The heat just turned on here in Chico with the temperature hitting 90 degrees for the first time this year. We are closing in on the end of our optimum planting period. Once the full-time heat is upon us, I prefer to put a hold on planting, especially in sunny gardens. What to do instead? The hot part of the year is the perfect time to observe, think, and plan. The more you know about your garden before you start digging, the happier your plants will be.
Because our sun is so intense here in the Sacramento Valley, knowing when and where the sun and shade land on your yard is critical to plant success. A spot that is in shade most of the day, but receives an hour of full sun at 3 pm, will be a death trap for shade loving plants. Charting the patterns of shade and sun is a great way to prepare yourself for successful gardening.
Start with a simple plan of your yard that shows your property or fence line, the buildings, big trees, paving, and other landmarks. Your goal will be to show how shade moves through your garden over the course of a single day. Starting in the morning, walk your property and sketch in an outline of the shady areas on your plan. Note the time of day along the outline. You can also note the source of the shade if you like. Repeat this every 2 hours until evening. It helps to use different line types (short dashes, long dashes, dot/dash patterns) for each successive outline. Be sure to note the date of your diagram. When you are done, you’ll have an accurate sun/shade diagram to guide your planning decisions. If you have fun doing this, make a diagram for each season!