My husband and I have a small bit of land in the Columbia Gorge on the Washington side. The southern side of the property is lined by a row of big conifers, Douglas Firs. They actually aren't on our property but right across a small private road on our neighbors land. Our property then slopes down to a small seasonal creek to the North. We are building our house up near the top (easy access from road and to power and to avoid being in the cold air pocket that forms at the bottom of our small valley). As we watch this winter we are realizing how much our winter sun is blocked on the whole upper portion of our property by the evergreens. We aren't the type to chop down trees willy nilly, especially big mature trees such as these. So I'm wondering how big an issue it is and if it would be worthwhile to put some thought into removing the trees ( we are lucky that our neighbor is super open to us doing that)? Or maybe there is a way we could prune them to let in more light, and would that really make enough difference? Open to any input, suggestions, and ideas on the matter!
My brain's the burger and my heart's the charcoal.
You've noticed something--is it just the shade on the ground or how quickly/slowly snow melts compared to unshaded areas? If/when you have some snow on the ground you might want to look at the difference between south facing and north facing slopes. Here in the high desert in NM, the difference in snow melting based on shade and especially slope is huge. Shaded, north facing slopes will maintain snow cover many weeks longer into the spring and soil temperatures will correspondingly slow plant growth. Those trees may also be helping you by blocking wind. Wind is a big issue here, especially in spring. Usually we're concerned about northerly and northwesterly winds, so an ideal garden spot has big trees to block those.
I'm in the foothills of the San Pedro Mountains in northern New Mexico--at 7600' with about 15" of precipitation, zone 4b historically--growing vegetables for the local farmer's market, working at season-extension, looking to use more permaculture techniques and join with other people around here to start and grow for farmers markets.
On my third-of-an-acre suburban plot, large heritage Doug firs block almost all winter and early spring sun. My garden is in a clearing on the north side of the property and does well after April when the sun is higher. Until then the soil is cold and it's difficult to get things to germinate. Peas take a month and grow slowly. To compensate, I start seeds inside as much as possible. I would suggest removing the trees if you can do so safely and inexpensively. Hopefully you can save the wood for furniture, firewood and/or hugelkulture. Or maybe your neighbor wants to sell them for lumber.
I'm removing all but a few conifers from the most productive areas of my property. On the south I will leave a few really old ones but all new seedlings are being chopped. This is about shade and soil acidity. Most of the west coast is managed to favor conifers. I'm not going to be part of that.