July 29, 2021

Shade Gardening

A number of years ago, Dan built me a hoop house

Photo from December 2015.

I hoped to extend my growing season and experimented with it to see how well it could do that. It didn't work out as I had hoped because during mild winter weather, the plastic covering made the interior of the hoop house too warm. All my cool weather crops bolted and went to seed. 

In summer, the raised beds dried out quickly, even with shade cloth

Photo from spring 2017

I had other problems with the shade cloth too. One of our cats clawed it climbing to the top of the hoop house. I would remove it in winter and store it in the garden shed, but there, it would become infested with ants who loved to lay eggs between its neat folds. What a nuisance!

All of that was somewhat discouraging, so the hoop house hasn't been used as much as it should. Two and a half years ago, I added a narrow raised bed on the outside.

Photo from January 2019.

Like the hoop house beds, I found that this little bed also dried out quickly in hot weather. Not wanting to give up, I started to wonder about using the hoop house for a trellis. Early this spring, I planted that bed with ground nuts (hopniss) that were too small to mess with for eating. Later, I transplanted tomato plants there, many of which turned out to be Matt's wild cherry tomatoes. This is what it looks like now.

Tomato and ground nut vines growing on the hoop house.

From the outside, it looks like a wild mess! But on the inside, it's a shade garden.


Strawberries are in the first bed, and seem quite happy with some shade.

The second bed contains Malabar
spinach and Hale's Best cantaloupes.

For the spinach, I hung a small section of paneling from the
hoop house arch. Can you see the baling twine tying it up?

The spinach had no trouble finding it and seems to like the shade.

Behind the spinach are the cantaloupes. 

The cantaloupes are a little slow in the shade, but seem happy to be protected from the morning sun. In both of these beds are ollas, which helps. As has the adequate rain we've been getting lately. 

Of the six little beds in the hoop house, those are the only two that are planted at the moment. This winter, I'll pull all the wiregrass and sheep sorrel out of the others and plant next spring. I think I'll also add a second little bed on the other side of the hoop house, so that next summer I can have shade from both morning and afternoon sun. 

It's always nice when an experiment turns out well. In fact, it's encouraged me to give the hoop house some much needed TLC and get it  back in production. 😌

Shade Gardening © July 2021 by Leigh 

28 comments:

  1. Love it when the solutions are so simple! Enjoy watching your progress!

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    1. Daisy, thanks! It's fun when experiments work out.

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  2. What a great use! Shade is one of our problems/attributes. Our entire property is well shaded making it happy for the people but not so much for the veggies. It does make a great space for growing greens but our veggies do take longer to ripen and growing melons has been tough. It looks like your cantaloupe will have the best of both worlds - the plant will be shaded but the actual melons on the hoop trellis should receive quite a lot of sun!

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    1. Staci, a primarily shady property would be a challenge, that's for sure. Last year, my tomatoes on the porch trellis were slower to produce, but we still got a pretty good harvest. So far so good with the melons!

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  3. We're in a way different zone than you, but just from what I have seen, those with successful hoop houses up here generally have fans in each end or roll up the sides a few feet to get ventilation during the hotter months.

    We too are experimenting with a hooped trellis though we are having a hard time getting things to grow this year due to the wet spring. Hopefully next year, we will get some things vining to give us a nice shady place to hang out while at the garden.

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    1. Ed, a solar vent fan in the plastic covered hoop house would be a good idea. Why didn't I think of that! One thing about covering with plastic, you have to water it entirely yourself. That can be good if it's too rainy, but it can be an extra chore otherwise.

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  4. Fantastic! Thanks for sharing this with us. Heat in Louisiana is always a problem in the summer. This looks like a great solution.
    God bless.

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    1. Linda, I would think shade gardening would work for you too! It's useful to experiment.

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  5. Looks great! Sometimes it's just a matter of experimentation!

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    1. Nancy, I find that's true of most things!

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  6. Absolutely amazing. Could you give me the directional on this length wise and width wise north east west south ?

    I’m only asking because I have an area that’s similar to that that I was going to plant squash in this year but after the major heat I thought better of that.
    However I could potentially do what you’ve done with some cattle panels that would really be helpful and I could plant as you did my tomatoes . Because I get lots of nice sun most of the late morning and afternoon.
    Then plant my squash inside and maybe a few other things. I’m just concerned because it does have a northwestern exposure that it will be too hot in the late afternoon. But no guts no glory 😊

    Brilliantly done!

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    1. Goatldi, the shaded side of the hoop house faces southeast. Dan used three, 48" cattle panels to make arches, so the length is 16 feet. I think the width is about 8 feet(?) I can't exactly remember. The potential problem here is, that the high point under the arch is only about 5 and a half feet, which may or may not be enough headroom depending on how tall you are.

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    2. I may need to duck but it would be worth it 😂

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    3. Well, there are several options for that.
      1 - make it narrower but taller
      2 - build some sort of pony wall and put the panels on top of that.
      3 - build beds in the hoop house and then dig out a sunken path.
      All doable!

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  7. That's an impressive shady garden. You've got my cogs turning this morning for we surely could use a bit of shade here on the hill. Requiring more water is one downside to raised beds whether they are shady or not.

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    1. Mary, I admit I was skeptical of growing in shade at first, except that the sun is so intense, as well as hot. The ollas and wicking pots really help a lot too.

      To see a really impressive shade garden, check out Outback Tania's shade garden. Amazing!

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  8. What a wonderful repurposing. Have the ollas helped with the soil drying out quickly?

    Shade would be a benefit where I am too. It is brutal on my tomatoes.

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    1. TB, yes, the ollas definitely help. So that plus partial shade has been a real benefit.

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    2. I am tracking mine. Oddly enough, the rain (which I should have been happy about) makes assessing things a bit more difficult, but it definitely makes a difference.

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    3. Having everything soaked and soggy can definitely be a challenge! Still, it's useful to take notes. That's my best way of making adjustments.

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  9. How clever to create your own growing shade! It's like a cool cave in there. I gave your blog a shout-out today on Field and Fen.

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    1. Boud, thank you so much for the shout out! I'm happy the veggie stock idea was useful for you!

      I really like the idea of growing my own shade and glad it worked out. Everything seems happy!

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  10. The ollas, tomatoes and ground nuts are providing a micro climate to grow other plants. Does it help with water retention in the soil so it doesn't dry as fast? Have you noticed it any cooler once inside?

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    1. Yes! It definitely seems to help. Since only half of it is shaded, however, I don't notice much difference in temp. I plan to grow shade on both sides next year, and hopefully that will help even more.

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  11. What a wonderful solution! It's so much more attractive than shade cloth and a whole lot easier to maintain. I have to use raised beds here and they dry out so easily.

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    1. Susan, that seems to be the downside of raised beds. This has helped a lot and definitely easier to deal with than the shade cloth!

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  12. Well, if that's not perfect! How swell do those tomato plants look! Did you mulch the beds inside a lot, or a little? What a perfect environment for staying cool! Great and wonderful idea, Leigh!

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    1. Wyomingheart, I fill all beds with as much mulch as I can! I have to say that the tomatoes in this bed are much healthier than the ones I planted in another bed with a cattle panel trellis. Most of those have succumbed to blight. I'm not sure what the difference is, but it's interesting!

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