you can.

Dear Folks,

A dear friend gifted us with a little metal statue.  We don't typically put art in the garden, because our garden IS art.  However this little girl flying pig (I named her "Daisy Mae") immediately brought to mind the oft-repeated statement and generality - "You can't grow _______ in the desert."

The comment/statement is made so often, that people take it as truth because they fear the summer heat, or they tried planting tomatoes in June (wrong time), or stuck a new shrub or vegetable plant in the ground without hardening off, or the local chain nursery sold it, so it must be planted "now.", or, or - the list goes on with folks either trying to replicate the timing for gardening based on where they came from, or because they simply presume "they" can't do it correctly.

Let's do a reality check on what is grown, typically, in the desert.

Grass!  If I was going to choose one plant which puts the "you can't grow that here" statement to test, it would be grass.

What do people do to have a lawn in the desert?  They pamper, nurture, feed, water -- a lot -- and as one wag put it, use precious resources to grow something, they then cut down and THROW AWAY what they just cut!!

Here is real reality check, if you ate the plant, it can probably be grown here in the desert.

If you compare the actions required to have a green lawn in the desert to growing plants you eat, you will spent less everything growing food instead of lawns.

Daisy Mae, the flying pig, is surrounded by my Bradford watermelon plant still going strong on October 8, 2016.  I have yet to harvest the last - very large - melon and the plant is still putting on flowers.  It remains to be seen whether we get more fruit, but the point is, I planted a couple of seeds, in an automatically watered bed, augmented the watering in the early weeks, and then let nature take its course.  No more anything, no extra fertilizer, cutting, or daily/weekly maintenance.  The only 'extra' thing we had to do was to occasionally 'herd' the vines back into the bed.

Maybe you have a gravel covered yard and think you are saving money.  This is where our sun and heat IS an issue.  "Pea gravel, volcanic rock and similar stones have a high capacity for absorbing and retaining heat, which they then release as the sun goes down. Rocks also reflect a lot of heat off of their exposed surfaces. The combination of the two factors can increase the day and evening temperatures in the area and make your house hot, especially when you have these ground covers near your exterior walls."  Which translates into higher A/C costs to compensate.

The utility companies frequently publish how much savings you achieve by lowering or changing your temperature settings during the summer.  If gravel raises the average outside air temperature by 10 degrees or more (it does),  your a/c has to work harder to compensate for all that reflected heat off the gravel.  Electricity cost savings can be put into "greening" your yards with food plants, which create cooler zones, provide eye appeal and you can EAT the plants instead of cutting them and throwing them away.

Edible Ground Cover Plants Instead of Grass or Gravel:

BETTER than Grass or Gravel!
It can be as simple as growing squash (pumpkins or zucchini) melons (cantaloupe or watermelon), sweet potato vines, or tomatoes and let them sprawl all over the bare ground (YES tomatoes - they actually produce better in the warm weather sprawling instead of staking).  Gives new meaning to a "ground cover" which 1) cools the surface temperatures, 2) makes attractive foliage and 3) provides food (fruit and the edible sweet potato leaves along with the roots).

Think outside the lawn or gravel for better, cooler, more useful plants!

If you are need to my blog, or new to gardening in the Phoenix Metro area, check out my recent post on what to plant / sow in October.

Have a great day in the garden,

Please share if you enjoy my posts, thank you!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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