Protect New Shrubs From the Sun With Shade Cloth

greenhouse structured with shade cloth

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Installing or transplanting an existing shrub or a brand new plant purchase can cause a great deal of stress on the plant. The level of stress depends on several factors: time of year, climate, amount of daily sun exposure, and soil conditions.

Although many mature plants thrive in full sun conditions, when plants are young or not yet established, the sun can be their worst enemy. If a new or transplanted plant receives some shade (from a mature landscape tree, for example) at any point in the day, a bit of shade can greatly reduce its stress level. Young plants can really suffer from the strong rays of the sun if exposed to it from morning to evening.

A simple solution is to protect your transplanted, newly planted or shade-loving plants with shade cloth.

Benefits of Shade Cloth

Shade cloth protects new plants and transplants because it filters out direct sunlight and also helps retain soil moisture.

Shade cloth also serves as a windbreak (wind works in tandem with sunlight to dry out transplants). As an added bonus, shade cloth provides some protection from insects, birds, or rabbits that are damaging your plants.

Buying Shade Cloth

Shade cloth is available in different densities, ranging from about 20 percent blockage to about 90 percent to let you control how much sunlight to allow to reach your plants. The lower the density number, the more sunlight is allowed in. Because the fabric is permeable, it won't prevent rainfall from reaching your plants.

You can buy shade cloth at local garden centers and home improvement stores and through online gardening and greenhouse suppliers. It is commonly sold in precut pieces or in bulk rolls that are priced by the foot. Precut pieces with hemmed trim and grommets (metal eyes) are the most convenient, but for large installations, bulk material usually makes more sense. You can also buy inexpensive grommet kits that include grommets and simple punch tools for installing them.

Trim along the edges of the fabric adds strength and prevents unraveling of the woven plastic material. If you start with bulk fabric, you can fold up the edges and sew a hem yourself, if desired, for the same effect. Grommets make it easy to secure the shade cloth and prevent it from tearing out at the edges and corners.

Installing and Using Shade Cloth

You can build a simple structure around your plants and cover the structure with shade cloth, or you can suspend the cloth from ropes tied to nearby trees, fences, or other structures. For a really simple shade structure, all you need to do is to pound four poles into the ground around your shrubs or other plants and attach the shade cloth to this temporary structure using twine, long twist-ties, or zip ties.

A somewhat more substantial structure might look more like an arbor, with four (or more) posts and a slatted roof made of lumber or branches. In any case, the shade cloth can put in place when you want to provide shade and be removed when you don't and the structure can stay in place.

Depending on the severity of the heat you're dealing with (and on the density of the shade cloth), you might decide to leave the shade cloth in place for a considerable period of time or alternate between covering and not covering. For example, if you have a newly transplanted shrub with wilted leaves, you'll probably just want to leave the fabric in place to provide protection until the shrub recovers.