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Growing Wisdom

Planning the perfect garden starts with the sun

Yesterday got a bit warm in the afternoon. I was filming a video on planting onions in the garden and the sun was feeling quite strong. You may notice if you part in the sun this time of year you car becomes very warm quite quickly.

The sun today is taking the same path across the sky as it would on August 19th. Our day length today is almost identical to that day and we are gaining the same amount of daylight right now as we would lose in August.

We tend not to think of August and April as alike in too many ways, but as the earth travels around the sun it gives us a repeat of day length and sun angle twice each year. The only days that don’t have a mirror image are the solstices when daylight reaches a maximum and a minimum.
sunrise august and april.png

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If you are planning a garden, it important to think of how much sunlight you will get during the growing season. April is the perfect month to do a light study. If your garden is getting sunlight this time of year, the garden should see sunlight through early September and that’s when most vegetables are grown.

Be aware of trees which may leaf out and block the sun. You should check the spot you have for your garden several times during the day, preferably at 9AM, noon, and 3PM to evaluate how much sun the plot with see.

Nearly all vegetables require at least 6 hours of sunshine although you can push some leafy greens with 4 hours. I have seen tomatoes do ok in areas with sun from 10 AM until about 2 PM. The sun that time of the day is quite strong.

Remember, if your garden gets morning sun, this is not as strong as afternoon sun. Also, in the middle of the hottest part of the day there are vegetables like lettuce and kale which will benefit from a bit of afternoon shade.

In some years, depending on how I lay out my garden, I put in a summer crop of greens in the shade of the taller vegetables. I find it does quite well.

Thinking about the sunlight is important not only for vegetable gardening, but for trees and perennials as well. When you plant a tree that requires full-sun in too much shade you create a situation where the plant won’t perform as well or can even die.

Many plants require the correct light conditions for optimal flowers and optimal foliage color. If you put a plant that requires shade in too much sun, the leaves burn. Check out a rhododendron planted in an area with full-sun. The leaves often looked stressed and burned. Alternatively, notice how some conifers become thin and wispy when stuck in a shade situation.

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If you want to grow great plants, you should start by putting them in an area where they will get the proper amount of light. When you combine this with the right soil and adequate moisture you’ll have that green thumb you’ve been striving for all along.


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