Monday, February 6, 2012

A Great Garden Can Be Made in the Shade!

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.

Here is a recent post written by Paul that gives some great pointers about gardening in the shade:

"If you're a gardener that has a shady yard, consider yourself lucky--yes, lucky. Why? Because you can grow many more unique plants than the gardener who has nothing but direct sun all day, and the flowers you grow will do better than those grown in full sun all day. Just because you cannot grow roses in your yard doesn't make shade a bad thing. Learn to use the shade to your advantage. Appreciate the shade and its benefits to you and your family. Think about this, are you more comfortable relaxing in the shade on a hot summer's day? Consider that working in the garden is a lot easier without the direct sun baring down on you--and your shady patio or deck is a more peaceful place to relax on than in the hot sun.

All I want you to think about today is accepting the fact that living and gardening in the shade is like having friends and not enemies. To determine how to enjoy these friends you will need to know more about them. Begin by determining the amount of shade you have in your gardens, because few gardens are in shade all day long unless they are up against the north side of your house and your yard is completely covered with trees. When you're spending the day outside working in the yard is the best time to determine this.

This is what I want you to do. You will need a large pad of paper to draw the individual gardens on, pencils, a kitchen timer and your watch. Begin by drawing out the gardens on the pad of paper, go out into the yard at 8:00 AM, and write on the paper what the light conditions are. If part of the garden is in sun, make a line through the garden where the lights is at 8:00 am and mark the time on the line. Do this for each garden. Set the kitchen timer for one hour and then check out the garden again when the buzzer goes off and make a new line where the sun is at 9:00 am.

Do this all day to determine where you are receiving morning or late in the day sunlight in the garden and where it stays shady all day. The light map you have created will help you select the right plant for each section of your garden. If your shade is made by leaf trees, you will have to wait until the leaves develop on the tree to be more accurate--but with evergreens, it can be done now while you have time. During May is the best time to make this map, as the sun is higher in the sky and will better represent the growing conditions of the summer. This way you will know which plants to choose for the garden while the selection is best at the garden center. You will discover that there are hundreds of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and, yes, even some vegetables that will thrive in your shady gardens.

The map you created will help you select the best plants for your shade gardens. Plant material is expensive, so why guess and put the wrong plant in the garden and have the plant fail to grow for you? This spring, as you're cleaning out the gardens after the winter and preparing them for the spring, make this sun map before adding new plants or moving old plants around the garden.

Don't complain about what you cannot grow in your garden because of the quality of the sunlight. Instead, learn what to plant and rejoice over what you can now grow in that same garden. The place where you had little to no success in the past can now become your showplace garden of the future. Here are a few things to think about when you create a shade garden.

Here are some benefits of a shady garden:

Plants grown in the shade require less watering all year long, no matter what your soil is like. These plants will also require less fertilizer because they grow slower and less overall than sun growing plants. These plants also require less maintenance and care to grow and thrive in your shade garden. These plants will tolerate abuse and you're neglecting them better than sun-grown plants.

Hosta and Heuchera are 2 favorites for Shade Gardens
Plants grown in the shade will have better foliage color that is darker and never burnt out by the hot sun. The plants that flower will have more vivid colors as the sun will not fade them. These flowers will blossom longer and the flowers will stay on the plant at least an additional day, keeping your garden more colorful.

Shade gardens have fewer weeds growing in them, as most weeds love the brightness of the sun--especially grassy type weeds like crabgrass. In drought situations, shade garden plants fare better with the heat and lack of rainfall; they also recover faster when the moisture returns to the garden. If you're applying bark mulch or compost to cover the soil to protect the plants roots during the year, less will be needed, saving you money and the labor to apply it to the garden.

Plants grown in the shade have less winter damage or dieback on them when spring arrives, because the temperature around the garden stays more even and the sun is less likely to damage the foliage of evergreen plants. You also get less wind damage to the plants in these gardens, because the plants are more sheltered during the winter months and snow stays on the ground longer, acting like a blanket to protect those less hardy plants in the garden. Fewer insects prefer the shade to the sun garden and that means less spraying and care needed by you.

I want you to think about this carefully, because all perennials, shrubs and trees only flower for a short time, usually 4 to 8 weeks--depending on the time of the year and the temperatures outside. This is your opportunity to select plants for the texture, color, form and shape of their foliage. Think about fruit or berries on these plants and mixing the light and dark foliage for better contrast in the garden. Shade gardens are the perfect place to add lighting fixtures to help show off the branches of the trees overhead and create interesting shadow patterns on the ground.

Tuberous Begonias Make a Great Shade Annual in Ground or in Containers!

The number one thing about a shade garden is that you have the ability to make more sun possible for the plants by pruning the lower branches on the trees, making the sunlight stronger or increasing the duration of the sun. In a sun garden, it is often difficult to create shade for the plants without planting large and expensive trees, shrubs, or structures like trellises and arbors to produce shade for the plants.

On the negative side, shade gardens develop more slowly in the spring unless the shade comes from deciduous trees--evergreen trees definitely slow the development of your spring garden. On the other hand, shade gardens are often protected from the frost better and extend the garden appearance longer into the fall season. More ground cover plants prefer the shade and this is the perfect place to add a whole new family of plants to your garden with the many varieties of ferns, which are not grown in the sun.

To me the most limiting factor of a shade garden is the roots of the large trees around the garden and this is where you will need help from your local garden center or nursery to select the right plants. Bring your plan, measurements, the sun map, and pictures of the area along with a sample of your soil and you will soon be on the right path to a beautiful "Shade Garden." Enjoy!"

Thanks to Paul Parent!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
Feburary 6, 2012

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