A DIY shade cloth saved my entire summer 2020 garden.Moving from Michigan to North Carolina in July 2020 meant that my summer garden was not planted until July.
I had to plant my seedlings in the scorching heat of the summer, and they would have died if it weren’t for landscape fabric.
Landscape fabrics are a great way to protect your plants from intense sunlight during the summer months. They are also very cost-effective – landscape fabric can last up to five years!
Most people who use shade cloth are using it to shield an existing growing garden that is happening to experience some high temperatures. So for example, let’s say you planted your garden in spring and everything is trucking along really well. But then you’re in a zone that can get really hot, and all of a sudden let’s say you are getting 105 to 110-degree temperatures for days on end, a lot of your plants are going to suffer. Fruits will get scalded in those conditions. A lot of tomato plants will drop their blossoms in extreme temperatures like that.
You can decrease the surface temperature on those plants by draping shade cloth over them to provide a shade for them. And that’s the time when most people will use shade cloth. We had a very acute need for shade cloth when we planted our first 2020 garden.
So as you know, I came down to North Carolina from Michigan with a ton of seedlings that I had started from seed. I could not just let them die or leave them behind, and there was really no need to. They didn’t take up much room in the cargo van, so of course, I was going to bring them with me. We took 2 days to make the drive down to NC, and once we got there, my dad “scratched up a little spot” for a garden.
Now all of a sudden I had a garden, and I needed to plant all those plants. and we went to plant all of those plants. Remember, it’s the latter part of July at this point. I had eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cucumber and had to put them out in super hot, super humid weather with no relief from the sun, and that caused them to struggle big time. So what we did to alleviate that was we covered the two main rows of our garden with landscape fabric. We put T posts in, and then we put a really long horizontal bar across that top and draped two long pieces of the landscaping fabric along the entire length of the garden bed.
The landscape fabric lengths were suspended probably about 3 feet above the ground. They were 1-1.5 feet above the tops of the plants in the garden. And that landscape fabric that we already had on hand saved our plants and really saved the entire garden that year. We left it on for about two weeks before the plants really got acclimated to the conditions. Once the plants got acclimated to the conditions, we took it off and everything was fine.
I love looking back at this example in the garden because it’s a perfect example of using something that we already had on hand for another use to solve a garden problem. So much of gardening is being able to handle whatever is thrown your way and using what you have. If you are growing a garden to provide food for your family on a budget, you have to make sure that you keep your expenses as low as possible. Using landscape fabric as shade cloth to reduce costs is a perfect example of the kind of resourcefulness you need to be successful.