2017-05-17 / Columns

WVU EXTENSION MASTER GARDENERS

Gardening in the Shade - A Challenge or A Breeze

Do not despair, but do not waste your time and money trying to plant sun-loving grass, or sun loving sunflowers or sun loving vegetables in the shade. Remember: The right plant in the right place!

So, - What can you do?

First, define the space. What’s that mean?- Take a garden hose or rope and lay out the perimeter of the area that you’d like to start with. Hint: start small and expand next year.

Second, get a soil test (see the Extension Office for directions and a free test).

Third, amend your soil according to the soil test results. Add organic matter like crushed leaves, grass clippings, straw, peat moss, and manure. Or-If you have very heavy clay soil, consider building up the planting area. Rocks, scrap boards, logs, or commercial material can be used to edge the planting area. Up to 10 layers of newspaper or one layer of cardboard first will greatly reduce the amount of weeds that will come up after you plant. Water this layer. Then add top soil and compost. If you have very little soil and lots of compost material, it is best to let that sit for six months to a year before adding the plants.

Then, add the plants. There are many good plants for shady areas. Some are primarily known for their beautiful foliage and many also have colorful flowers for part of the growing season. There are many different and very beautiful Ferns. Also, several varieties of Vinca, Sweet Woodruff, Lamium, (Ajuca) Bugle Weed, (these four are low growing and spreading ground covers). There are many varieties of Hosta, but you will need to protect these from the deer. For flowers look at, (Dicentra) Bleeding Heart, Astilbe, Helleborus, (Tricyrtis) Toad Lilly, (Tiarrella) Foamflower, and (Lobelia) Cardinal Flower. These are my favorites but you can find these and many more in nurseries or garden catalogues. Always check the mature size of each plant when you buy and give it room to grow when you plant. If your garden looks a little bare you can add annuals like Impatiens in those spaces. They will not come back the following year and so your perennials will have the room they need.

Now, be sure to water your plants. Check them often to be sure that they are getting enough rain, especially for the first few years. All of the plants above are perennial meaning that they will come back year after year. After about three years they will rarely need extra water.

Another good option is to plant in containers. A container can be placed on a patio or deck area or tucked between plants that are in the ground. This is a great option for a dark corner.

Be sure to make your garden accessible to you and your guests. A path to and/or through your garden will make it easier to care for your plants and to enjoy them. If space allows, a chair, bench, or swing is a great addition.

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