Some plants will thrive even in the sunniest area of your backyard garden, while other may stop growing, flowering or producing fruit when temperatures get too hot. To protect such vulnerable plants, a temporary sun shade can help until cooler weather or young plants develop strong root systems. Although pre-fabricated sun shades are available in garden centers, you can also make them yourself from items you already have on hand.
1. First Aid for Plants
In a 2001 study by the Kansas State Research and Extension Center, shade cloth doubled the survival of transplanted lettuce seedlings and kept plants from developing a bitter taste. Recent transplants and newly germinated seedlings are the most vulnerable plants during a hot spell, although almost any plant can wilt from too much sun, especially in a drought. Sun shades come in a variety of types and styles, but for seedlings, an opaque cover is best. For more mature plantings, a screen or mesh sun shade may be enough to keep flowers, vegetables and your other garden treasures from fatal sun scorch.
2. Cloth and Netting
You can purchase a prefabricated lattice or a shade cloth made from polypropylene or saran in black, green or clear forms that provide anywhere from 10 to 70 percent sun block. For most flowers, use 30 percent cloth to let more sun through. For flowers that need less sun, like anemone, coreopsis, cyclamen, gloxinia and impatiens, use 47- to 63-percent shade cloth. You can also make a lightweight sun shade from old sheets or tablecloths and simply tie or staple the corners to wood stakes or lay the cloth over wire mesh or a tomato cage.
3. Use Recycled Products
For a free, quick and easy sun shade that even kids can help with, use an old window screen laid across rocks or bricks. Or, you can prop up a wood or plastic lattice panel next to a plant to shield it from the sun. Check with local grocery stores or dairies for milk crates and simply lay one over smaller plantings, adding a brick on top if needed to anchor it down. Lamp shades can also be re-purposed as a temporary sun shade. Make sure to allow for air venting to avoid creating a moisture trap that encourages fungal growth.
4. Polypropylene Shades
One product available in garden stores and online are plant shade "dots" made out of transparent, UV-coated polypropylene. These fun shades in crayon colors can be placed around plants in pots or in the ground. The angle and height are both adjustable, so you can use them throughout the day and accommodate the changing sun angle. Drape netting over them to protect plants from insects without using pesticides that may be harmful to children and pets.
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