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Tornadoes and Shade

My neighborhood lost many trees in the tornado last October. In an initial survey of 71 homes in Northwest Dallas, homeowners reported that at least 250 trees were lost on their properties.

Many of the residents of my formerly shady neighborhood were accomplished shade gardeners. Now they have lost plants that were in shade pre-tornado and must consider replacement plants that can tolerate full sun.

As gardeners in Texas, we have learned that when plants are labeled for full sun exposure we must mentally factor in a calculation for the Texas sun. Many plants, especially seedlings, need a break from the sun after 2 p.m.

Drip irrigation or a soaker hose, combined with 3-4 inches of compost or other mulch, will reduce evaporation and lower soil temperature. This will help but a shade structure or taller plant may be needed to prevent heat stress or worse.

Tall plants such as sunflowers or okra will do well for shading smaller plants.

Have you ever thought of planting sunflowers like these to shade plants?

Garden stores have ready made shade tunnels for rows of plants.  The same effect can be accomplished with 1 inch diameter flexible PVC pipe, garden stakes, and frost cloth. Care should be taken to allow good air flow in order to prevent diseases caused by excess humidity.

Or for those of us who don’t mind improvising, a variety of household items such as laundry baskets, umbrellas, and plastic garden tables will provide shade, if not elegance. Click through this slide show for examples:

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Cheesecloth may be placed directly over small plants and will lower temperatures by reflecting sunlight.

If rabbits are an issue, a chicken wire cage draped with cloth may mitigate both pest and light problems (unless the rabbits are especially determined).

Texas weather presents many challenges but successful gardeners know how to play it by ear.

Beverly Allen, Master Gardener class of 2018

Pictures by Starla Willis

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