The Veg Plot

Five ways to create shade in the garden

Sunshine shade garden

Last summer there was a spell when the sun burned hot, and raising a watering can to parched vegetables was enough activity to cause sweaty waterfalls to tumble from foreheads. In my garden, there was no escape from the heat: like a great many English town gardens it was designed for maximum sun coverage during outdoor relaxation, rather than to provide shade.

As my family lolled around the paddling pool, all we could find to cast a shadow over gently frying limbs was a large umbrella. Noticing our predicament (or perhaps sensing the aroma of burning flesh) our neighbours kindly gave us a child’s gazebo, no longer required by their now grown-up offspring. We all squeezed into it, while the dogs took over the patch of shadow afforded by the umbrella, stray tails and limbs singeing until they could cope no more and lunged for the cooler paddling pool waters.

This year we need a better plan for introducing shade into the garden and have come up with five possible solutions. Here are those options…

1. Trees

Trees are great things. They can provide shelter from the rain and shade from the sun. Admittedly, huge, mature trees are better at this than anything we have in the garden, but it’s still possible to create some good dappled shade from smaller specimens. This winter I planted a pear tree in fairly close proximity to an established apple tree. In a few years their combined mass of leaves (and, hopefully, fruit) might just warrant me placing a garden chair somewhere between them for those sunniest days.

2. Gazebos

Since enjoying the small-scale success of our second hand child’s gazebo, I’ve been looking to see what alternative options there are for a gazebo from Garden & Camping and it turns out there’s a huge choice. From simple canopies to huge structures suitable for a party, a gazebo can be the main focus of a garden or something to be rolled out for a day or two at a time. If I go down the gazebo route then it makes sense to get one large enough to accommodate pool, family and dogs – and perhaps one that can be rolled into the back of the car for summer camping trips.

3. Sheds and Summer Houses

I currently have three sheds in the garden: a small one for wood, a larger one for tools, and a mess of a shed for junk. For the past few years I’ve been planning on tearing down at least one of the latter two and replacing it with something a little less on the verge of collapse. If I get round to the task this year then a consideration would be to install one with an extended roof, and maybe even an external floor, to allow for outdoor seating. I then have to decide if I arrange this outdoor area to maximise sunshine or shade…

4. Fences

There are already fences in my garden which cast considerable shadows when the sun is up. But, as is common, these fences are the backdrop to borders, not seated areas, and the only place I could currently place furniture for maximum shade is in the narrowest part of the garden which would clutter our access. It might be time to have a border rethink, finding room for a smart bench and surrounding it with taller, fragrant plants for shadier relaxation. Failing that, another option would be to add a new piece of fence to an area of the garden that doesn’t border the neighbours and call it a screen.

5. Hop arches

Throughout summer, Rich is constantly bragging about his mighty hop arch: four huge, curved pieces of metal that support his various varieties of hop. Not only do they allow his beery ingredients the perfect support for growing, but they also give him somewhere to shelter from the sun’s rays during time spent pretending to be out on weeding duties. Sadly there isn’t room in my garden for both a hop arch and a gazebo. I’ll put it to a family vote but I think I already know what the outcome will be.

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