Gardening Tips: Sun Mapping

Before you buy seeds, design your garden or even touch a spade, it's important to determine how much sun exposure your garden will get so that every crop you plant thrives.

You’ll need to know where and when the sun hits throughout the day – most garden vegetables, for example, require full sun, which means six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day, while other plants that thrive in shade need only two hours of sunlight a day. To determine the best area to plant certain crops, make a sun map on a clear day while you’re at home.

First, mark off the area where you want to plant your seeds with garden stakes and twine – or any tools and toys that won’t roll away or move around during the day. If you have a backup or expansion area in mind, mark that off as well.

Draw a rough sketch of your entire yard, including the location of your potential garden. Then, from early morning until late afternoon, observe the sun and indicate patches of sun and shade on your drawing approximately every two hours. Pay close attention to how much sun exposure your garden will get, noting any shadows from large trees or other structures.

Next, you’re ready to design your garden – it’s that easy! Refer back to your sun map to determine which plants are best suited to your space. If there isn’t as much sun as you thought, don’t despair: Choose plants that like a little shade, or consider investing in (or making your own) planter caddies to turn containers into a garden on the go.

Shannon Weber is the creator, author and photographer behind the award-winning, and her work has appeared on websites such as Bon Appétit, Serious Eats and America’s Test Kitchen.

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