Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Sun and the Garden and Some Advice Please!

Summertime and the living is easy as they say. Summertime sun can be ruthless and it's not so easy to live with though. I need some help with the sun from you all. Most of you are experienced gardeners and know something about the sun and its orientation so I'd love to hear all your opinions. Here is my question:

What is the best directional layout for garden beds or rows of vegetables or ornamentals in order to maximize the sun all year round? North/South or East/West or something in between??

in the garden....


  1. What a question here! I'll be checking back to read comments from the gardening experts..

  2. Southern exposure is the best, Tina, but 6 hours of sun from any direction is required for a good vegetable garden.

    Sun loving ornamentals vary from 4 to 6 hours ,and some can thrive in 3 .

  3. I would think the best sun would be all the rows facing full sun instead of it rising on one end of the row and shadowing over the rest. Make sense?

  4. Hi Tina
    Carolyn Gail's answer would have been the same one I would give as advice .. I am shaking up a bed with that exposure for more herbs because I know it is the perfect one : )
    Good luck .. all the advice should be very useful !

  5. I don't know the answer, but I have often envied folks who buy land and watch the sun patterns for a year or more before they build a house and plan their garden/landscaping. gail

  6. Interesting question and responses. I wonder if the region would factor into it too.

  7. Just my HO of course, in this area veggies north/south rows with the tall stuff at the north end. Ornamentals depending on the plant.

    BUT, when I lived in northern Alabama, even the tomatoes benefited from some relief from a full day's sun. Cool weather crops did better with partial sun/eastern exposure (shade from taller plants in the pm).

    Of course these are all estimates for a perfect situation and who has that. They don't factor space limitations, crop rotation, weather extremes and other considerations.

  8. tina, hi- I agree with Roses and a word--depends. ;-) I lean to east to maximize the sun exposure with proper spacing between rows.

  9. Good morning all!

    Darla, it should be enlightening...

    Carolyn, It sounds like you vote north to south. It is what I've heard too.

    Dawn, You are also voting north to south then because east to west would be where the sun rises on one side and sets on the other. Now remember the angle of the sun is southerly in the winter when the sun is low. that complicates it.

    Joy, North to south for you too then I think.

    Gail, Smart are those folks but you know I've lived here 8 years and while I know the sun patterns I could not tell you which way to orient rows to get maximum exposure. Seriously!

    Sarah, The region should not factor in. If you cannot garden year round it would probably actually be easier since you don't have to take into account the slant of the sun in the winter. Let's see what everyone says.

    Marnie, This is what I have read about the north/south orientation. I am thinking I have it all wrong here since my veggie rows are east to west:(

  10. Ah Janet, I am assuaged a bit then since you like East to west. Let me tell you it is no easy thing to figure it all out!

  11. Ditto to what Carolyn Gail said. I don't have to worry about the shade so much we have too much sun sometimes. It also depends on what you're growing. Things that get tall or are trellised need some space so they don't shade out the small stuff. Are you about to redo your garden?

  12. Dave, I really need to redo the vegetable garden as there is not enough sun and the banana trees are making the situation a bit intolerable. The problem is I have no where to move those bananas too and not enough sun! I have always wondered the best orientation for rows. I try to make sure things are not shaded but given a full sun situation on level land I wonder is north to south or east to west is the best? I've read north to south is the best. Sounds like that is your choice too.

  13. LOL, I'm glad I'm not the only one who ponders things like this. based on all the trees around my property, both my veggie beds themselves run east-west so they get the most sun from the south and as it's going over. The plants also are planted in rows east-west, not north-south, because I think their shadows miss each other more that way. Because I don't plant too much, the "row" is actually zigzag offset in one bed to (I hope) maximize sun exposure. I've been meaning to make notes for each of my beds exactly how much sun they get at different times of the year... but that hasn't happened!

  14. Monica, Your garden sounds like mine and I too have rows oriented east to west. I always thought this was best but somewhere along the way I read north to south. It is a puzzle. When you figure out a way to find out how much sun each row gets without sitting out there watching-do let me know:)!

  15. Marnie makes some excellent points.

    Our vegetable garden gets shade until 11 am then blazing sun thereafter. My FIL's yard is surrounded by trees and yet he still manages to get tomatoes -- although he has to grow them in pots on the porch, otherwise the deer consider the tomatoes theirs.

    To cover all bases for year-round, I'd orient the garden on a slant to take advantage of the sun low in the southern sky in the winter. lol I know it sounds like a cop-out but it's true!

  16. Tina,
    I am not an expert in any sense, so I was curious to see what other people said.

  17. I'm with Rosey. I'm no expert, I just try to get the proper sun exposure to each plant that has it's own requirements.
    I have a lot of sun & where I live when it states full sun does not mean all day in the blazing sun here. So some plants that like sun here they get mostly shade but lots of light. Hard to figure out sometimes.

  18. Tina,

    As you know, all of my gardens have a southern exposure. However, I am in favor of east-west ROWS as the sun moves across the sky. Why? Equal opportunity for all plants. They will lean toward the south anyway.

    IMHO, if rows (here in the south) face south-north, then the plants at the north end will be smaller and shaded out. Therefore, I prefer east-west rows so that the sun moves down the entire row.

    Little heads will turn toward the sun. I'm convinced that the zinnia blooms face east in the morning, south in midday and west at sunset. Perhaps I've been out in the sun too long myself and am imagining these things! LOL


  19. This is a question I've never considered, as I've been striving to maximize shade instead. Full sun ornamentals can be in morning shade until noon, but they will lean towards the light, so an east-west configuration will have them either facing toward the house, or away, which can look stupid with strongly phototropic bloomers like Daffodils.

  20. I have always heard the garden should face south, or have the most southern exposure possible, like against a well, fence or building that faces south. South is the money, in other words. HA What a fabulous shot of the cannas being backlit!

  21. I have no idea but my veggies are East to West. The Semi-Flower Garden is East to West also. Everyone faces the morning sun rising in the East and has a bit of shade behind them when the West sun hits the tall Georgia Pine trees in our neighbors yard....

  22. Tina, This is a question I've never even thought of before! Mostly, I pick a spot where I want to add a flowerbed and then watch to see how much sun it gets to determine what kinds of plants to put there. My veggie garden is in full sun, and the rows run north-south, only because that way you can't see the weeds between the rows:) But Carol of May Dreams Gardens once said that she always plants her green bean seeds east-west, though I don't remember why. I tried it last year when my first planting of beans didn't do well, and planted them east-west again this year. It must work, because I have green beans coming out of my ears!

  23. Sweetbay, it sound like you favor the north-south orientation? That would maximize the sun's slant for sure. Congrats to your dad for growing the tomatoes!! Pesky ole deer.

    Rosey, We haven't yet reached a consensus so stay tuned...

    Lola, Gardening in Florida changes a lot of things. Plants that can take full sun here may appreciate shade there-a big quandary for sure. Good thing we can move them if need be:)

    Cameron, Too funny! I do like your equal opportunity for all plants and I like the idea of the sun following the rows. It is why I planted mine east-west-but! The sun slants rather quickly either to the north or south here in my location causing some plants to get more sun than others at certain times during the growing season. It is most weird to garden with the issue because of all the trees but I stumble on. P.S. I am on my way to NC next month and was looking at one of my favorite nurseries website (We Du Natives in Marion) when I saw sweet bays offered! I still love yours.

    MMD, Now I never really thought about the flowers that follow the sun. Very interesting and point to ponder for sure.

    Frances, Southern seems to be the word indeed! Glad you like my backlit canna. This garden runs east to west and the sun is coming up behind it at a slant. They look spectacular each morning but just a month ago the sun would've come up over head. It is slanting to the south now. Sigh, summer's end is quickly approaching.

    Skeeter, This is very interesting as I truly tough everyone-hands down-would say north south orientation. There are many for sure but it is neat to note many, like you, like the east west orientation too.

    Rose, I am most curious as to why you cannot see the weeds in between rows with north south rows:) They are not there this year-remember all the mulch? Don't worry, fall is near and the garden is wiped clean-just in time for here too. I like that east-west thing of the beans and so glad it works!

  24. I think I will just continue to read -I just might learn something as usual from all you great gardeners. A super hot day today -but the weekend is supposed to cool off. Have a great evening all -I'm sure my homework load will be keeping me off here tonight, hahaha. Ciao!

  25. Plants DO follow the sun but I can see where they could get too much of a good thing in hot climates. Therefore it could be that there is no set answer for your question.

    We just got back from the Gray Animal Farm and yesterday we went to the Botanical Gardens so they are keeping me busy!!

  26. Anonymous, I think I have gotten spoiled by all the cool weather as now I don't wish to do anything! Here's to the cool weather this weekend!

    Mom, I hope you had the greatest time yesterday. That Maine Botanical Garden is supposed to have some awesome wildflowers!

  27. Interesting reading the answers. In my garden North/south areas get the most sun, but I have a long skinny yard with trees.

  28. Hi Tina -you are right we were spoiled this summer by some really great weather. So, today felt miserably hot, hahaha but don't fear they are calling for a high in the low 70s this weekend. How is school for your young lad? Mine has tons of homework every night:(
    Have to make sure everyone gets into bed -got to love school nights:0) Bath and bed -no more late night movie and video games:) hahaha Ciao!

  29. For my veggies and herbs, I'm an east/west kinda gal. H.

  30. Catherine, The orientation is working for you because your plants all look most happy!

    Anonymous, Not so much homework for the Jimster (at least he says). We'll see at open house tomorrow and progress reports on Friday. I hope he is doing well and I know your kids are doing great!

    Helen, This is what I have and I must say I am most relieved to hear some gardeners say east/west is best. Really though it seems we are mostly divided on the orientation. Interesting indeed.

  31. My garden gets western sun exposure and seems quite happy. That was a great question, I learned alot from the others!

  32. DH is the expert on that...he has about 15 raised tomato beds.
    One thing I do know...If you have all day full sun like my mother in-law has just doesn't matter.