Shady Solutions for a Dry Shade Garden

Shade garden can be very challenging, because there are many different types of shade. Shade means different things to different people. Not all shade is the same. Types of Shade: Part shade can be very variable. Time of day is very important—whether or not the shade is morning shade or afternoon shade can mean life or death for a plant. Afternoon shade means the area is shady after lunch, but sunny in the morning. Morning shade means the area is shady before lunch and sunny in the afternoon. With the heat coming from our summer sun, I wouldn’t even consider this spot to be shade at all. *Most shade loving plants can tolerate some morning sun, but they cannot live with our hot afternoon sun. Filtered Shade – This is usually shade beneath large trees that have a high or open canopy, letting in little bits of sun off and on throughout the day. This kind of shade is perfect for a wide range of plants. Full Shade – Shade all day long. This can be either shade provided by tall trees or a tall wall like a building of some kind. There is still some light for the plants, but plants in full shade receive no direct sun. Deep Shade – Shade all day long beneath big trees that let in very little light at all. In deep shade the area can seem dark. This is beneath very big trees like oaks. This is the most difficult area to fill, but there are some plants that grow fine here. In addition to determining what kind of shade you have, it’s important to also consider soil condition. Moisture, or lack of moisture, makes a big difference when choosing plants for a site. Moist Shade – Most shade-loving plants like moist soil. If you have moist soil or a way to water to insure that your shade garden does have moist soil, you’ll have no problem growing a beautiful shade garden. Dry Shade – Dry shade is by far the most difficult shade to deal with. Since most shade plants also like moist soil, plant selection for a dry shady area is greatly decreased. This is what I’ll focus on tonight. Although recent rains have brought back some green to our gardens, we’ve been under a serious drought for quite a while. Several years ago, my husband and I bought a house in a wooded area that had been overgrown and neglected for years. Ever since then, we’ve been been working on a woodland garden using primarily native plants. We’ve tried to come up with an easy way to water this area using our well, but so far, the area remains dry. For this reason, I’m constantly searching for plants that can tolerate dry shade. Dry shade is probably the most difficult soil in which plants can grow, because the shade is made even more dry when large trees are soaking up any available moisture when rain does come, leaving very little for other plants with less aggressive root systems. When planting in dry shade, it’s very important to amend the soil at planting time. Plants expected to grow in dry shade need all the help they can get, and it’s much easier to spread out your roots in soft pliable soil, even if it’s dry. Woodland soil tends to be dry and full of tree roots, and there’s a lot of competition among plants for what little water there is. Composted cow manure or mushroom compost are my favorite soil amendments. Mulch is important too, because it conserves moisture in the soil and helps keep the roots cool. Shredded leaves are the perfect mulch for shade gardens, because the leaves will enrich the soil as they break down. If shade gardening is among your interests, take a look at my other post, Plants for Dry Shade.

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