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One thing I have been wondering a lot about is that since I am starting from pretty much a fully formed woodland and trying to adapt certain areas to annual polycultures, how can i tell when i have the needed 'six hours of sun'.

As said elsewhere I'm new to a lot of this. I've been studying my land for two years, but no i never took the time to time the sun. It seems a very complicated matter to guess at. In general will 5 hours of sunlight be sufficient for 5/6ths the harvest? Or is there more to it than that?

i've heard somewhere that if the grass grows high, then that should be sufficient light.

when i get some time and go back to my land with the saw, how big of an area should i clear for an annual garden. is clearing 2,000 square feet good enough to get an 1800 sqft garden?

If i have an open strip east to west that is very long and narrow, that too would seem sufficient to me for summer annuals. The trees on either end would seem to be beneficial for reducing the stress on these plants.

Perhaps this question is a question of agroforestry. sometimes i get jealous when i see people with big muddy annual plots. but thats absurd, my land has its own benefits and i just need to learn how to take advantage of them. i have set out a good plan and in if it is carried out i could easily produce enough food for several people in the first year. but my questions remain because it sure will be embarassing if i spent 8 hours a day 7 days a week planting food stuffs and none of it survives to harvest!!

 
                  
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Location: South Carolina Zone 8
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I prefer morning sun and afternoon shade when I consider an area for planting. If you figure here we get about 13+hrs of good sun per day and afternoon is the hottest time of the day you want to plant an area that starts getting shaded an hour or so after noon. My second choice would be an area that gets sun mid morning and shade mid afternoon followed by an area that gets sun after noon till dusk. That said I am planning for at least 6 hours of full sun by simply noting when the sun hits an area and the shade covers it fully (or mostly) blocking the sun. In a forested area you will find patches that get full sun at various times and for example if an area gets full sun in the morning for 3hrs and then afternoon for 3 hrs it does not mean it is getting a full 6hrs straight. What most people do not realize is plants have a daytime and a nighttime mode. The 6+hrs of sun is needed for photosynthesis (or the daytime mode of plants) it should be 6hrs straight. Now you can grow things given less than 6hrs sun and can even break it up into smaller patches totaling 6hrs but they will not grow as well as getting at least 6hrs of full sun.

If an area grows grass well it is suitable for veggies is a good general assumption in regards to does the area receive enough light. Now grass can tolerate a full day's worth of sun as well as higher temps than veggies like/need. Using grass growing as a judge to whether crops will grow has to be combined with the fact grass will grow where veggies will struggle.

As far as clearing your land it sounds good however is it going to be a square, rectangle, oval, circle, if a rectangle situated n/s or e/w there are a lot of things that need to be considered and only you can judge if what you have cleared provides enough light for your crops. I do however recommend clearing based on the side of not enough rather than too much because it is a simple matter to cut down the tree (or trees) shading the veggies but impossible to replace a tree you cut down without years of growing.

The open strip might make a great place for a garden or you could clear for plants that would prefer some shade as well as sun and plant the strip will sun loving or tolerant plants. I have not seen the strip to know for sure. One thing though why is the strip there in the first place? Is it a clear cut for say power lines, firebreak, just simple an area where trees have not taken back over (IE once was a pioneer's garden), or naturally tree (or even other plant) barren area due to unknown reasons? Lots of stuff to consider when looking at using a natural (or unnatural) clearing in an otherwise wooded area.

I too get jealous when I see others with a wonderful garden especially when my first couple of years were flops including some expensive trees that simply died or got root bound and had to be replanted. That said I have a much different problem than you as I am dealing with a lot of fill and clay trucked in as well as dug out the ponds in the area. It seems everyone with a pond had it dug by the guy who cleared and built on my property ("Hey I'll dig you a pond if I can keep the dirt". He basically filled in a low lying area before he built. Over the years though I have been able to bring small areas back to life and finally this year think I have a decent garden plot and have started to see trees thrive. It took a lot of trial and error as well as hard work to get to this point and will take a lot more to get to where I want to be. That in itself is part of land ownership and management doing things that make it better for the long haul. You may not see results your first (or first few) years but if you are doing things right eventually you will see results and it will get better and better over the one resource we cannot take for granted which is time.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i hate to see you have to clear any trees, that is sad..(i plant trees rather than cut them when I can)..

sure depends on what you are growing how much room you'll need..and how much sun those things need..i find most plants need a lot less sun that most people think
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Things seem to do best in dappled sun/shade here where I am (about 30 degrees N latitude).  We cleared a few trees for a new garden which is doing very well in a small clearing among short trees (about 20 feet tall).  The garden in full sun has done poorly except in early spring, before it gets hot.  I plan to put more trees in that original garden, to make the light more dappled.

 
                    
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Brenda Groth wrote:
i hate to see you have to clear any trees, that is sad..(i plant trees rather than cut them when I can)..

sure depends on what you are growing how much room you'll need..and how much sun those things need..i find most plants need a lot less sun that most people think



I am no fan of cutting trees. but if i wish to make my property useful than some must go. i can't have a million red maple and bigtooth aspen. just doesnt make any sense. 75-80% of my land is wooded. maybe more. i never would have let it get like this. if i had owned it the whole time it would be incredibly diverse. but instead i have 2 or 3 dominant species and very rarely some others.

add to that many of the useless redundant species hog light from more useful annuals and future forest cover and its a no brainer
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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remember there is a good chance for every aspen you cut you'll get like 100 baby aspens so a word of caution there..

they all have interconnected roots and when a live tree is cut they send up thousands of sprouts from the roots to reforest the area..aspens are strange like that but they will do it..i have them here but mine are quacking aspens
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Brenda Groth wrote:

they all have interconnected roots and when a live tree is cut they send up thousands of sprouts from the roots to reforest the area..aspens are strange like that but they will do it..i have them here but mine are quacking aspens


Our live oaks here are like that - Escarpment Live Oaks - all the trees in a grove are actually one tree.  They send out runners which come up as baby trees, really kind of a pest in the garden. 
 
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