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Designing help! Can you have a decent garden in the shade?  RSS feed

 
Mae Hodges
Posts: 3
Location: Alfred, Maine
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Hello permies,

I have a dilemma. I'm torn between planting a toby hemenway style garden in front of our south facing porch, or putting large shade trees there. Is it possible to do both? I live in Southern Maine, zone 4b/5a
Here's a map view of my house (it's in the middle with a big barn on the right): https://www.google.com/maps/@43.5223065,-70.7731135,66m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!7m1!2e1

SHADE PROS:
*We don't want to air condition, but our house gets really hot in the summer.
*We have tenants on the second and third floor who air condition constantly, so shade would (eventually) save money.
*I might be too busy to keep a garden anyway on top of starting a bread business, raising a toddler, being a landlord and trying to start a farm.
*we have an excellent field with irrigation access that's a 3-5 minute walk from the house (on the left in the picture).

GARDEN PROS:
*I hoped a garden right next to the house would be more convenient and thus more likely to get attention from me. I fantasize about surveying my domain of flowers, veggies etc while sipping coffee on the porch. Or pulling weeds while my son is playing on the porch, instead of trying to convince him to walk out into the back field and stay there.
*a permacultural garden could be a good learning experience before my husband and I start farming as a livelihood
*South side is the best spot. The East side of the house gets good sun too, but there's only a tiny patch of ground between the house and the driveway (enough space for a massive forsythia bush and an herb bed maybe). The North and West side of the house get a constant strong wind. There's a little patch of lawn on the West side, but it's shaded by either the house or trees most of the day, and tenants like to play with their dogs there. It's also very close to a massive poison ivy hedge, and I wanted to start with something easy.

QUESTIONS:
Can I grow a meaningful amount of food in the shade? Esp. ordinary veggies...
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5865
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Maybe a compromise with fruit trees (rather than huge shade trees) and vegetables?  Raspberries and some other brambles don't mind a little shade also, and here, anyway, nothing likes full sun.

We've planted (over the last two years, so they are small still) blueberries, figs, pears and peaches in the front and side yard interspersed this year with sweet potatoes, okre, sunchokes, cosmos, zinnias, roses, sunflowers, luffa, sage, oregano, comfrey....   As the trees get larger we will change what we plant but I expect to always have some vegetables and flowers and herbs out there.  The front yard faces South/West so is very hot.  The side yard is North/West.  So far, everything is thriving.  I'm using a serious straw mulch for the first time ever and I love it for making 'islands' of plantings.

We just have a one story home though and are counting on the fruit trees to shade it nicely. 

I've also added a trellis to the front porch with hops, passion flower vine, and some beans....keeps the porch much cooler and helps indoors to.

I fantasize about surveying my domain of flowers, veggies etc while sipping coffee on the porch.

I LOVE sitting on one of the  porches and watching the plants...hummingbirds, butterflies, goldfinches and others...that is a perfectly good reason to have a front yard garden.....

Our main garden is in the back and fenced and producing well but not nearly as ambient feeling as the yard...
 
Mae Hodges
Posts: 3
Location: Alfred, Maine
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I have a 3 story house, so any meaningful shade trees would have to be pretty big. Your yard sounds nice though.
 
Nicole Alderman
gardener
Posts: 1442
Location: Pacific Northwest
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It's going to take a while for a shade tree to get big enough to shade out a garden. You'll have quite a few years in which you can plant sun loving veggies, the veggies that do better with a little shade, like lettuce and spinach. As the tree gets bigger, you can transition to growing things like raspberries and hostas (the shoots supposedly taste like asperagus), wild strawberries, blackberries, violets/pansies (edible), fushias (flowers are edible), rhubarb, chives, elderberry, thimbleberries, huckleberries, miners lettuce, nettles, etc.

When the tree gets really big, you can trim out the lower branches to allow sun under the tree, while still shading the top of the house. If you plant a maple, you could even probably tap it for sap!

Looking at the areal picture, I really don't see why you can't have both a shade garden and a vegetable garden a little further out. You have big front yard, and the sun goes across the sky, so a lot of area will get hours of morning or evening sun. I did a little photoshop mock-up with a cut and pasted tree where you'd probably want it for day and evening shade. I also did extremely loose depictions of where your full sun, part sun, and shade would be in like, 10-20 years when the tree is huge (hard to tell exactly because the amount of light changes during the year and I can't tell exactly where all the other trees are or how tall they are/will be). But, you can see that even with a huge tree, you'd still have a lot of area to grow veggies and other edibles...and in the 10-20 years leading up to that, you'll have even more growing area.

I have a lot of shade on my sloped, north facing property, and I still manage to grow lots of veggies and fruit. I grow my veggies in the few areas that get lots of sun, and grow my fruit trees in the areas with a little less sun, and my berries in the shadier spots, and the shadiest spots often are my "zone 4" and "zone 5"  areas where I let things be a little more wild for habit. There's only so many hours in the day, so I'm happy to let some areas slide. I've got a three year old and a 9 month old, so I totally understand not having time to manage a garden! I really should start a thread on how to garden with wee ones, because we all need tips and tricks for keeping them busy. But, I did find some other threads that might help with the making-time-to-garden-with-young-children thing (https://permies.com/t/54338/Children-gardening, https://permies.com/t/50429, https://permies.com/t/52261/time-growing-family-starting-homestead). Don't be afraid to start small and only grow a little--life is crazy at this stage and it's okay to only do a little if that's all you have time for!

Wow, this was long! I hope something in there helps!
Permaculture-Shade-Garden-With-Tree.jpg
[Thumbnail for Permaculture-Shade-Garden-With-Tree.jpg]
Bad Photoshop of a big tree
Permaculture-Shade-Garden.jpg
[Thumbnail for Permaculture-Shade-Garden.jpg]
Really loose depiction of shade/sun...I tried to exclude your driveway, which is why the lines look funny
 
Hester Winterbourne
Posts: 206
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b)
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When you are looking to shade the house, do you mean the windows, or insulating the actual walls?  I was just thinking instead of planting trees which as well as casting shade will suck up a lot of water, to put trellis on the house and grow climbers.  Putting pergolas over the windows so that they cast shade in the summer but when the sun is lower in the winter the light will still get in.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5865
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
351
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As Nicole said, good shade trees could take many years to shade your yard and three story home so there's probably plenty of time to plant vegetables and flowers and not worry about them being shaded out.  Have you picked the type of shade trees? 

I think tree roots might potentially be as much of an issue as shade over the years as the trees grow.

I've grown some things on the East side of some yard oaks that did quite well and many flowers on the east side of a house...the afternoon shade from the house gave them some relief from the blasting summer heat and they still got a good six hours of sun.

Your farm looks wonderful!
 
Steven Kovacs
Posts: 225
Location: Western Massachusetts (USDA zone 5a, heating zone 5, 40"+)
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To echo what others have said, if you want shade, trees are a good but very slow way to get it.  Awnings or pergolas with vines would be a lot faster, and then you could use the whole south yard for the garden.  And of course vines can be productive (grapes, kiwi, hops) too.
 
Mae Hodges
Posts: 3
Location: Alfred, Maine
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Thanks for the helpful replies! Nicole, I LOVE the shade diagram! Aerial maps are so much fun. I realize it would be a long while before a tree got very big, it just made me reluctant to do perennials or invest in a permanent bed.

My dad's a carpenter and he's not a big fan of vines climbing on buildings-- we also plan to repaint the house pretty soon. I've had fantasies of 3 story trellises on the windy side of the house too, but I'm not sure how I'd manage the plants when they got very high to keep them from climbing on the house itself. And kiwi vines that close to the house would be a little scary from what I've read about their growth rate. Does anyone have firsthand experience with shade trellising?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2500
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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In my world, vegetable gardens are incompatible with trees. As an example, here is a photo that I took this morning. The two rows of squash are the same lot of seed. They were sown on the same day. They were irrigated the same. One row is barely growing. The other row is doing OK. The difference, is that one row is about 8 feet closer to a row of trees than the other. The trees are about 16 feet away from the stunted row, and about 24 feet away from the row that is growing better. They are small decorative trees.

Plants that have done OK for me close to trees, are onions, mint, raspberries.





stunted-squash.jpg
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Squash stunted due to growing near trees.
 
Nicole Alderman
gardener
Posts: 1442
Location: Pacific Northwest
171
cat duck forest garden hugelkultur
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Hmmm, I wonder if it's the soil's bacterial/fungal microorganism balance at play? If so, maybe a raised bed would help the vegetable garden lean more toward being bacterial, rather than the fungal dominated soils under a tree?

(For those wondering what in the world I'm talking about, the video by Elaine Ingram was mind-blowing and life-changing for me. I don't usually have time to watch videos, but I managed to watch all of this one. If you can only watch some, the first half gives you a really good overlay on the subject)

 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 2757
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Mae,  Lots of thoughts already but here is one that is used all over England, Ireland, Scotland and many places in the USA. Ivy growing up and covering the sunny sides of the house.

I recommend building a trellis to keep the Ivy from eroding the actual house siding, that way you not only get the cooling effect of the green but you also have a shaded air space between, this adds to the cooling effects of the Ivy and protects the home from any damage.

Some houses in Ireland use climbing roses for the same purpose, simply beautiful in bloom, these houses use the trellis trick to hold the climbing rose canes and these provide the needed air space between home and green shade wall of roses.

Just a couple of things to think about; Ivy grows incredibly fast (several feet per year) roses are a bit slower to cover the trellis but how beautiful they are when in bloom.
Ivy or roses will give good shade faster than planting shade trees and in the long run you don't have to worry about a big storm blowing a tree onto the house or branches falling and damaging the roof/ walls of the house.

Redhawk
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