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Mapping Garden Sun and Shadows

The 2018 June solstice is only a couple of days away, falling on Thursday, June 21. For those in the southern hemisphere, the June solstice marks the time when days have reached their shortest and darkest. This is the day of the year when shadows are at their longest and it is the perfect day to create a sun map of your garden.

When designing any garden, knowing the areas of sunlight and shade are critical to the success of many garden elements. Winter veggies will love that spot where they will get the sun they need (summer veggies can benefit from a little shade in our burning Australian conditions – especially from the west). Chickens will benefit from receiving maximum winter sun and it will help shorten the length of time that they go off the lay. Your greenhouse needs to be in the sun in winter if you want to lengthen your growing season. Evergreen fruit trees will benefit from that sunny position too, as will beehives, insect hotels, a hot compost pile, solar panels, and even a bench for somewhere to sit and admire your garden while flooded with winter sunshine. You can see that understanding the sun and shadow patterns across your garden are crucial for placement of all these things.

So, on Thursday 21st (if it is a sunny day), take a camera outside to photograph your garden. You will be photographing how the shadows fall across your yard at least 3 times throughout the day (mid-morning, noon, and mid-afternoon). For a more thorough sun map you could do a photo every hour. Choose key locations around your garden and stand at that same position for each photo. As much as possible, try to find locations that will mean you have covered every possible section of your garden in your photos. Mark these locations or make them easy to find again so you can come back to the exact spot time after time.

If you are unable to get your photos exactly on the day of the solstice then don’t despair – any sunny day around this time of year will give you a satisfactory result. It is also advisable to do the same and take photos on the day of the December solstice (and for the super committed, the September and March equinoxes are great times too).

One last thing to consider when planning your garden around your sun map – Try to consider the effects of time and seasons and how these may change your observations. Is there perhaps an immature tree to the north that may grow larger and shade out those sunny winter spots within a few years? Is the area sunny in winter because a nearby deciduous tree has lost its leaves but the position will be in shade come summer?

A map of the sun and shadows in your garden is a valuable resource and one that every gardener should consider.

Now run outside and create your oasis!