Not knowing my sun pattern was an expensive gardening mistake. I could have avoided this if I had made a sun map of my garden way back in the beginning.
Had I made a sun map of my property and then chosen a spot for my garden based on that, I’d have much better harvests from my garden because I’d be able to plant more efficiently!
Even if you already have a garden plot that your sticking with, a sun map can help you plan your garden so it makes more sense.
It’s super easy to make a sun map and once you have one it makes garden planning much simpler.
There are a few different methods you can use:
Write it down: Draw a map of your garden, or yard and write down when the sun first hits each area. Take notes every hour for a full day. If it’s an area that goes back into shade as the day progresses, write that time down also.
Photos: Pictures are an excellent way to track the sun’s movement across your garden/property. Take a picture of your yard or garden every hour starting with sunrise. Take the photos from the same exact spot each time. You’ll be able to compare all the photos and see how many hours of sunlight each section gets.
This is a great method because it makes it easy to flip back through the images and see patterns you may not have thought to write down in the above method.
OFF SEASON SUN MAPPING
Of course, if it’s not the growing season when you’re doing this your calculations are going to be slightly off. You’ll need a sun calculator or estimator for now.
Apps: There are several apps that can track sunlight for you. Sun Surveyor can help you to track the sun over the area you chose. Sun Locator lite and Sun Seeker – Sunrise Sunset Tracker are both great for gardeners. There are dozens of free apps to choose from just hit up your play or apple store.
Sun calculator: Use an online Sun Calculator to map the sun over your garden. SunCalc.org is one that I like. Just pick your location on the map, change the date and time and it will calculate where the sun will be in the sky.
I was looking to plant at the front of my house, I would advance the time until the sun line clears the house and use that to determine how many hours of sunlight that area gets.
This is an awesome tool if you’re planting in an area for the first time, just moved etc.
Of course, as the months change the sun’s angle will be changing slightly, so you’ll also want to check that against your projected harvest dates to make sure that something like a house won’t be in the way 3 months from now.
The closer you live to the equator the less of an angle the sun will have in winter, but I’m pretty far away up here in Pennsylvania.
This can also come in handy when deciding where to put a greenhouse or sunroom.
Of course, all the estimates and calculations pale in comparison to actually experiencing gardening in your particular spot. Logic says a garden in front of a 30-foot tree will be in shade longer than one by a 10-foot tree, but how does that translate to your trees?
Plan your garden using these estimates now, then as the growing season progresses take note of any adjustments that need to be made for next year.
While I do still make mistakes with my plant placement, since I started sun mapping my garden it’s much easier to find the right spot for each plant!