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Advice for shady yard production?

 
                              
Posts: 9
Location: Lilburn, Georgia
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Hello all,
I've got a 1/2 acre or so of land around my house that I will be designing into a place to produce food, plants and garden related products. I am posting because I am looking for suggestions of what I might produce successfully, playing to the strengths of my site. Any feedback you might have for me is welcome.

Stats:
-Location is metro Atlanta, Piedmont bioregion. Hot summers, wet winters.
-Site is suburban home with surrounding yard space. (no strict rules on yard use)
-A small variety of well established trees in various spots around house, surrounding beds previously landscaped, so there is a lot to work around and a lot of organic matter sources, lots of moisture overall.
-Overall site faces southeast, but main issue is that existing trees create light/shade extremes of full sun to zero sun throughout the day. Where and how long is totally relative to time of day and time of year... Not a lot of consistency and no truly full sun anywhere.
-Site is at the top of a north facing hill. Front yard (to the southeast) is mostly level, gets the midday and some of the afternoon sun. Side yard and drive slope somewhat steeply to backyard, which slopes down and levels off into woods (to the northwest). At the lowest level of the backyard, there is a large patch of exposed granite, and at this point the soil isn't too deep until it enters the woods.
-Lots of organic material available for harvest overall and slopes with opportunities for water harvesting.


I have already found the thread on shade tolerant/loving edible plants, and I am in the process of creating a master list for myself of preferred species to experiment with, so I've got that covered. I see a lot of potential using hugulkultur beds here because of all the sources of material on site.
I am trying to think outside the typical garden box, possibly propagating shade tolerant edibles and natives (would be useful to many in this region). I'm also sure I'll do mushrooms, already have a few young live oaks for that on site, but I still feel nervous about spending too much time/energy/money on trying plants that just won't get quite enough sun to be productive.... So I've recently been brainstorming things like vermiculture and compost teas as possible products I can produce.

I think my story is a pretty typical one for more naturally wooded bioregions, forgive me if I'm repeating someone else's question... I just thought I'd see if anyone has any more suggestions of food/plant/non-food/non-plant products I might consider producing. Thanks for your time!
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Well, I lived in Atlanta. Do you want to plant a cover for the winter? I'd suggest an annual winter rye to get things started. Great green manure and browns depending how you let it age. I planted a lot of clover in atl, zone 8...I also threw seed mixes. Clover, vetch, rye. Clover loves to grow along with grasses. If you go ahead and start some brassicas inside, you can plant out. They're shade tolerant and don't mind the cold (flavor is often enhanced). G'day
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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observe, observe, observe....walk around your neighborhood and look closely for situations like yours and see what grows there, walk through the forest and observe what family of plants are growing wild under the same type of trees that you have..then drive to other areas that are similar to yours..tops of other hills, etc..and observe
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Get some comfrey started. You can make the best compost tea, and have green manure for compost
addition or chop/drop. Save all food scraps for your worm bin. They love grass clippings, food peelings, coffee grounds (I have several bins going). Seek out an old 4-legged bathtub that'll double as solid red wiggler hotel.
Observation is great, but if you're explicitly planting certain shade-tolerant species, I'm fairly studied on what works well in the Zone 8 enviro. As with anything, working on your base or 'foundation' is crucial... I'd personally get some hardy winter rye in the areas. It will sprout then dormant then come back as soil temperature rise gradually. In the spring intermix a taller clover such as crimson into the equation. You'll be creating mass throughout the winter and especially come early spring.
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Are your shade trees evergreen or deciduous?  If evergreen then your winter planting options are limited.

Also, what sort of shade are we talking about?  There is a big range of canopy densities amongst different trees, ranging from light to heavy shade.

A bit of shade is good for most plants during hot summers, even the "full sun" loving ones in my experience.

I second Brenda's suggestion of observing other plantings in your neighbourhood.

In terms of plants you have already seen the shade thread so I probably can't suggest anything new there.  Shade is good for animals, like chickens, rabbits and fish, at least in summer.  Shade is good for compost piles.  Light shade is good for plant propagation.  Heavy summer shade is good for people, and for built structures.  Observe and try to make use of the lightest areas for crops, if you think too much shade is a problem, then allocate other areas to different uses or for growing plants with non-edible uses which require less light.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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If at all possible, open up the canopy!  Use the trimmings for hugel/much/firewood/mushroom logs.
 
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