Today, I’m excited to share a guest post with you by an online blogging colleague of mine, Mckenzie. Today, she’s sharing some helpful gardening tips for those of you that have trouble growing things because you are inundated with shade in your yard!
When I was in college, I had a much smaller gardening space than I do now, and only pocket change for gardening supplies. The yard I was working with was in Boise, Idaho, and it had a patio and barely enough room for a couple of 10×4 plant boxes. Despite its natural beauty, Boise has an ecosystem that can make maintaining an organic garden a big challenge. Add other hurtles like a garden that is super shady and has a teeny-tiny size and you’ll find out that a successful organic garden might start to feel like a pipe dream. In addition to working with the local eco-system, there are always some tricks that can be used to make your yard bend to your will. Here are some that I found extremely useful.
They don’t call it the city of trees for nothing.
My little yard was about 500 square feet, and had a canopy made from several 50-foot tall trees. This blocked the majority of sunlight that came into the yard. Between the tall fence and the tree canopy, my plant boxes only received about 4 hours of sunlight a day.
Luckily for me, a friend of mine learned what plants won’t grow in the shade the hard way a few years earlier and she got me turned on to some low-light vegetables. Some vegetables that that require minimal sunlight are salads and leafy greens, peas, and beans (more low-light vegetables can be found here). The overabundance of shade was manageable because I chose plants that could thrive in my backyard. But since the majority of vegetables in my garden were leafy plants, they were quick to be eaten by critters. First, I had a slug problem. It started out as just a few nibbles taken out of my leaves, but soon they were starting to kill my plants. When I was younger, my grandma taught me how to make beer traps. As a college student, my friends and I enjoyed drinking a few beers in my shady yard. Somehow we managed to save some for the traps.
My other rivals were less slimy and more cute and furry: squirrels.
The city of trees could probably be called the city of squirrels and still be an accurate description of Boise. These adorable critters make for lovely scenery while walking around the city, but they can surprisingly wreak havoc on your garden. I had to take desperate measures to save my garden from the onslaught of squirrels. Thanks to some more of Grandma’s wisdom, I found another solution.
Warning – this next tip may gross you out for a moment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take my next piece of advice seriously.
As shocking as it may be, this one really works! Urine will keep squirrels out of the garden if “applied” around the perimeter. I used to ask my boyfriend do this around the perimeter of my garden boxes (by perimeter I mean the external grass near the outside of the raised beds) about once a month. Thanks to the work of my boyfriend, my garden was saved. Now that I have a little more money for some wild animal repellent USDA approved for organic gardening, I no longer make my poor boyfriend pee on my yard. I don’t think he really minded that much, now that I think about it.
It was a battle, but thanks to the help of my friends and my Grandma’s advice I had a successful organic garden in my tiny, shady yard. Wherever you live, if you can plan around your environment, you can have an organic with some hard work and a little ingenuity. Plant things that will do well with the amount of sunlight you have, I really wanted to grow tomatoes and cucumbers but decided to go with plants that I thought had a better chance of making it. Look to the web if you have critter problems; not everyone has a grandma like mine but there are plenty of people online who love to help out.
Those are my tips for an organic garden in a shady area – I’d love to hear yours!
Mackenzie Kupfer gardens to heart’s content in Boise, ID. She recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in zoology, but her she plans to be a lifelong student of the Earth. Vegetable gardening, writing and experiencing the beauty of nature while camping are just a few of Mackenzie’s favorite things. Stay updated with what Mckenzie has to say by following her on Twitter!