Without sunlight, most plants can’t grow.
Plant labels may tell you how much sun exposure a plant needs, but the terms can be confusing. You’ve seen the words, but what do partial sun and partial shade mean? Are they the same thing? No. Let's find out why.
Full sun means 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight every day. Full sun is usually found on the south side of your house (assuming you live in the northern hemisphere). Plants that thrive in full sun are your go-getters. Most summer crops prefer full sun. Artichokes, fruit and nut trees, herbs, melon and tomato family members need 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight during the growing season. Plants with silver or gray foliage also prefer full sun.
Partial sun means 3 to 6 hours of sunlight in the afternoon, usually found on the west side of your house. We can call these the late sleepers of the plant world. They need time to wake up and may not be ready to deal with sunlight until later. Alliums, blackberries, peas, and root crops can be grown in partial sun.
Partial shade means 3 to 6 hours of morning sun with protection from more intense midday and afternoon sun. These are your early risers. Leafy greens, raspberries, and Swiss chard grow well in partial shade.
How much sun does your yard get?
Knowing how much sunlight an area gets can help you select the right plants for that space. Before planting, create a sun map of your yard. A sun map will tell you how much sunlight each area gets. And remember, those areas change with the seasons.
Plants can create shade for other plants, too. For example, you can grow chives under artichoke plants. This companion planting or intercropping takes advantage of the shade produced by larger perennials to protect less sun-tolerant plants.
If you garden using traditional rows, your plants will get the most sun exposure if those rows run north to south and your tallest plants are at the northern end of your garden plot.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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