Understanding how your plants grow really is a key part of gardening. It’s easy to forget that certain plants are going to grow tall while others are going to grow all over the ground. Knowing this helps your garden thrive. You don’t want to let tall plants overshadow your other vegetables in the garden.
In addition to water, the amount of sun your vegetable plants receive is a leading factor in whether or not they will survive and thrive. Before you plant your garden, you will need to map out the hours of sunlight the spot receives so that you know whether to plant vegetables that need full or partial sun there.
But sometimes, you’ll pick a spot that gets plenty of natural sunlight, and accidentally sabotage your crops by planting the vegetables that tower over the smaller ones and block out the sun they need.
Whenever you plan your crops, you have to look at the back of the seed pack to see how big each plant will grow. It also might be a determining factor to see how fast they will grow.
You might have a plant that grows tall, but takes longer to grow, and a smaller plant that goes to maturity and is ready to harvest before the shaded area is even a problem. But the best way to plan is to organize the vegetable rows in an order where no tall plant is able to soak up the sun a smaller plant needs.
Some plants may not seem high, but require a trellis or stake to grow on, which means they’ll be climbing and creating a shade for other plants. This would include things like sugar snap peas, snow peas, cucumbers, beans, and tomatoes.
Eggplants and pepper plants also grow upright to 3-4 feet. Going a bit smaller would be the plants that grow wider than tall, such as collards, kales, cabbages, and so on. The smallest crops needing sunshine would be the root vegetables like beets and carrots – as well as things low to the ground like lettuce.
When you arrange your vegetable garden, make sure each plant has enough sun to allow for photosynthesis. The plants should be able to soak up 6-8 hours of full sun per day.
If you have a choice as to where the garden goes, try to plant in a space where the morning sun is providing the light for your crop and not the sweltering afternoon sun, which can wilt plants.
Sunlight Is Key
Whenever you plan your garden, you have to make sure that aside from the space and soil, water and nutrients your plant needs, you also have to take into account how much sunlight it should get.
This should be clearly stated on the seeds that you purchase. For example, if you’re looking to grow tomatoes, it will most likely say that it needs full sun to thrive. That means your plant should get anywhere from 6-8 hours of sunlight per day.
Some vegetables will require less, such as partial or low sunlight. Partial sun would be 4-6 hours per day and lower sun would be 1-4 hours per day. If you’re growing indoors and using your window, you can supplement the sunlight your plant receives by using grow lights inside.
The sunlight corresponds in certain ways to the soil temperatures, too. If you have a relatively shaded area, and the required soil temperature is high, then it may not work well when growing food in that spot.
If you have a lot of shade, then you might consider focusing on root and leaf vegetables, which can get by with less sunlight. Most vegetables will need plenty of sunlight to thrive, including melons, squash and cucumbers.
To estimate how much sun a spot gets in the area where you plan on growing food, you’ll want to track the sunlight to see how much it provides. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
It’s going to be strongest between the hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. Those six hours are crucial to the development of a strong plant. Go outside and mark where the sun is exposing the ground during those hours, and try to plan in that area.
Be sure to watch out for areas that might accidentally get shaded by things like a tool shed or a fence surrounding your yard. You might assume something is in a sunny spot, but when you actually track it, you see that the plant would be suffering from a lack of sunlight in that area.
Of course if you’re using containers outdoors, you can always manually move the pots to correspond with the lighting situation, but this is cumbersome and only recommended for those who want a hands on approach with a lot of involvement.
If you don’t have time to track the sun, there are gadgets like sunlight calculators that you can place in and around your yard that will help you determine how much sunlight a specific spot gets throughout the day.
There are some vegetables and herbs you can grow in the shade, so if you have any of those, you might not have to worry about taller plants blocking out any sunlight. Just make sure each plant gets the right amount of sun it needs to produce a harvest for you.
I hope this helps you when starting a garden this year.
Check out more gardening tips and follow me on Tiktok for peeks at my gardens this year.
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