No doubt there are gardeners who have the misfortune of having a large patch of shade over what otherwise would have been an ideal location for a garden. It just could be a little sliver of land in the backyard that is shaded by a tall tree or a larger shade area on the side yard due to the house itself and/or a neighbor’s house blocking direct sunlight. Although creating a shade garden in such a condition can be challenging, it is not impossible.
There are a few things you need to keep in mind if you decide to take on the challenge.
Level Of Shade
First, what is the level of the shade? There are circumstances in which that shade garden will get direct or indirect sunlight sometime during the day as the sun crosses the sky. This could cause different intensities of light that include partial shade, light or dappled shade, heavy shade, and dense shade.
Partial shade occurs when the segment of property in question is blocked from direct sunlight for part of a day, but still receives direct sunlight for some period of time during the day. This exposure could be between two to six hours in duration.
Light or dappled shade occurs when the area in question is blocked from direct sunlight, but still receives filtered or indirect sunlight.
Heavy shade occurs when structures cause a consistent shade. However, the area can still get some indirect or reflected sunlight.
Areas of dense shade receive no direct or indirect sunlight.
So, if you are determined to take on the challenge of creating a shade garden, then you need to be observant. Again, the question is: What is the level of shade you are dealing with? To determine this, observe the area in question for a while to figure out the level of sunlight that is getting through.
Focus On Plants That Thrive In Shade
Obviously, due to circumstances, your shade garden is going to consist of plants that flourish in shade. You will need to do a little research to identify these plants, which of these plants flourish in your particular region of the country, and the color, texture, and type of blossom the plant features.
Many perennials that thrive in shade bloom early in the growing season. That means that the garden will need greenery that provides visual interest during the later portion of the growing season during the summer and early fall.
Some examples of perennials to consider include astilbe, bleeding heart, and hosta. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Map, astilbe performs well in zones 4 to 9; bleeding heart and hosta do well in zones 3 through 9.
Examples of annuals that would work under these conditions are coleus, impatiens, and wax begonia.
For plants to flourish in a shade garden the soil must be well drained, but moist and be organically rich. It is suggested that you enhance it with compost, peat moss or composted manure. If the available soil is heavy and drains poorly, then you should consider adding one part sand along with two parts compost.
Watering And Fertilizing
Water may be an issue for your shade garden. That’s because things that cause shade including structures and the canopy of large trees can limit the amount of rainfall that reaches it. The little bit of water that may make it into the soil will be gobbled up by the extensive root systems of trees and shrubs that the plants may have to compete with. So, it is imperative that you monitor the soil moisture often to assure that the garden does not dry out. It is recommended that you water consistently.
Finally, shade gardens require regular light fertilizing. Do so with a balanced garden fertilizer each spring and twice more during the growing season. This will provide vital nutrients for the plants that they might not be getting due to trees and shrubs, which are competing with them in the area.