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Shade Your Garden for Better Vegetables

Adding Shade

Part 3 of 3

Adding Shade to Your Garden
Giving your plants some much-needed sun shelter can be easier than you might think. Here are some examples to get you thinking about your garden and how it is set up.

Permanent structures
This is what everyone seems to think about first when talking about shading a garden. The commercial type shade structure, supported by big square steel poles with the whole garden shaded is one approach. Another is simply planting in containers on the east side of your house or garage. This is exactly how our container garden is set up, starting right next to the east wall and stretching out for about 10 feet. It gets full morning sun and starts seeing shade in the early afternoon, and by the hottest part of the day, it’s in light shade – no direct sun and only reflected light. We’ve grown cilantro in the container closest to the house almost all summer without it bolting.

Yet another is a chain-link fence with privacy strips woven into it, either 6 or 8 feet tall. Some houses already have these as a border fence and all you need to do is add the privacy weave. A tall wooden fence gives you built-in shading.

Temporary structures
These are the most common types of non-living sunscreen, easily put up and taken down as needed. One example is shade cloth zip-tied to the south fence of a garden, providing both shade and wind filtering. The amount of shade depends on the height of the fence.

Another is the T-post and shade cloth approach. 8-foot tall T-posts are pounded in on the west edge of the row or bed at 4 to 6-foot intervals, then shade cloth is zip-tied to them. This gives about a 7-foot tall shade wall, as the T-posts are driven in about a foot deep, giving a good shade and windbreak for vegetables. Removal is easy when fall approaches and the sun is needed all day.

Yet another example is a hoop house made from semi-rigid 20-foot long cattle panels arched over a bed or couple of rows and covered in shade cloth or clear plastic as needed. The plastic makes the hoop house into a large cold frame early in the season for lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and other cold-season greens, then is switched for shade cloth when tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are transplanted in early spring. The plastic is re-installed in the fall for another season of cold-season crops before winter.

Living structures
These can be either temporary – as in a wall of Russian sunflowers on the south fence, or more permanent – like a large trellis or hoop house made from cattle fencing panels as above and planted with a vining, leafy vegetable that crawls up and shades the entire area. The trellis is permanently installed, while the vines are replanted. A planting of okra along a fence, as the photo above shows.

Now it’s your turn
You’ve increased your knowledge and added another set of tools to your gardening toolbox, helping you be that much more successful this coming season! Use this article to plan where and when you need shade the most to boost your garden production and impress your family, friends, and neighbors.

An excerpt from “Shading Your Garden for Better Vegetables“, courtesy of Terroir Seeds.

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