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Have it made in the shade during National Garden Week

It’s National Garden Week, a time of celebration for amateur and master gardeners, and for all of us who enjoy beautiful flora and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Garden tours, plant sales, community beautification projects and educational workshops are held across the country in recognition of National Garden Week. For our celebration, I thought I’d answer one of the most frequently asked questions I receive about planting and maintaining backyard gardens.

One thing that stumps a lot of homeowners when they’re selecting flowers and plants is ‘shade.’ Shade is a malleable word. There is ‘deep shade’, ‘part shade’ and ‘morning sun only’. What does all of that really mean?

In the Southeast, ‘partial sun’ means ‘morning sun only.’ The same plant that grows in the shade in the Upstate could grow in full sun in Northern Pennsylvania, for example. While almost all plants will do better with some ‘direct’ sun, the strength of the Sun’s rays during a summer afternoon in the South can severely strain many plants and flowers.

The four categories of shade—light, partial, full and deep—are determined by the amount of time without direct sun and the density of the shade. Here’s a bit more explanation that will help you in your plant selection:

Light shade generally means that the tree canopy is about 25 percent, with plants receiving five to 10 hours of sun each day. Light shade typically occurs just under the drip line of the tree canopy.

Partial shade is usually defined by a tree canopy of about 50 percent, with plants receiving less than five hours of sun and shaded for at least half a day. This generally is found in a yard with trees where the house shades the garden for part of the day.

Full shade means the plants or garden should receive less than one hour of direct sun each day. Full shade often occurs near the trunk of a tree that has a dense canopy.

Deep shade means that the sun doesn’t reach the ground, such as a yard where the sun is completely blocked by buildings, walls or overhangs.

Remember that most shade plants like rich soil that holds moisture. You can amend your soil with soil conditioner to keep compaction down, or a mushroom compost that adds organics to help loosen soil and hold water.

About the Author

Tina Clark is the owner and president of Carolina Garden World in Spartanburg, SC. A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, Tina found Upstate South Carolina in a job move then found her way to Spartanburg Community College where she completed a degree in horticulture. A frequent presenter at area civic organizations, garden clubs and schools, Tina is sustainability certified and organizes a free Sustainability Day event for the community at Carolina Garden World each year in celebration of Earth Day.

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