Before choosing plants for the garden, several factors should be considered. Soil type, moisture, and sunlight are most important. Considering this in December when the sun sits lowest in the sky and the days are short, one may wonder just how much sun a particular spot does receive during the growing season.
Constructing a sun chart of your gardens will answer this question. Time involved will be four days out of the next twelve months, spaced three months apart. I chose the first Saturday in January, April, July and October. On that Saturday I stayed home to observe and chart the amount of sun my garden received. If it is overcast or raining on the day you choose, simply do it the next day or week.
After choosing your dates, draw a simple diagram of your property showing the various gardening areas. Label each area with a number. Your areas may include locations such as each side of the house, along a wooden fence, vegetable and flowerbeds. Your goal is sunlight information for each garden area.
On another sheet of paper, create a chart with six columns. In the first column list the numbers for your garden areas. Along the top, write the times you will be observing the sunlight, every two hours beginning with 9 am. You will need one of these charts for each of the four days you record sunlight. Then you are ready to begin filling in your chart, noting the amount of sunlight in each area at the times. Enter information such as sunny, dappled shade, etc. To download a chart, click here Sun Chart.
There are different kinds of sun and shade. Sunny means the area is getting direct sunlight. Noting dappled shade, partial shade or deep shade is more helpful six months from now than just writing shade. The more detail you record the better you will remember.
I find it helpful to set an alarm to do a walk through every two hours. If not, time seems to slip away and observations not noted. I also note the times of sunrise and sunset on those days. Make sure you mark your calendars for your next sun chart day, as three months will arrive before you know it!
Once you complete your sun charts you will have the information you need to really know how much sun an area receives during various seasons. Your July chart will show different information than the one for January. The July chart will provide accurate information for the growing season.
Full sun is six or more hours of direct sun per day. Two hours or less of sun is considered shade. Some plants can thrive in morning sun but cannot withstand a few hours of scorching afternoon sun. Sun on a brick or stone wall may retain enough heat to keep a less cold tolerant plant alive through cold snaps. Your sun charts will continue to provide useful information in planning your gardens.
By Lorraine Cipriano