I mentioned in my last post (about the chard stalks) that I have worked to shade parts of the vegetable garden this summer. Creating shade for the garden has been on that endless list of mine for the past 2-3 years.
Not only are our South Texas summers hot, but I have full open exposure to the garden to the west, so everything is in the garden roasting until the sun goes down and that is really hard on the plants. There is a magnolia tree that is growing on the west side of the garden. It was planted before we moved in, and it is growing well, but it will be many, many years before it is tall enough to provide any afternoon shade for the garden.
Over the past few years I have cooked up a lot of idea for creating shade in the garden. A few years ago, I had lambsquarter growing on the west side of each raised bed to provide shade. While that helped, it just wasn’t enough. We had a friend that lived with us a few years ago, and I was thinking that he could weld up a frame for over the top of the garden and then I could put shade cloth over the frame. I think that one would have worked, but he doesn’t live here anymore….
This year I though of two ideas. One was to create a “wall” of shade cloth on the west side of each raised bed. That would create shade from the west sun, and also some of the morning sun, limiting the amount of direct, hot sun the plants would get throughout the day. The other idea I had was to purchase a 10′ x 20′ car canopy and put it up inside the garden fence. I really thought both ideas would work. Both of my gardening neighbors sort of laughed and chuckled when I told them about the shade cloth “wall.” They didn’t seem to have a lot of faith in them. I did, so I went out and bought the supplies and moved forward.
The shade cloth “walls” I could mostly do on my own, but the car canopy I needed help to put up. One neighbor helped me by cutting the rebar to the length that I wanted, and my husband helped me put of the car canopy.
Shade cloth walls Pros:
- With the shade cloth wall, the plants are exposed to some direct sun throughout the day.
- When it rains, the plants benefit from the rain.
- I can leave the rebar in place and just take the shade cloth off for the winter.
- I could set it all up on my own (other then the neighbor that helped me cut the rebar – We did have the tools for that, so technically I could have done that too)
Shade cloth walls Cons:
- I was able to tie one of the rebar posts to the garden fence on one side – without that, the structure would be more wobbly, and I would have had to add one more vertical rebar support post in the center (not a big deal, just another post for each box)
- Having the wall of shade cloth on one full side of the raised bed, you are limited to harvesting from the other side. My beds are 3′ wide, so this hasn’t really been a con for me.
Car Canopy Pros:
- No obstacles for picking and harvesting – completely open under the canopy
Car Canopy Cons:
- Prevents the rain from getting to the plants
- The canopy will disintegrate over time (maybe one summer season here) and the cost of a new canopy is around $100 (I think I could find one for less that might not fit exactly, but would work) My plan it to replace it with some other shade cloth that would allow the rain to come through but still provide shade.
There are definite pros and cons to both of these ideas. They both work and that is the good thing. With both systems, over time, I will need to replace the cloth/cover. I think ultimately the best thing would be a frame build over the top of the garden where I could over the entire area with a shade cloth of some sort that would provide great shade in the summer, yet still allow the rain to come through, and then remove the cloth in the winter for more full sun.
The garden fence is not high enough to just add a flat cover over it – I could never stand up.
So for this year, I am thrilled to have some shade in the garden that is working.
If you need to, how do you shade your vegetable garden from the harsh sun?