Beat the Heat – Shade Cloth for your Vegetable Garden
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Are you having to water your plants 2 or more times a day? Are your plants showing signs of heat stress such as wilting, browning, getting crispy crunchy leaves or even losing leaves? Beat the Heat by using Shade Cloth for your vegetable garden!
We all know that Summer heat is coming (or here). For some, the heat of summer is manageable due to your location or the location of your garden. However for others that live where it traditionally gets mighty hot during the summer, we need a little help to beat the heat and protect our vegetable gardens (and flowers too) from the stark heat and the burning rays of Summers sunshine, and that’s when shade cloth comes in mighty handy.
If your in the south, you have already gotten into the Summer Beat the Heat rhythm of rise early and work the garden, get in the cool or shade before noon. Then, get our into the garden after dinner and stay till dusk. Just watch out for those mosquitoes!
So what additional help can we bring to our gardens in the Summertime heat to help them survive AND thrive other than plenty of water and fertilizing to maintain nutrients (due to using so much water), not necessarily for them to be fruiting. We want our plants to focus on staying alive and thriving (being strong).
Let’s take a look at shade cloth and the variety of ways we can use this tool to shade our vegetable gardens and soil.
What is Shade Cloth?
Shade cloth was developed over 30 years ago to provide protection for plants, and is usually made of loosely woven polyester or even aluminum and can be found in varying densities or degrees of shade from approximately 5% to 95%. All shade cloth is water permeable so that rainwater, sprinklers and irrigation systems can keep your plants hydrated.
What type of shade clothes are there?
There are two types: “knitted” and “woven”
|Knitted Cloth||Woven Cloth|
|Made of lightweight polyethylene||Made of 100% polypropylene|
|Suitable for a variety of applications,
|Suitable for a variety of applications, including:
|Open lockstitch design resists wind damage, and reduces heat build-up and wind speed inside structures||Allows more heat build-up than knitted Shade cloth|
|Easy to install||Heavier (Less easy to install)|
|UV resistant||UV Stabilized to withstand the most extreme sun exposure|
|Edge taping not needed||Edges must be taped to resist fraying, and will un-ravel if cut|
|Resists most horticultural chemicals and detergents|
|Longer life expectancy than woven shade cloth|
|Allow for 2-3% stretch or shrinkage||Minimal stretch or shrinkage, less than knitted|
As you can see from above, to protect your plants from extremely hot weather and make them grow healthy in the hot summer sunshine, knitted shade cloth is a better choice due to its life expectancy, functionalities and easy of use.
Some shade cloth has un-sewn edges, which I find easier to use so that I can buy in bulk and cut to size for my garden. Other shade cloth has sewn edges with grommets in the corners which are really nice if you have all uniform beds to cover OR you are anchoring your cloth to structures such as poles or trellis’s.
Shade cloth is woven or knitted in different densities. The densities of Cloth are called “Percentages”. The difference in percentage lets different amounts of sunlight to penetrate, which means that the percentage of shade cloth you choose, blocks out that percentage of the sun. Therefore, what you grow will help determine the percentage of shade cloth you need.
As we all know, sunlight is so crucial to a plants’ growth, so choose the right density and as low a density as you can get away with.
Usually a shade percentage of 30-50% is ideal for vegetables, while 80-90% is ideal for sheltering people. Now in extremely hot situations or areas of the country like Arizona, Texas and the Deep south there are circumstances where bumping up your percentage would be wise. I have 60-70% on all my vegetable plants right now because of our early and HOT summer! But most plants will do best with a maximum of 40% – 60% shade. However, when growing some shade loving plants such as orchids and some ferns, 75% or higher maybe needed to get correct light levels.
Choosing the Correct Density of Shade Cloth
The density of your shade cloth is very important. Choosing the correct percentage depends on your weather, climate, and of course your plants. Here are some examples of shade cloth densities for some plants:
- 30% – this shade cloth is recommended for heat tolerant plants such as peppers, squash and tomatoes. It can also be used for flowering plants such as snapdragons, geraniums and chrysanthemums. **If you are suffering intense heat situations up your percentage of density but pull back the shade cloth after the sun goes down and then replace before noon the next day. This allows for air circulation, exposure to suns rays for photo synthesis and also for your pollinators to do their pollinating.
- 40%-50% – this is ideal for flowering plants such as lilies and caladiums, orchids, azaleas, begonias, camellias
- 60% – this percentage is ideal for sensitive plants like lettuce and spinach
- 70%-90% – generally used for ornamental plants such as ferns, palms, anthurium, dracaena, philodendron
Now that you have an idea on percentages of shade that you need, let’s take a look at the different colors and how they effect your plants.
Choosing the right Shade Cloth color
Choosing the right color is just not preference or for decoration. Each color adds to the protection of your plants. The most common colors are black or green. But there are also white, tan and red.
Rules of thumb are, that dark colors tend to absorb more heat and light colors reflect that heat.
White shade cloth reduces the quantity of light but not the quality of light. Meaning the growth of the plant is more rapid than using green and black shade cloth. White shade cloths are often used for flowering plants. We also use white shade cloths not for shade, but for protection in the winter from the elements.
Dark color shade cloth such as green or black, is known to absorb the sun’s heat. This could be good for your tomatoes, peppers or any heat loving plant as they will get the heat they want without the damaging excessive burning rays of the sun. Usually, green and black shade cloths behave like filters and deprive the plants in receiving much sunlight. This is why it is imperative that you remove the shade cloth after the sun is past it’s highest and hottest time, allowing excess heat to escape your plants which in turn allows them to have air circulation and to breathe. They also get to have visits from the pollinators. Return your cloth coverings before noon the next day or earlier, depending on the location of your vegetable garden.
How long to keep Shade Cloth on Vegetable Gardens
Each person will need to evaluate your individual circumstances for themselves as everyone’s garden is different, we all live in different climates and our gardens are situated on our property differently. However, a good rule of thumb is when the temperature dips into the low 90’s or you see a lessening of adverse heat effects on your plants, start removing your cloth. I would do so gradually, just as you introduced your seedlings to the sun gradually before planting them. Just wean them a little bit now too.
Shade Cloth Accessories
Accessories for your Shade Cloth? You bet. I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know HOW to anchor your cloth to “something”. You can attach your cloth to bamboo stakes. Easily placing them around the perimeter of your garden beds and then using clips to attach cloth to the poles. You should be able to see examples in my pictures throughout this article. Also, rocks will hold down the shade cloth, anchoring it to the ground in windy times. If you have shade cloth with grommets it is easily attached to other structures with rope and hooks.
Using Shade Cloth to Beat the Heat in your Vegetable Garden can make a huge difference in your plants and their ability to live and thrive. Just remember to factor in your area, your weather, your location of your garden, the veggies you are growing, the density you need and also the color. It may seem like a lot of information but it’s not rocket science, it really is simple.
If you would like to see the shade cloth I have bought and use today, please visit my shop:
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