Tips to start a shade garden

Living in a wooded area or in metro areas where surrounding buildings block sunlight could be the perfect location for a shade garden. It may seem like a daunting task to create a shade garden from soil that is possibly showing a few blades of grass and lots of weeds. Following these tips will break the job into easy to handle tasks.

Tip 1 - Evaluate the Sun Level as Partial, Dappled or Full Shade

Shade can be dappled, partial or full. Dappled shade can occur any time throughout the day and is the result of sun beams piercing through openings in the overhead tree canopy and hitting the ground. Partial shade would mean that for a few hours during the day, sunlight hits the area. Check the area several times during the day, like at 8am, 12pm and 4pm, noting if sunshine hits the area at any time of the day and if it's dappled or partial. Full shade means no sunshine at all hits the area. Knowing what amount of sun, if any, hits the area will help in plant selection.

Tip 2 - Clear and Till the Shaded Area

Rake the area to remove stones and vegetation. Pull out and dispose of weeds and grass. Use a shovel to till the soil. Push the shovel on a slight angle into the ground as far as you can. Scoop up a shovel full of soil and turn it over. Repeat this process for the whole area.

Tip 3 - Begin Shade Garden Plan

Measure the length of the area from left to right (width) and front to back (depth). Draw the dimensions to scale on a piece of paper, making 1 inch (or 1/2 inch) equal to 1 foot of your measurement. Mark any obstacles or walls in your shade garden, like trees, large boulders, utility pole or building.

Tip 4 - Buying Plants for a Shade Garden

Take the drawing of your shade garden with you to the plant nursery or lawn and garden center. Choose tall plants to place in the back, like near the wall of a building or place the tall plants in the center of a shade garden that is away from a wall and may be round or oval shaped. Short plants go around the perimeter of the shade garden or sides and front of the garden against a wall. Place medium sized plants between the tall and short plants. Read the plant labels for the amount of sunshine the plant needs. In some cases, the plant tag will read "Shade" rather than breaking the shade requirement out to partial or dappled shade. That type of plant should work in all shade conditions. Also read on the plant tag how far apart the plants should be spaced in the garden. Use your garden plan to determine how many plants you will need.

Tip 5 - Planting a Shade Garden

Dig the hole the same size as the pot. If you had not already tilled the soil, the hole should be dug twice as wide and deep as the pot to loosen the soil for better root penetration. The soil level of the plant should be level with the surrounding ground. Water after planting and again every one to two weeks, spring to autumn, if there is no rainfall.