Neighborly Sun & Shade : Backyard Gardening Lightens Up

My suburban backyard garden is testing me.  Big surprise, I know.  Gardens are full of opportunities for growth (yuk yuk) via tests of mere human patience and ingenuity.  Beyond the ubiquitous challenge to all growers of being unable to control the weather, the backyard gardener also can not control the sun and shade.

My backyard borders the backyards of wonderful neighbors who have trees on their sides of the property line which we enjoy immensely.  We have but one neglected Bradford Pear inside the fence to mow around, shuffle around leaves, etc., yet we enjoy myriads of birds and beautiful foliage and the shushing of breeze through the trees just outside of our property.  These trees also shade a good portion of my ‘growing medium’.  While trying to utilize the sun I do have, I face the extra problem of requiring room for football right in the center of the yard (away from precious garden beds) as it is the longest area that is flat enough for safe play.

Lessons from last year’s garden (my first full summer in this house) had a lot to do with understanding more clearly which beds received which kind of sun and for how long.  Some parts of my 2 sets of 8′ X 17″ raised beds receive sun 6 hours, while some receive 8 hours with shorter periods and dappled shade for parts of those areas.  This year I planned and planted accordingly.  Then my neighbors cut down a Bradford Pear that was providing the morning shade to one garden.  The increased sun opens all kinds of possibilities like more room for pepper plants and beans, but I’ve already got lots of more tender vegetables in the ground.  I fear that the lettuces and leeks in that bed do not have long to go in the Middle Tennessee heat, although it is blessedly cool today!  (The above pictures are both ends of one of my 8’X17′ raised beds taken at 8:30 in the morning, a time when this bed used to be in shade.)

Meanwhile, my other set of beds are shadier still and usually host the greens and lettuces.  Before the pear tree came down I thought I’d try to ameliorate the shade there by cutting down some of the tree  branches hanging over the fence creating too much shade.

So both my beds are less shady and my plans are ruined, right?  Well, if there’s a way to spend money to set things right…. I went to the store to see if I could get lettuce, chard and any other greens to put in the OTHER bed now that my shade garden will not be cool for long.  Nary a leaf of lettuce, spinach, chard or collard to be had in Middle Tennessee folks.  There was nothing but summer crops out.  Poop!  I mean manure!

So back to square one in the form of a square brown peat pot and a bunch of seeds.  I am notoriously bad at watering seeds enough once the weather is warmer and less wet, so I am going to start lettuces, chard and spinach indoors until they are bit stronger.  It seems I’ll have to re-arrange my plans.  Gee, I haven’t done THAT before in my garden.

This whole growing food thang is STILL a test, … but am I passing?  I maintain that as I’m STILL gardening, philosophically, I am passing the test.  I am enjoying (most of the time), reaping benefits from (always psychologically and nutritionally and sometimes financially) and I am in a wonderful group of people who call themselves gardeners… Now if I can get MORE vegetables out of the garden beds, I’ll be a happy and satisfied, flexible gardener who EATS lots of rewards for passing the test.  Good luck with the gardening tests you face this year!  We’d love to hear about them.  Maybe we can help each other keep on passin’ the test.

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10 responses

  1. Growing your own is no easy task–keep on trying! I’m having the same difficulty with sun/shade from our neighboring walls and buildings (my first urban gardening experience and I’m learning a lot), but I firmly believe that those of us persistent enough in our vegetable gardens are going to enjoy the fruits of our labor (literally) this summer.

    • Thanks mixmakegrow! It helps that we’ve already enjoyed Bok Choy, lettuce, radishes, swiss chard and kale before all of this change. That really keeps me going! And just the smell of tomato leaves on my fingers keeps me going as well : )

  2. Unfortunately for us, our shade issues are due to our own trees, but because we rent, there’s not much we can do about that. We simply are confined to seek out the warmest spots and do what we can. I, too, am not the best at watering enough. Well, you probably don’t forget like I have been prone to do in the past… I’m bound and determined NOT to allow that to happen this summer! Good luck and I’ll keep checking in to see how your garden’s doing as this will be my first attempt at really pursuing a successful yield!

    • Our best is the best we can do isn’t it? I look forward to following your progress as well. I have been known to forget to water as well. I’m using a calendar this year to make note of when I spray… maybe a watering calendar would work as well? Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Wonder if your green thumb could rub off a little via internet good waves ;) I have a black thumb of death :/

    It’s a good thing I have other skills!

  4. Pingback: My First Gardening Experience | Garden Web Tips

  5. Pingback: Cauliflower Without the Caul | my sister's pantry

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