Considerations for Shade Gardening


A love of trees can be a dilemma for home gardeners. The beauty and majesty that statuesque trees offer, along with the time needed to grow to maturity, make even a thought of removing them anathema for us. That's probably as it should be—the trees may be older than we are! Our decision to cut down trees can have far reaching effects. But, besides providing privacy, serenity and seasonal variety, our trees make shade. And whether your interests are with vegetables, perennials or even annuals, too much shade can make growing an attractive, productive garden a task. So, what should be considered for a shady area?

Try to note, or at least estimate, the seasonality effect. The sun is a lot higher in June than in September and depending on the growing season of your area, the quantity of daily sunlight can vary significantly. Other factors, such as the location of your house and your neighbors' houses and trees may come into play. Sometimes pruning or trimming your trees can add substantial light. Oaks, Maples, and other popular hardwoods may need limited shaping. But the height and girth of the pines and the evergreens are more easily controlled.

Determine your garden's shade type as well as time. A single tree might provide only filtered shade while more expansive stands may completely block sunlight all day. You may have a situation where the morning sun is prevalent and very little afternoon sun is available—or just the opposite. Full sun is usually categorized as 4-5 hours per day. If an area receives no sunlight to less than a couple hours, it is normally considered deep shade.

Selection of plants for your garden should be, in large part, determined by the quantity of sunlight received daily. One last point: before turning that first shovel of ground, plans for future tree planting should be considered.

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