If you garden in climates where the summer sun is intense, it’s best to provide afternoon shade for many vegetables in the garden. Adding shade to your garden is like putting “sun screen” on your plants. Wondering how to create shade in the garden? Here are my favorite ways to add shade and help your garden survive during the hottest months of summer.

How to create shade in the garden / Add shade to a hot summer garden

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3 reasons to provide afternoon shade

  1. Morning sun provides plenty of energy through photosynthesis without the excessive heat stress of prolonged all-day sun exposure.
  2. Providing shade for plants can lower the amount of moisture loss through transpiration (evaporation of water from plant leaves).
  3. Most vegetables are stressed when temperatures are above 100℉. Shade keeps direct sun off foliage, and the shaded area can be about 10℉ cooler than areas without shade. 
How tocreate shade in the garden _ Add shade to a hot summer garden

How to create shade in the garden

Thoughtful garden design, shade cloth, sunflowers, umbrellas, and vining plants all can be used in different ways to provide shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and any other vegetable that needs some relief from the sun.

Tomatoes often benefit from added shade in the summer garden

A tip to remember: Although summer gardens in hot climates need shade in the hottest months of the year, the sun is an advantage during cooler months. Because most fall and winter gardens need full sun, it’s best to add temporary (not permanent) shade to the garden for the hottest months of the year.

Create shade in the garden with thoughtful garden design

Notice which areas in your yard receive morning sun and afternoon shade naturally. These spots are prime real estate for any plants, but especially a summer garden. Use these areas in your garden for vegetables that need shade. South or west-facing parts of your yard will probably need added shade.

How to create shade in the garden / Add shade to a hot summer garden

Create shade in the garden with shade cloth

If your garden area is in full sun, consider adding shade cloth. Don’t think of completely encasing the garden, but providing some relief when the sun is at its highest. The area should receive some sun during the day. 

Shade cloth comes in different coverages. A percentage of 40-60% shade cloth is good for vegetables during the summer. Do not allow the shade cloth to touch the plants; 2-3 feet clearance is best to allow air to circulate around plants. 

Attach shade cloth to existing trellises with zip ties. At the end of the season, it’s simple to remove the zip ties, roll up the shade cloth, and store it away. When the summer heat comes again, re-attach the shade cloth with new zip ties.

Shade cloth is a great way to create shade in the garden / Add shade to a hot summer garden

This shade structure from Gardener’s Supply is a simple way to add shade anywhere in the garden.

  • Provides 50% shade
  • Includes 6 self-staking poles and shade net
  • Quick setup
  • Can be used anywhere
  • Mesh panels with grommets install quickly over threaded poles
Gardener's supply shade canopy

Create shade in the garden with sunflowers

Add sunflowers around your garden to provide shade. Sunflowers are one of the easiest plants to grow from seed. Sunflowers grow quickly and, depending on the variety, can offer shade to surrounding plants.

For shade, plant sunflowers on the west or south side of the garden. Once grown in a garden, they often reseed and pop up year after year. Unwanted volunteers are easy to pull out. 

At the end of the season, cut off the stem at the base of the dirt rather than pulling out the entire root system. The remaining root will decompose and add organic matter to the area. Sunflowers can be planted in the low desert of Arizona from February through July.

Sunflowers are a great way to create shade in the garden / Add shade to a hot summer garden

Create shade in the garden with umbrellas

Outdoor umbrellas offer good temporary shade. They can be moved and angled to provide afternoon shade where it is needed most. Umbrellas often block 100% of sunlight; be sure to tilt it so plants receive some morning sun. As with any shade structure, be aware of strong winds and take down the umbrella before it tips and damages surrounding plants. 

Outdoor umbrellas are a great way to create shade in the garden / Add shade to a hot summer garden

Create shade in the garden with vining plants

Consider planting sun-loving vining vegetables (Armenian cucumbers, malabar spinach, hyacinth beans, etc.) purposely to provide shade for other plants that don’t tolerate full sun. Notice where in your garden you could utilize plants as shade. Vining vegetables can be grown over artichoke crowns that go dormant during hot summers to protect them from the intense heat that might damage the crowns. Grow heat-loving vining plants on south or west-facing trellises that will shade other plants. 

How to create shade in the garden / Add shade to a hot summer garden

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