Today we will talk about shading, a protected cultivation technique that improves harvesting and protects plants from inclement weather (excessive sun, wind or heat…) that could otherwise greatly reduce crop quality and yields.
Shade nets are used in summer in orchards or fruit tree plantations where very high summer temperatures are reached and there is hardly any rainfall, such as rooftop orchards or open plantations located in full sun. In these conditions of high sunshine and low humidity, crops are at risk of heat stress or leaf scorch, which can damage the crop and even spoil it.
Shade nets of various materials, sizes and colors can be used to protect crops from excessive sun and heat. In addition, as we will see in the last section of the post, we can also opt for other types of shading for the orchard and garden, such as pergolas with climbing plants.
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What is a shade net?
A shade net is a woven fabric made of polyethylene, polyester, raffia or other materials that, thanks to different pigmentations, absorbs or reflects part of the sun’s radiation, protecting crops from high temperatures.
The shade netting means that the air surrounding the crops does not heat up as much as it would in direct sunlight. Soil moisture is better maintained after irrigation and evaporation and evapotranspiration are reduced. All this translates into a better harvest and savings in irrigation water.
Depending on the density and type of shade netting, light is reduced by 30 to 90%. It is important to first determine the light requirements of each crop in order to choose the appropriate shade netting.
Benefits of using shade netting
Installing a shade net is especially beneficial for delicate crops such as vegetables, especially those more sensitive to the sun (tomatoes, peppers, zucchini…) or to bird attacks, such as hedges and wild fruit bushes.
According to several studies (see References), shading increases production and crop quality in vegetables and shrubs such as blueberries.
The shading technique not only reduces pest damage and damage due to physiopathologies in the crops most sensitive to direct sunlight (tomato cracking or yellowing, irregular growth of zucchini, etc.), but also increases the quantity and quality of the fruit.
Other advantages of shade nets
In addition to protection against sun and heat, shade nets have other advantages:
- Protect crops from wind, hail or other aggressions.
- Limiting the impact of arid and desert climates and smoothing temperature differences between day and night.
- Reduce damage caused by pests, weeds, birds and other predators.
- Reducing evaporation and favoring soil moisture retention, which implies lower irrigation needs.
- Slightly modify crop cycles, bringing forward harvesting or favoring out-of-season production.
Colored shade nets
In addition to moisture conservation and reduction of wind and direct radiation, shade nets, if colored, can have other benefits.
Several scientific studies and field trials reveal other advantages of using colored shade nets in relation to improved fruit ripening and quality as well as protection against pests.
Colored meshes modify the spectrum of filtered light by allowing light of different wavelengths and colors (red, yellow, blue, pearl gray…) to penetrate. The different colors affect plant growth and even plant composition.
According to these studies, red mesh, for example, improves photosynthesis by stimulating vegetative growth, which results in larger leaves. In tomatoes and peppers, red netting even causes more and larger fruits to be produced, which have a higher content of lycopene and other nutrients.
Types of shade netting for the vegetable garden
Here are some ideas for shading the orchard and garden with shade netting. Depending on the extension and the type of crops, one shade net or another will be more suitable.
Shading net for cultivation tables
A small structure of wooden poles, bamboo canes or other material that, like a pergola, serves as a support for a shade net.
Shade nets for cultivation tables are widely used to protect crops in rooftop orchards or very exposed to the sun and wind in extremely hot and dry seasons where direct sun can burn the crops.
Parasols or net houses
The function of the “net houses” or shade houses is to shade crops in open fields. They provide 30-50% shading and moderate the temperature during the hottest hours of the day.
These are post structures that allow the attachment of shade nets, anti-insect nets, anti-bird nets or other protections at a height that allows the cultivation work to be carried out comfortably.
Parasols are very useful in school gardens or other types of community gardens, where, in addition to protecting the plants, they protect the gardeners from the sun and make cultivation more comfortable.
Shading between crop rows or partial shading
Placing elongated shading nets between the different crop rows serves to delay harvesting in tall vegetables with staggered ripening, such as tomatoes or peppers.
The purpose of this type of shading is to lengthen the harvest time and delay the ripening of part of the crop.
Once the lower fruits start to ripen and change color, the lower-middle part of the plants is shaded to delay ripening. In this way the upper part, where the most recent fruits are still fattening, continues to receive the same sun and fattening without problems, thus achieving an equal ripening of the fruits of the plant and delaying the beginning of the harvest.
Tunnels with shade netting
These are simple and economical structures that support the shade netting that protects the crop. The structure is made up of a row of arches (bamboo, PVC, galvanized iron, thick wire, etc.) between which the shade netting is stretched.
In this case, the shade netting not only reduces sunlight, but also provides more complete protection to the crop, reducing damage from external agents such as strong winds, hail, or pests and creating a microclimate inside the tunnel that favors plant growth and maturation.
- Other ways of shading the orchard
In addition to the use of shade nets like the ones we have just seen, there are other possible solutions to achieve the shading of the orchard. Here are some ideas to achieve a shaded area in the orchard or garden.
Shading by means of a vine arbour
The shady vine is a classic of the Mediterranean and Atlantic orchards and gardens that provides us with a cool, shady place and, at the same time, very striking for its beauty.
To make a shading system of this type you will need to install the two parallel lines of posts and the horizontal structure that supports them, and then plant the vines or climbing vines next to each of the posts.
Climbing plants for shady pergolas
If you prefer to make a shady pergola like a shade vine but with plants other than vines, this is also possible. Any type of climbing plant that is suitable for the climate you are in will do.
This shading with climbing plants will be very useful to protect from the sun small areas of the patio or garden, where we can place a container garden or group of potted crops, seedlings and other delicate plants in the garden.
Plants for shady pergolas can be edible crops (such as chayote, small zucchini) but also flowering plants such as the ones we will see below. These plants, in addition to providing a shady area, will bring the advantages of having flowers in the garden.
Examples of flowering climbing plants for shady pergolas:
- Climbing rose bushes
- Purple bellflower
- Campsis or trumpet vine
4.3. Shading of gardens and orchards with shade sails
Sail canopies are versatile and very easy to install. They are very useful for shading patios or small gardens, where they can be attached to walls or to any structure or post well anchored to the ground.
These are just a few examples of orchard and garden shading, but if you know of other types of screens or shading systems feel free to leave your suggestions or photos in the comments thread below.
I have 30 years of experience and i started this website to see if i could try and share my knowledge to help you.
With a degree a Horticulture BSc (Hons)
I have worked as a horticulture specialist lead gardener, garden landscaper, and of course i am a hobby gardener at home in my own garden.
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