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Alright, so you’ve got all the materials you need to build your very own greenhouse. You’re excited to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, seedlings, and all sorts of other little plants- but you do have one problem. There’s more shade than direct sunlight in your backyards?
So, can a greenhouse be in the shade? Greenhouses are meant for direct sunlight and are built to trap warmth from the sun. Setting a greenhouse in the shade will ultimately defeat its purpose unless you are growing plants that struggle in the intense summer heat, then some shade can be beneficial
So, why shouldn’t you put a greenhouse in the shade? Is partial shade OK? What kinds of plants could you grow in a partially shaded greenhouse? This article will explore all of these questions and more, hopefully getting to the root of your problems.
Why Does a Greenhouse Need Sunlight?
Greenhouses, which act like big incubation chambers for plants, keep temperatures warm and constant for optimal growth. There are bound to be fluctuations in temperature in any given growing season, but a greenhouse can combat some of the effects this might have on your plants.
Also, some plants require a higher average temperature to truly flourish than what your latitude allows. Therefore, higher-temperature veggies will thrive in a greenhouse and will grow to their highest potential.
Greenhouses also help gardeners start their seeds earlier on in the season, allowing their plants to grow to maturity much faster and produce bigger yields.
But what does the sun have to do with all of this? Why is a greenhouse so suitable for growing plants, and how does exposure to direct sunlight make it what it is?
The answer lies in the materials used to build your average greenhouse. Greenhouses are made from transparent materials, like plastic or glass, which allow light in. After the light enters, it strikes objects in the greenhouse- cement, pots, soil, and plants, for example. This is where the magic begins.
While light may be allowed in, air- and heat- aren’t able to circulate and disperse as well as they would be outside. The energy from the sunlight striking the objects in a greenhouse thus gets trapped, gradually driving up the heat to a pleasant, sweaty, tropical temperature- great for plants whose ancestors always enjoyed tropical climates.
Can a Greenhouse Be in the Shade?
So, without further ado- on to the question we’ve all been waiting for. Can a greenhouse be in the shade?
As stated above, the short answer is no. When you place a greenhouse in the shade or use an opaque roof, you block out most of that light, and whatever energy is created when the light strikes the objects inside the greenhouse dissipates before the temperature really rises.
That being said, some plants cant handle the intense summer sun, particularly around noon time when the sun is at its strongest and therefore might benefit from some extra shading.
That being said, placing a greenhouse in the complete shade somewhat defeats the purpose of the greenhouse. At that point, your plants are getting the exact same advantage you give to a plant on your windowsill- none at all, really.
If you’ve got a very shady yard, you’re best to grow plants outside in the open air and choose shade-loving varieties- the kinds of plants that are used to growing on forest floors and beneath canopies.
If you’re really bent on the idea of owning a greenhouse, though, there are some caveats to that statement. For example, we mentioned shade-loving plants- plants that grow in the shade will grow just fine in a greenhouse and have added protection of a closed-in space- rabbits and deer beware.
Additionally, some backyards have partial sun areas, places that get sun during certain times of the day and not during others. These areas may just serve as fine places for a greenhouse, offering an extended period of sunlight with an added shade period.
Certain plants even grow better in these conditions. Just like there are plants that need a certain number of chill-hours to thrive, some plants want a certain amount of shade and sunlight before they can grow to their highest potential.
So, in the end, the answer to the shade question is this- not if you’re growing plants that want full sun and a warm environment. Do your research on your plants, figure out which species will grow best in the environment you have to offer, and plant and water them well. If you know what you’re growing and pay attention to its needs, you’ll have a fine garden that your neighbors will marvel at- greenhouse or no.
Plants that Grow in Shady Greenhouses
Sun, soil, and water- these are the three things that make a plant grow. Or, so we’re told. But what about all those plants we see growing on the forest floor? What about ramps and beets, which grow underneath trees abundantly?
The truth is that this rule, simple as it is, is just not true. In the end, every plant is unique and has adapted to different situations. If you’ve got a shady greenhouse, and want some plants that will work well for your purposes, try these few suggestions.
As mentioned above, beets grow very well in the shade. Beets are delightful little vegetables that grow deep in the ground where it’s dark and damp. But their tubers aren’t the only thing that likes a little shelter from the sun. Their leaves are built to take in energy from the sun without direct exposure to sunlight. Thus, they can grow in the shade of a tree, a wall, or a house just like if they were out on an open lawn.
Broccoli, an essential ingredient in many dishes and a great source of protein, is especially geared towards growth in the shade. It’s another one of those vegetables that chose to make the best of a bad situation- maybe it couldn’t grow as tall as the towering trees, but it could still thrive in the shade.
Bok choi is a fantastic addition to any dish with a spicy zing. Bok choi grows in urban gardens with very little sun and provides people all over the world with a delicious source of nutrients that’s easy to start and grow.
Here’s one you definitely know. Celery can be cooked into soups and stir-fries and even just eaten raw. Celery with peanut butter is a classic treat that is best enjoyed with celery fresh from the garden, and what few people know is that garden-fresh celery has a special bite to it that just can’t be matched in grocery store varieties.
How Much Sun Does a Greenhouse Need?
How much sun your greenhouse needs will depend on what kinds of plants you’re trying to grow, but there are some general guidelines.
In the winter, you’ll want to keep your greenhouse as warm as possible. To do this, you’ll want to put it somewhere where it can get six or more hours of direct sunlight every day. This applies to those spring and summer days, too, when the plants inside will be wanting as much sunlight as humanly- or vegetably- possible.
With greenhouses, the general rule of thumb is- the more sunlight, the better. More sunlight means more heat, which means your plants will stay at an acceptable temperature on chilly nights, and evaporated water will circulate amongst their leaves.
There are, however, partial shade plants that will work well for your purposes if you can’t provide this. A quick Google will pull up a detailed list of plants that grow in partial shade, so you can get cracking on that all-local diet you’ve been dreaming of or even just grow a few beets.
And keep in mind, greenhouses aren’t just for edible plants. There are many flowers and stunning plant species that enjoy a shady environment and will put your greenhouse to good use. So don’t let it sit out there all dormant-like- get a plant that works with what you can give it.
How to Choose a Location for Your Greenhouse
Alright, so you’ve got your materials ready- but where in the yard to put the greenhouse? There’s a tree over that way and a few garden walls rimming the place, but you’re sure they won’t cause a big problem.
Or will they?
With sunlight, all is not what it seems. Just because a spot isn’t shady now doesn’t mean it won’t be shady later. Make sure to survey your lawn at all hours of the day for places that stay sunny as long as the sun’s out.
Rule of thumb- find a spot in the middle of all your shade-casting objects. So, if you’ve got a big, shady house and trees around the edges of your lawn, put your greenhouse right in the center of the yard. This way, the shadows will steer clear of your sun-loving plants.
All in All
All in all, you would do well to keep a greenhouse sunny, but it’s not an absolute requirement. If you’re growing sun-loving plants, which are a lot of them, they’re going to need the light, but with a little research, you can find shade-loving species.