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Home > Types of Gardening > Shade Gardening > Tips for Planting
Tips for Planting in the Shade Gardening
Tips for Planting of Shade GardeningWhen planting your shade garden, let the outlines of your bed follow the shadow lines cast by the trees or buildings.

Small plants sold in four-inch pots are easier to tuck in between tree roots than larger ones. The smaller the planting holes, the less you have to chop away at roots. For shade plants, it`s a good idea to work in a little extra humus as you dig holes for individual plants. Give them some transplant fertilizer and water them well.

To finish the planting job, imitate nature by sprinkling leaf mold (composted leaves) or a layer of wood chip or shredded bark mulch around the plants a couple of inches thick. As well, you can mulch the bed with leaves in the fall. If you shred them first (either with a leaf shredder or by running the mower over them), they won`t mat and will decompose faster.

Mulch helps keep the soil moist and turns into nice woodland humus as it decomposes, creating perfect soil for gardening in the shade. Just be sure to keep the stuff off the crowns of the perennials, and don`t heap it up right against the bark of tree trunks. If there isn`t enough rain, give the bed a deep soak once a week to encourage your plants to root deeply. (Once-a-week deep watering is better than more frequent shallower waterings.)

Regular water is vital for perennials and shrubs growing in the shade under trees, as trees guzzle moisture and leave precious little for other plants growing underneath them. And, of course, your watering and mulching helps the trees too.

Besides the fact that a shade garden tends to be lush and cool, here`s something else to like: aside from watering and mulching, shade gardens are a cinch to take care of because the lower light levels and the mulch layer you add help put a damper on weed germination.

Deciding what to plant under your shade trees is not a problem of finding something that will grow in reduced light, but of finding plants that will grow in the poor, dry soil present under trees. Your plants will be competing with the tree for nutrients and moisture, and the tree will usually win.

If the soil under the tree is dry and root-clogged to the point where you have difficulty digging a hole, you may have to improve the soil before you can plant. A layer of organic material several inches deep is the best remedy. The tree will provide you with an abundance of organic material in the form of leaves. Chop them to the size of fifty-cent pieces with a bagging lawn mower and spread them under the tree. Sprinkle them with compost activator and keep them moist. Repeat this procedure annually until the leaves have rotted into a deep humus. Earthworms will move in and loosen the subsoil, making it possible to plant the shade garden of your dreams.

When selecting plants, choose those with white or pastel flowers and light or variegated foliage. Light colors will stand out in the shade, while dark colors such as reds and purples will recede into the background.
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