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Choosing the Right Site for Your Garden

April 10th, 2013

This is the first installment in the 5×5 Garden Challenge Series. Every Wednesday I’ll be posting about the challenge, covering topics that will help all the new gardeners get started. If you haven’t heard about the challenge head on over to the 5×5 Challenge Website, we’ll also be putting up a page here that pulls in all the 5×5 Challenge posts.
full sun (2)
The first thing to consider when you decide you want to garden is your site. Depending on what you want to grow, you will need to determine if you have full sun, partial sun/shade, or shade. So what do each of these terms mean? Most vegetables appreciate full sun, so finding a full sun location will be the best option.  All is not lost if you don’t have full sun, you can still grow vegetables, just not everything you may want to.
sun-shade 1
FULL SUN: receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. This doesn’t mean that there is sun in this area all day long, there can be some shade during part of the day. Six hours is the minimum amount of sun that most full sun plants will tolerate. Areas that get direct sunlight all day will need watered more often. Some plants can take full sun, but many are fond of some shade as well.
sun-shade 4
PARTIAL SUN / PARTIAL SHADE: receives 3-6 hours of direct sunlight. Most plants that are labeled partial sun/shade need protection from the hot afternoon sun as they can be sensitive.  These plants will often wilt in the heat of the afternoon.  
sun-shade 3
FULL SHADE: less than 3 hours of direct sunlight, generally with some filtered sunlight in addition to this. These plants generally don’t like the hot afternoon sun, so morning sun is best for them.
raised bed
All sun is not created equal. As a general rule, morning and early afternoon sun are better than late afternoon sun. Often plants will appreciate a little shade in the afternoon, particularly in hot areas and in the heat of the summer. When you are determining the amount of sun you get, keep in mind the time of the year. If it is winter and the sun is low, the shady area will be larger than it will in the summer.
tall trees (1)
Another thing to consider in your garden placement is the location of any large trees. Large trees will not only cast shade, but they will also send their roots into your garden and suck up your water and nutrients. Back in Ohio we had large trees surrounding our garden and were constantly battling them. It’s not a deal breaker if you have large trees, just be aware that you’ll need to add extra compost and water.
sun-shade 2
When trying to decide where your garden will be, think about the proximity to the door you use most often. If you have to walk by the garden daily, you’ll be more likely to notice weeds that need pulled and tomatoes that need harvested. Having the garden close at hand will make harvesting and using the vegetables easier.
Plants are pretty resilient and will take less than perfect conditions. Don’t be too worried about making sure you have everything just right. Start with what you can and work from there.  If you have full sun, great, if you’re on the border, give it a shot.  If you can find a space away from trees, fantastic, if not, give it a try but make sure you watch for dryness and consider fertilizing a little more.  Having good soil will help overcome a few of the other negatives, so make sure you focus on that. Next week we’ll talk about getting your garden area ready to plant.

If you’re a new gardener, what questions do you have about where to place your garden? If you’re an experienced gardener, what advice do you have for newbies just trying to figure out where to plant.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.