Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Growing shade

Well it sure has been hot here in Adelaide over the last few days. So while yesterdays BBQ was cooking itself I enjoyed the cool of the shade. Sitting there admiring the garden I started to thinking about what it must be like for those poor plants unable to uproot and join me for a cold beer under the pergola.

With the previous incarnation of this garden (rectangle garden boxes) during summer I erected A-frames made out of bamboo over the beds and covered with bamboo blinds or shade cloth. They were very effective but also a lot of effort to erect and dismantle. Since then I have seen a few good designs using flexible pipe that would indeed be better. With the new garden however I am hoping, fingers and toes crossed, that I can help the garden survive in an even simpler way.

Trying to think like a permaculturalist I asked my self the question “how does nature create shade?” The answer, it grows it! So when planting out the pumpkin seedlings to establish the pumpkin patch I also got the children to scatter some corn seeds. Hoping the tall corn would provide a perfect canopy. Previous experiences tell me pumpkins can be annihilated by constant direct exposure to sun, while corn seems to just shrug its shoulders at the heat. Before planting in the corn I did check my companion planting guide to insure there wouldn’t be any bickering between the two.

In this bed we have used sunflowers to try and provide a little shade to the cucumbers and other various things growing beneath. We have never grown sunflowers before so it is a pure assumption that they like the heat. But with a name like sunflower I will be very disappointed and upset with the person who gave them their name, if they don’t. I do wish we had planted more though. Hopefully the ones just propagated last night will make it in time to be of some use.

Whether either the corn or sunflowers provide enough shade only time will tell, but so far so good.

Here are our girls taking refuge behind the wall of Scarlett runner beans. This was completely unintentional, but I didn’t tell them that.

How does your garden survive summer?


  1. I direct seeded a bed in late spring and lots of seedlings came up....including a million self-seeded amaranth (which are real sun lovers). Instead of giving myself the chore of weeding I decided to just let them go and see what happened. Over this last hot period the amaranth tripled in size, towering over everything.....and shading everything. Under their canopy I have juicy lettuces and thriving parsley and alive carrots (unlike the ones in another exposed veg bed! Plus we have yummy amaranth leaves which are a great silver beet substitute in summer. Your garden is looking great, Jason. Very lush and green! - Debbie

  2. I can vouch for the amaranth. It is a great for shading and protecting more delicate plants from hot northerly winds but it can become a horrendous weed.

  3. The scarlet runner beans look fabulous protection for your chickens. Can I ask how big your run is? I want to put one against my fence and I am trying to work out if its feasible.

  4. Debbie lovely to have you drop in :) Wonderful about the amaranth. Interesting that it seems better for the garden if the gardener is sometimes lazy. It is good when you have two beds that you can compare the differences with. Will have to consider amaranth in the future. Yes the garden is look very lush at the moment, I love it!

    Liz my run is about 24 meters long and ranging in width between 1 foot to 1 meter. Even though narrow the girls seem to really like it. The length gives them the opportunity to actually run and gives them the impression of moving around the whole garden. The run runs around the outside of the circular garden, see here.

    The girls also love the chook dome though. It maybe small but I can see the joy on their faces each time it is moved on to a disused bed.

  5. i also planted cucumber with my sunflowers this year, i think they are too tall to give off much shade to the cucumbers

  6. Nicole it is always a nice feeling when someone has done something similar. Yes they are quite tall but my thought and hope is that they provide shade during the hottest part of the day, when the sun is directly over head. Picked the first cucumber last night for dinner. Yum.

  7. As you have discovered, beans are a great way to make a bit of shade, not just for chooks, but also for lettuce and cucumbers. Jerusalem artichokes are related to sunflowers but grow earlier and faster and also can be good for edible shade. They have deep, strong roots and big tubers so only plant shallow rooted things near them. This is the key to dense plantings and shade planting.... check the root depths to reduce competition.
    Happy gardening and eating!

  8. We did a similar thing this year - corn, watermelon, beans and sunflowers and the results have been fantastic. Have a little look if you'd like


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