Flowers and vegetables obviously need the sun to grow, but in the middle of summer, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. The most common mistake that new gardeners make is to fail to consider; what sun protection do I need for my plants?
After all, too much sun is one of the most common causes of failed vegetable and flower gardens.
How To Provide Sun Protection For Plants
It is actually simple science. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants turn sunlight into energy. Add a little water and some nutrients from the soil, and you get growth.
However, very high levels of UV rays and the heat they generate are definitely hazardous to almost all plants. Too much sun overwhelms the delicate membranes that allow for photosynthesis within the leaves of the plant. Initially, it just slows growth. Over a very short period of time, the membranes break down…
and eventually, it kills the plant.
One other thing to consider is the sun’s effect on the soil. After all, it is the plant’s home and source of water and nutrients. Several days of 95-degree sunny weather does two things to soil; it robs it of water, and heats it up. No plants react well to a lack of water, but people often forget that many vegetable and flowers react badly to rapid rises in temperature. They can handle a few days without slowing growth, but sustained high soil temperatures can really harm vegetable yields and the number of flowers you will get from your plants.
In short, protecting plants from the sun doesn’t only mean covering the plant itself.
If you aren’t sure how much sun is too much for your vegetable garden, See this great guide by Sympathink.
Options for Protecting your Plants from the Sun
Now that we’ve established that you don’t want to spend the spring and summer working on a garden that the sun kills, the next question is how to practically protect your plants.
In general, you have three options: buy it, build it, or grow it.
Grow Natural Sun Protection
In nature, many sun sensitive plants flourish by hiding under other plants. You can do the same thing in your garden.
Protecting your plants from the sun doesn’t have to cost a lot in this way, but you’ll need to do some research. For example, sunflowers and corn grow high to the sun.
Laying out your garden in such a way as to use them as sun shields make sense.
Most people take a few years of experience in order to do this right.
Build It DIY Sun Protection for Plants
The simplest ways can often be as effective as the most expensive ones. Simply placing cheesecloth directly over your garden during long hot stretches makes a difference. It won’t hurt the plants, the light color reflects the sunlight, and it covers the soil too.
Don’t use it directly on seedlings. For those, a plastic laundry basket, turned upside down, blocks the sun all around these fragile starters, covers the soil, and can even foil all but the most determined predators (especially if you stake it down).
If you have any kind of carpentry skill, you can spend very little and do a lean-to, build a box, or design to your heart’s content. Generally speaking, using small net screening with UV protection is best. The tighter, the better. The added benefit is that a good fit can also keep bugs out.
Buy Sun Protection
There are literally hundreds of products that you can use for sun protection, and it really depends on a combination of your budget and how your garden is situated.
Flowers tend to be the simplest. Many are in pots and small beds, meaning that you have relatively little space to cover. There are dozens of decorative umbrellas of various sizes that can be placed within a single pot or cover a small bed. Aim the garden parasol where the sun will be in the hottest part of the day (11 am to 2 pm on average).
Vegetable gardens are usually more complicated to cover given their size. A simple search online will reveal many dozens of options.
It’s easiest if you bought some kind of prefab container garden. They often have an option to purchase some type of shading apparatus, but most new gardeners don’t believe it’s worth the cost up front. It is.
More often, people have a patch of earth in the back yard. In that case, there are a handful of simple options. The most common is a plant tent. It literally looks like a portable screened in a tent that actually blocks the sun on the plant and surrounding soil.
There are also large adjustable screens on stands, large umbrellas, and everything in between.