• Katie Traill

The Sun and Seasons In your Garden

If you’re already a gardener you will have first-hand experience of the importance of sunlight for a successful garden. From summer to winter, the light exposure in our backyard has changed dramatically in a few ways, testing my patience no-end by slowing the growth of our edibles (along with colder temperature).

Firstly, the change of the sun angle from summer solstice (highest point) to winter solstice (lowest point) is 47 degrees. Because of this drop, our North-facing backyard now gets at least 50% less sun than it did in summer when my tomatoes were going berserk. The back fence line and shed create a barrier of shade across half the yard and the olive tree creates a shadow exactly over our small primary veggie patch. To fight this battle Ive had to be both inventive and patient – the first thing I did was prune back a section of the olive tree to allow more morning sun on one half of the patch. Next, I moved all potted plants into different areas of the yard that collect a fair level of sunlight for a good portion of the day. Thirdly, I made use of the available afternoon sun in the front garden bed by planting out lettuces amongst the roses and natives.

As you might see in photos of Blue House Garden (East Geelong), we were lucky enough to have a mature apricot tree in a raised bed, underneath which I planted out a potentially optimistic number of vegetables to make best use of the available soil. Thankfully, apricots are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in winter – hello more sunlight! Since the leaves fell my cabbages, cauliflower and swedes have ramped up their growth two-fold (and provided a heap of free mulch!).

This has been a nice little experiment and an important reminder to really take notice of the needs of your plants – if you do your research, you’ll find that some plants prefer full sun but will tolerate part shade or dappled light, whereas some plants won’t at all. Have a look in your yard at different times of the day over the next week, taking note of which areas have good morning, midday and afternoon sun, and which areas are no-go zones for plants unless they are happy in full shade.

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- Katie