The most important thing you can do when gardening is to plan your location.
This really has everything to do with the success or failure of your plants. Planting the right veggie or herb in the right place will help you eliminate most of your garden maintenance problems and heartache. There are a lot of factors that affect the perfect place for your plants, but to start let's talk about sun exposure!
Consider Sun Exposure
Most fruits, vegetables, and flowers need six to eight hours of sunlight a day. Remember - happy plants are healthy plants!
There are some amazing tools that can give you exacting information, but an easy and effective way to measure the sun in your garden is to draw a simple diagram of your space. I suggest taking a day when you have some extra time and get doodling!
Start by drawing basic areas of your yard and home. Go out to your garden every hour beginning in the morning, and mark which areas have sun or shade. The angle of the sun and structures like walls, the shadow from your house, and trellises etc., will impact how much sun exposure each area gets. As a rule, Northern exposure will become shadier in the winter and southern exposure will get more sun in the summer.
To get a more thorough idea of what you're working with, check these areas as the seasons change.
Add in some shade if necessary
In the low desert, shade cloth is your friend! Even plants that love a good sunbath can become crispy critters under the blazing Arizona summer sun. To ensure your plants have the best chance of thriving in our low desert summer heat, I suggest heading to your favorite local nursery and investing in some shade cloth. The cloth ranges in size and level of protection, and nursery staff will be more than happy to help direct you to what you need. Flowering and growing plants tend to do well with 40%- 50% protection, although there is a large range.
In addition, when looking at your sun exposure, don't overlook the height of nearby plants that may provide shade. Similarly, walls can create shade but can also radiate heat and scorch your beds, so it's important to check for any reflective or large structures that may change an area's sun or temperature.
With so many factors that affect the spaces in your garden, this will be the first of a longer series in PKG Journal articles. Stay tuned for future topics that will discuss soil, water, high traffic areas, mulch, spacing, and more!