Everywhere the Light Falls: Mapping Sun Exposure in Your Garden


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There are some plants that can’t help but grow whenever and wherever you put them in soil, but the most beautiful and advantageous garden plants tend to be a bit more finnicky. To thrive, seeds and shoots must be planted at specific depths and distances apart; they must be watered according to their individual needs; and they must receive an appropriate amount of sunlight. Fortunately, savvy gardeners can build stunning outdoor spaces by maintaining complete control over their garden space — even the sun.

shadow on grass
Photo by Shutterstock/All Around Photo

Light is fuel for plants, but just like you shouldn’t pour diesel into your hybrid, you shouldn’t assume that all plants require the same amount and type of light. While you can’t turn off the sun, you can map where light and shadow falls throughout the day. This guide will help you understand your garden’s exposure and give you ideas for planting a healthy garden.

Mapping the Analog Way

It doesn’t take high-tech gadgetry to obtain a practical understanding of the light in your garden. In fact, all you really need is a pencil, paper, and diligence. The process can be incredibly simple:

Wake up just after dawn.
Draw a map of your yard.
Using different shading or colors, label which areas are in full sun, partial sun, and full shade.
Repeat, every three hours, until sundown.



The night before your experiment, you should produce as many maps as you’ll need throughout the day — which will vary depending on your latitude and the time of year. You need more than one map because as the sun travels through the sky, shadows will fall differently across your yard. Then, you can set alarms to remind you to check your garden every three hours. You should consider repeating this experiment at least three times, so you know how light behaves in different seasons.



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