Monday, May 25, 2015

A Short Discussion about Shade for Your Forest Medicinal Herb Garden

Many gardeners are interested in planting shade gardens, especially to grow native forest botanicals such as ginseng, goldenseal, and black cohosh. Many questions arise about how to provide that shade, how much there should be, and what to do if there is no natural shade on the property. That topic is covered in detail in the new home gardener section of my book, Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals. Here is a small excerpt: "Do you have a naturally shaded area to plant your garden in? The ideal site has a hardwood canopy with trees such as poplar, sugar maple, white ash, oak, beech, maple, and birch, and an understory of trees and shrubs such as dogwoods, elderberry, and witch hazel. Is it all deep shade? Are there open areas? Are there different degrees of shade, e.g., dense, light, or partial shade? Partial shade means the area has direct sunlight for three to six hours each day. Pay attention to when the area gets that sun. Three hours of direct late afternoon sun can be hot and damaging to shade plants. Light shade or dappled light is filtered light that works it way through the canopy of deciduous trees. There are patches of direct sunlight that get through at different times of the day, but they are small. This is a preferred state for many of the plants covered in this book. Areas of dense or full shade get less than three hours of direct sunlight each day, with filtered light the rest of the day. Dense shade is not totally dark. Few plants grow on the forest floor under dense shade. If you have full shade, you will probably have to open up the tree canopy a bit through some judicious pruning or tree removal. If your canopy is very open and there is too much light, now is the time to think about planting some trees that will add more shade in the coming years.
     "If you don't have any shade right now, you can create some that is temporary until the trees you plant fill in, or it can be the permanent shade. Construct an arbor or pergola and let vines cover it to simulate the natural opening and closing of a tree canopy that occurs when leaves come out in the spring and fall off in autumn. Use lattice fencing to protect an area from late afternoon sun or put up a shade sail or canopy made of woven polypropylene shade cloth. If you can't afford to build shade right now, consider planting on the north or east side of your house."

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