Adding shade cloth to a hot summer garden is easier than you think. This is how we added shade cloth to our Arizona garden this year.
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In March 2020, we expanded our garden, adding six raised beds and a row of arched trellises. One of the best parts of this new garden area is that it receives full sun. That is why I expanded the garden into this part of the yard. I’m amazed at how quickly things grow.
However, I decided to add some temporary shade to the new garden area because the sun can be too much during the hottest months of the year.
When should you add shade to your garden?
Most vegetables are stressed when temperatures are above 90℉ (32.2°C). Shade keeps the direct sun off foliage; the shaded area can be about 10℉ (6°C) cooler than areas without shade. I like to put shade up once temperatures are consistently above 90℉ (32.2°C).
When should you take the shade cloth down?
Likewise, I’ll take it down when temperatures are consistently below 90℉ (32.2°C) in the fall. When you remove the shade cloth, label each corner (NW, NE, SW, SE) and store it indoors until needed the following year.
How We Added Shade Cloth to Our Full-Sun Garden:
1. Install pole supports
The first step was to install two additional pole supports. I already had two ten-foot-tall (3.05 m) poles in place for the lighting in my garden. They were put in place at the same time as my arched trellises by Jordan from Two Brothers Metal Works.
The 12-foot-tall (3.6m) steel poles are buried 2 feet (61cm) deep and cemented in place. There is also a hook welded onto the end of each pole.
2. Install wire supports before adding shade cloth to a hot summer garden
Once the supports were in place, it was time to provide center support for the shade cloth to prevent sagging.
I used ⅛” stainless steel wire rope and created loops with aluminum crimping loop sleeves using this crimping tool.
Next, we attached the loops to the carabiners and put the cables on steel poles. (Depending on the length of the wire, you could also attach the looped wire to the pole without a clip.)
We added the lightweight support cables from corner to corner, creating an “X” pattern on which the shade cloth could rest.
This type of support is recommended for 100 square feet or larger areas. (FYI, the size of my shade cloth is 17′ x 20′ (5.18m x 6.09m) or 320 square feet (27.72 m²).
For shade cloth with an area over 400 square feet (37.16 m²), additional support (more than the crossed wires) may be required.
3. Order shade cloth
Once the supports were in place, we measured the distance from each support to know what size shade cloth to order. Shade cloth comes in preset sizes on Amazon and ships pretty quickly. Grower’s Solution sells custom sizes of shade cloth but it takes longer to ship.
I chose white 50% shade cloth. Here’s why:
- Reduced heat build-up because it reflects the sunlight.
- Diffused light under the shade cloth (less harsh shadows and glare).
- Increased light quantity and duration for flowering plants than darker types of shade cloth.
Shade cloth comes in different coverages. However, using a percentage of no more than 40-60% shade cloth is recommended for vegetables during the summer.
- 40% shade cloth for most vegetables.
- 50% shade cloth for tomatoes.
- 60-70% shade cloth for succulents & other light-sensitive plants.
4. Install shade cloth
We used a ladder to get shade cloth up and over the wire supports. Then, we clipped a carabiner through the grommet on the shade cloth and onto the pole support.
It will be easy to take down at the end of the season or if a severe wind storm is expected. The shade cloth should last for several years.
What we learned about adding shade cloth to a hot summer garden:
- Measure twice and then measure again. I eyeballed some of the support wire rather than measuring and ended up having to loop and add more wire.
- It’s possible to do this alone (depending on the size), but having another person makes it easier to measure accurately and attach the shade cloth.
- Although we had high wind and rain during the monsoon season, the shade cloth held up fine and remained attached.
Are you looking for more information about adding shade and the principles to remember when adding shade? Read this article about “How to Create Shade in the Garden” or watch this video:
Wednesday 1st of June 2022
Thank you for the detailed description and pictures! How windy is it in your area? We'd love to add some shade cloth for our garden in southern AZ, but we get a lot of wind gusts in our yard even outside of the really bad wind storms - strong enough to regularly knock over potted plants if we aren't careful. How much wind can something like this hold up against?
Saturday 22nd of April 2023
@K, i have 40% white shade cloth. We get strong winds in the nc foothills. My shade cloth, 20’x 20’, is barely affected. Most of the wind blows thru it without damage
Monday 27th of February 2023
@K, i have a 50% shade 20x18 cloth. The wind does not take ahold of it enough to cause any problems. Mine just lays on top of the framework with plastic clamps.
Thursday 2nd of June 2022
Sounds like your wind may be worse than ours. We do get monsoons and the occasional microburst which would be a problem I'm sure. We will see how it does. I'll post an update after the monsoons.