Garden, Plant, Cook!

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Shade The Soil NOT the Plants! And World Vegetarian Day

Dear Folks,

I can't stress enough the challenge of believing that shading your plants in the desert garden is the right point of view.  Wrong!

Pictured is my eggplant bed, 6+ feet wide, containing 2 eggplants and a pepper plant, taken September 12, 2017.

Our edible plants need all the sunlight they can get - with only minor exceptions - to grow that herb, fruit or vegetable and give it the wonderful flavors we are looking for.

This eggplant bed is on a 7 day deep watering cycle and that is all the bed gets except for rain.  This is the bed on July 19, 2017.  Notice the mulch.  THAT is the key to successful planting here in the desert.

Because our sun is SO intense here, even in the winter, folks tend to think in terms of shade.  BUT shade can cause more problems then aid.

It minimizes air circulation which can encourage pests and diseases.

It can actually increase heat if placed too close to the plants.

And it can reduce the sunlight so much that the plants cannot get enough to grow and produce properly.

Density of planting is another factor.  When first planting/sowing you need to space out, but mulch between them and plant a bit closer together than recommended in planting/sowing directions for plants (except trees).  Cover the ground with mulch (but don't let it touch the base of the tender young plants as this can also give rise to pests getting easily to the plants.  Then allow the plants to canopy the SOIL.

My big cinder block raised bed (about 11 feet by 5 feet) looks like this now.  The tomatoes produced nicely this spring and early summer, then started to wilt some with the coming summer heat when I planted the sweet potatoes and now the tomatoes are robust to say the least, and are starting to produce fruit. 
So, my point is plan for shading the soil not the plants.  Plant / Sow a little closer together than recommended.  Mulch around seedlings or lightly mulch over seeds.  Increase mulch depth around plants, but no touching them as the grow and allow the plants to begin making their own soil-shading canopy.

My mango, started from seed is looking good. While I do have another mango tree I wanted to see how this would do in my banana bed.

In The Kitchen.

The Listarda Eggplant is not only gorgeous but so tasty with a meaty texture and robust flavor.

I like the idea of Eggplant Parmesan but I did not want to go to all that work, so I fried some up in a bit of avocado oil, and put some white cheddar cheese with some of my own dried Greek Oregano to melt over it.  SO great tasting, I made up extra to re-heat later or freeze for later!

WORLD Vegetarian Day is October 1st.

Meat eaters get a little shaky when the subject of vegetarian and vegan foods are brought up.

Vegetables as a side dish only is the beginning of a conversation we need for many reasons which could include economy and environment.  But I don't want that the focus of this post.

I want you to consider the outstanding flavor, texture and good-for-you vegetable-based options - like Eggplant Parmesan, or an outstanding Pasta Primavera with a good quality pasta (there are many great tasting, high protein pasta options).

Pick your favorite vegetables, hopefully homegrown, and decide to make it the star of a meal then add protein of choice as THE side dish.  You might find some new favorites.

Have a great day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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