Garden Tips: Choosing A Location For Optimum Sunlight When Setting Up Your Garden

Plants need sun to photosynthesize and grow. We need to make sure that when we are choosing our garden layout that we take sunlight into account. Knowing your yard and where the sunlight hits it throughout each season will help set you up for success in your garden. As the seasons change the sun sits at different positions in the sky. In the winter the sun is lower and shines from a more southerly direction for those of us in the northern hemisphere. As we move through spring and into summer the suns position moves gradually shifting to becoming high in the sky and directly over head. This changing position of the sun will change the shadows that are cast in our growing spaces. These tips will help you choose a sunny spot for your garden.

  • Look around your growing space for tall structures like fences or buildings (sheds, your house, neighboring houses, etc.) that may cast a shadow during prime growing season. Choose a spot that avoids their shadow if you can help it. 
  • Take note of any trees or tall bushes that may make the location seem sunny from autumn until early spring until their leaves fill in and the area becomes shady.
  • Think about north and south. The sun for a good part of the year will mostly be coming from a southern direction, setting up your garden to face the south will help maximize the amount of sunlight it receives. You can run your beds east to west or north to south, but always make sure when planting that anything that will grow big and tall should be planted to the north. This helps make sure your plants don’t shade out other smaller plants growing north of them. (Unless you choose plants that do well in the shade, think leafy greens or herbs.) *The beds in my kitchen garden run north to south.

There are categories for the amount of sunlight a space gets that can quickly help you know whether something will have enough needed sunlight in your growing space:

  • Full Sun: 6 to 8+ hours of direct sunlight per day. 
  • Partial Sun: 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Partial Shade: 3 to 4 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Full Shade: Less than 3 hours of direct sunlight per day. (You will have a hard time growing food crops with this amount of sunlight.)

Ideally you will want to find a spot that has 8 hours of direct sunlight because most food producing plants, especially tomatoes and peppers grow well with full sun. Don’t despair if your space doesn’t have this much sunlight because there are plenty of other food producing plants that can grow with less direct sunlight. Sure they’d love to have 8 hours, but can grow with less. Depending on which gardener you talk to, they may have differing opinions and experiences on sunlight needs for edible plants. Some say root crops, peas and beans need 6+ hours, while others say 4 hours for roots. Edible plants grown for their leafy greens range between 3-4 hours of direct sunlight per day and herbs joining them with 4 hours. It is possible to grow plants in less sunlight than they would want, but they will grow much slower and do not produce as much. (They definitely won’t be ready for harvest in the usual time frame and will be much smaller.) All plants need sunlight to grow, making sure you have the most amount possible is one key to success in the garden. Matching food producing plants to their sunlight requirements will help ensure a good harvest in the appropriate time. 

There are other key factors to consider when choosing your location for your growing space. Sunlight and soil health are in my opinion the top two factors that help you become a successful gardener.

*If you need guidance on choosing a sunny location for your growing space you can book a garden coaching session with me. I would love to help you pick the best option for your garden! You can find out more information here: Coaching Sessions

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