Shade cloth for greenhouse

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Shading crops
In hot climates around the world, vegetables and cut flowers are grown under shade cloth to reduce heat and light intensity, resulting in better quality and higher yields. Shade cloth is a weather-resistant woven or knitted fabric that is available in densities ranging from 12 percent to 90 percent. The density represents the percentage of light blocked by the cloth; for example, a 47 percent shade cloth blocks 47 percent of the light. Most vegetables should be grown under 30 to 50 percent shade. Shade cloth with density of greater than 50 percent is generally used for shade-loving plants or as windbreaks.
The key to success with shade cloth is to hang it high enough above the plants, and provide enough ventilation that heat does not build up beneath it. That’s easily accomplished in a hoophouse or a specially built shade structure such as those seen at nurseries. An inexpensive alternative is a low tunnel made with Johnny’s Quick Hoops Bender. Shade cloth can be laid over the Quick Hoops, with the sides uncovered for maximum ventilation.
The shade cast by buildings and tall plants such as corn also can be used to relieve some of the heat for heat-sensitive crops. Choosing varieties with good leaf cover to shade fruits such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, can be helpful, too.
Providing shade of any type can reduce the ambient temperature around your plants by 10 degrees F. or more – in some cases, enough to keep plants from going dormant in the hottest weather.
• Visit Johnny’s Selected Seeds for more free information about growing produce, herbs, cover crops and flowers. • Subscribe to Growing for Market for the latest news and ideas.
Reprinted from JSS Advantage August 2010


Shade Cloth for a Vegetable Garden

Hot summer sun can be brutal on a tender vegetable garden. Plants and vegetables can literally become sunburned and soils dry out. To protect plants and vegetables from the damaging effects of the sun, wise gardeners use shade cloth. NYP Corp has six locations in the U.S. offering wholesale nursery supplies, including lock-stitched knitted shade cloth that remain intact after trimming to a desired size, no wrinkles during installation, and will not ravel or fray.

What is Shade Cloth?

Shade cloth is a simple knit or woven fabric designed to reduce the amount of sun that reaches the vegetable bed. Shade cloths come in a variety of colors and densities depending upon the amount of sun to be blocked and what vegetables need protection. Easy to use, they can raise the production of your garden and reduce your irrigating and fertilizing costs. It’s also useful in defending your vegetable patch from attack by insects and birds.

Using Shade Cloth

To use shade cloth, first determine how much sun is needed by each type of vegetable. Some plants require full sun, such as peppers and tomatoes. Others do well with a little less sun, including lettuce, spinach, cauliflower and most beans. Seedlings and recently transplanted starters do best with reduced sun until they are established. Sun damage can result in wilted or burned leaves, bitter tasting leafy vegetables and cause plants to “bolt” or go to seed prematurely.

A shade cloth with a 10% percent density is perfect for sun-loving plants, 30% density cloth is best for more sun sensitive plants. This weight of cloth can also provide some protection from the desiccating effects of wind. Cloth of 40% percent or more is good for green house applications. Light colored shade cloth will reflect more of the sun’s rays and heat, but expect higher temperatures under darker shade cloth. During the hot summer months, most herb and vegetable garden plants require 40% to 60% percent protection from the sun. Orchids and similar exotic plants require a higher percentage of protection, which may begin around 70% percent.

Once you’ve chosen the density appropriate for your plants, installing is simple. To make your installation even easier, NYP Corp offers the plastic locking clip grommet. The clipping grommets require NO TOOLS and locks into the position of your choice, thus creating the ideal tie down point for your shade cloth. Other options include suspending above the plants using either wood, metal or plastic framing. It can also be hung between two trees or poles. To provide air circulation, be sure there is at least 24 inches between the plants and the cloth. Continue to check the height of this space as the plants grow. Shade cloth should be removed in the evening to allow for greater air circulation. Most shade cloth will last several years if used during the normal growing season and then rolled up until the next year.

NYP Corp manufactures textile packaging of burlap, jute, paper, cotton, feed & grain bags and emergency sandbags in bulk and sells them wholesale. Contact NYP Corp as they will be happy to assist you in selecting the correct size and percent of shade for your greenhouse. Be sure to remember the ground cover for your hoop-houses.

Tags: nursery horticulture, nursery supplies, shade clothes

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 at 8:25 am and is filed under Nursery Horticulture, Nursery Supplies.

Whether you own a glass or plastic greenhouse it can easily overheat when the weather is too hot. To protect your plants from overheating you need to provide good ventilation and shading.

There are many ways of shading a greenhouse, but today I want to talk about the greenhouse shade cloth. Let’s start with the quick introduction to what shading is.

What is a Greenhouse Shading?

Shading is a way of keeping the greenhouse cool during the hotter months. It reduces the temperature inside by minimizing the amount of light passing to the greenhouse.

You might think that good ventilation is enough to keep the temperature to the optimal value, but you are forgetting about the radiant energy from the sun.

It easily builds up inside the greenhouse and increases the temperature which is dangerous for many plants. Of course, the growth of plants directly depends on the amount of sunlight, so keep shading to the minimum.

How the shade cloth cools the greenhouse?

As I have already mentioned the radiant energy from the sun heats the greenhouse. Particularly the infrared radiation. It is not visible to the human eye as it has longer wavelengths as those of the visible light.

For the active photosynthesis plants need blue to red range lights of the total light spectrum which are within 400-700 nm range. Anything higher than this range is damaging for the plants.

Exposure to the excessive amounts of the infrared light, particularly in the far end of the spectrum can damage the plants. It can be anything from discoloration to the to early growth spurts which impact on health, or can even lead to the death of plants.

Greenhouse shade cloth reflects the sun rays back or partially blocks them. Plants only need 1.5-2% of the transmitted sunlight for the photosynthesis.

Does shade cloth reduce heat?

Shade clothes typically reduce the light level by 75% and turn it into the heat. The temperature of the cloth raises as it acts as a solar collector.

The temp of the cloth is higher than temp of the air, so the heat energy goes up. As it goes up, the cool air draws from below in the process known as evaporative cooling.

What is a Greenhouse Shade Cloth made of?

The most common materials for the cloth are polyethylene and polypropylene. You can find a variety of shade cloths of different densities and degrees of shade ranging from 5 to 95 per cent.

Is shade cloth waterproof?

A good shade cloth should be water resistant to work well when it is raining or you are using an irrigation system to water your plants.

A waterproof shade cloth is made of the 90 per cent shade fabric treated with UV stabilized resin to make it water resistant.

Types of Shade Clothe For Greenhouse

Today, you are most likely to find two types of shade clothes on the market: knitted and woven.

Knitted is constructed from the polyethylene and it looks like one continuous yarn is looped to form something similar to the tiny rows of braids.

Woven is made from woven polypropylene and represents multiple yarns crossing each other at right angles to create the grain, like a basket. The lifespan of the woven shade cloth is from 10 to 12 years while the knitted one lasts 7-10 years.

Knitted vs woven shade cloth

The woven shade cloth is typically 30% heavier than knitted one, hence tends to be more expensive. Also, the lightweight knitted option is easier to install. Both types are UV resistant and can withstand the extreme sun exposures.

The woven shade cloth is only available in black color. Knitted ones come in the variety of colors. The main difference between the both options is that woven will unravel if cut.

This is due to the structure of the cloth. If a hole forms in the knitted shade cloth the threads running in different directions will not unravel.

Moreover, knitted option is resistant to the most of the horticultural chemicals and detergents. The knitted fabric can be stretched up to 3 per cent whilst woven can’t.

Overall, woven shade cloth has multiple applications in wind screens, pet kennels and patio shading whilst knitted shade cloth is widely used for a greenhouse shading.

You can purchase the knitted shade cloth and woven shade cloth used in this picture from the ShadeClothStore.

What percentage shade cloth to use?

Both knitted and woven shade clothes come in different densities. The density of the shade cloth is referred to as percentage.

The percentage of the shade cloth corresponds to the amount of light which is blocked by this cloth. The shade clothes typically come in 30%, 55%, 63%, 75%, 80% and 90% options.

You need to choose a shade cloth according to the plants you are growing in your greenhouse. It is crucial to choose a cloth of the right density to allow a sufficient amount of sunlight for a healthy growth.

The reference range for most vegetables is 30-50% shade cloth. Also, for the most plants shade cloth within 30-60% is ideal.

However, there are some plants which require specific shading conditions. For example, orchids and ferns which are shade loving plants require 75% shade cloth to receive the appropriate levels of sunlight.

What is the best shade cloth for greenhouse?

The best shade cloth for greenhouse is a water resistant knitted. It will not unravel if cut ans is available in a variety of colors and percentages.

A shade cloth of 30-50% is ideal for most vegetables, however, some plants require a shade cloth of 30-60%.

How to put shade cloth on greenhouse?

Before buying a greenhouse shade cloth go ahead and measure the width and lengths of the roof using a tape measure. Ideally, the shade cloth should drape down the sides of the greenhouse from the roof.

To make sure these will be equal measure the distance from the top of the roof to up to two thirds down of the both sides.

Take into account that cloth connects to the frame of the greenhouse and is not overhanging on the sides.

Remember, you don’t need to cover the sides of the greenhouse completely (that is why you are measuring two thirds on the sides). Sunlight should still enter the greenhouse.

There is a chance that you might need to cut the cloth after you bought it during the installation. To avoid that I found an option where you can get a shade cloth customized to your desired size!

However, bear in mind that you will need to order it in advance as it takes up to one month to make and deliver the cloth.

So, if you are after an easy installation I am going to share the easiest way with you!

Step-by-step shade cloth installation guide

After you took the measurements and ordered your cloth it’s time to get ready for the installation.

Some accessories might come together with the cloth, some tools you should have at home and maybe you will need to get a couple of things.

Here is how to do it:

  1. Attach S-hooks to the base of the greenhouse.
  2. Place the hooks 2 feet apart to match the shade cloth grommets.
  3. Place the shade cloth over the roof of the greenhouse.
  4. Use bungee cords to attach the grommets to the hooks in the base.
  5. To secure the cloth on the frame you can use snap on claps for the PVC pipe greenhouse. If your greenhouse is made of wood or aluminum I would recommend using lock channels.

How to clean my greenhouse shade cloth?

To understand what is the best cleaning method for a shade cloth we need to learn a little bit about its composition.

As I have already mentioned the shade cloths are made of the high density polyethylene. Therefore, it is resistant to dirt, moisture and some chemicals.

This means that dirt doesn’t adhere to the single yarns of the cloth. Also, the material is durable because it doesn’t rot.

However, when exposed to the excessive amounts of dust and moisture the fabric can look grey.

That is why people think that it is molded which is not true. Actually, dirt and moisture get stuck in the knit pattern and give the fabric grey appearance.

So, the easiest way to avoid it is to clean your shade cloth regularly to prevent the build-up of moisture and dirt.

How do you wash a shade cloth?

DO NOT wash the shade in the washing machine, clothes drier or use a stiff brush, scouring pad or an abrasive cleaner!

To wash the cloth use a weak concentration of non-abrasive pH neutral detergent with warm water.

Make sure that the detergent you use doesn’t have any acidic chemicals or solvents which weaken the cloth’s resistance to UV radiation.

It is very important to let the fabric dry thoroughly after the clean, so do the cleaning on a sunny day.

Greenhouse shade cloth cleaning steps:

  • Remove the shade cloth from the greenhouse and lay it flat on a smooth, clean surface;
  • Apply cleaning solution described above to the fabric with a long soft bristled mop or brush;
  • Work along the fabric in sections to cover the shade cloth fully;
  • Rinse it well with a strong flow of fresh water from your backyard hose;
  • Let your cloth to dry;
  • Re-install your shade cloth on the greenhouse.

There are more shading options which you can use for your greenhouse. Please let me know if you want to know more about them. I hoped you found this information useful.

Happy growing everyone!

Whether it is just a small hobby, your business or your own personal sanctuary, one thing is for certain: you care about your greenhouse and the wellbeing of your plants. It might not be so apparent, but there is an undeniable connection between man and nature. Studies show that just being around plants gives people a sense of relaxation and happiness, it lowers stress and even improves productivity.

Since plants provide so many benefits to us, why not return the favour and offer them the best environment in which they can flourish. Yes, the greenhouse serves as shelter against the wind, cold, rain — but what about during summer, when the sun seems intent or scorching everything in sight? You can’t put sunscreen on plants… but you can do the next best thing – give them a bit of relief by putting up a shade cloth.

What Are Greenhouse Shade Cloths?

Shade cloths or sails are stretches of fabric draped over (or sometimes inside) greenhouses to ensure they remain cool during summer. The material is typically woven or knitted polyester that provides protection from direct sunlight and ultraviolet radiation. Depending on density, they can offer filtration of anywhere between 5% to 95%. In the long run, the investment is worth it as you will save water and energy and the plants will grow faster and healthier.

So, let’s go through some of the best greenhouse shade cloths that you should consider, depending on your lifestyle and needs.

1. NKTM UV Resistant Shade Cloth For Greenhouse Plant Cover

This is probably the best value option on the market. It offers medium protection, perfect for most varieties of plants and is very versatile. The high-density material has great durability and functionality. NKTM’s special production technique makes this shade cloth lighter and smaller in volume than other, allowing for easy transport, assembly and storing.

• Great value
• Lightweight, easy to assemble
• Can be used for different areas – greenhouse, garden, patio, etc.

• Only comes in two sizes, 6.5 Ft x 6.5Ft or 6.5 Ft x 20 Ft, so it is suited mostly for smaller gardens/greenhouses.

Best for:
• Most varieties of plants
• People on a budget
• Smaller greenhouse or hobby projects

2. Didaoffle UV Resistant Shade Cloth (Customized Sizes Available)

• Warp knitted
• Material: 100% UV stabilized High-density polyethylene
• Shade Rate: 70%
• Side are taped and reinforced and feature brass grommets
• Sizes: 12 ft. x 10 ft., 12 ft. x 16 ft., 12 ft. x 20 ft.

This product made the list for best greenhouse shade cloths for its versatility. Advertised as “the knight of your adorable flowers and fruits” and “the best friend of your greenhouse”, the Didaoffle can sure deliver. The high shade rate and the high density of the material combine in providing excellent cover for both plants and people. This heavy duty yet lightweight solution can guarantee not only the best indoor greenhouse conditions but can also be used for any general outdoor area.

• Can be used for different areas – greenhouse, garden, patio
• Offers great UV protection
• Heavy duty material
• Protection against insect pests

• Not intended for all variety of plants

Best for:
• Places that constantly have high temperatures
• All types of greenhouses or projects
• Plants that require partial shade, like orchids, some ferns, olive trees.

3. Shatex Shade Cloth With Grommets For Greenhouse Plant Cover

• High-density 100% UV stabilized polyethylene
• Knitted pattern
• Shade rate 70%
• Treated for anti-aging
• Comes in a variety of sizes: 6 x 12 ft, 10 x 12 ft, 10 x 16 ft, 10 x 18 ft, 10 x 20 ft, 12 x 10 ft, 12 x 12 ft, 12 x 14 ft, 12 x 16 ft.

Do you concern yourself with quality and wonder what is the best greenhouse shade cloth for sale? Then look no further. Made by a professional agriculture fabric supply brand, Agfabric, Shatex offers premium quality with no compromises when it comes to features: high density material, 100% UV stabilized polyethylene, very lightweight but at the same time durable, and even anti-aging treatment.

This product is also in the running for winning best rated greenhouse shade cloth accolade, having overwhelming positive reviews. It provides many options to set up and can also help with moisture, frost-proofing and cooling inside your greenhouse and outside. Can be used to insulate trees or other types of vegetation during winter.

• Premium quality
• Can act as insect barrier and hail netting
• Allows water to go through
• Refund or replacement guaranteed
• Easy to set up

• Price slightly above average

Best for:
• All-purpose use
• People with a considerable budget
• All types of greenhouses or projects
• Places that constantly have high temperatures
• Plants that require partial shade, like orchids, some ferns, olive trees

4. EasyShade Black Bulk Shade Cloth UV Resistant

• Knitted pattern
• Unique stitch construction
• Material: 100% UV stabilized HDPE;
• None unravel

This item made the list for best greenhouse shade cloth because of its flexibility and great potential. If you are a DIY enthusiast or just prefer to customize your projects according to your own preferences this could be the perfect choice. The material is easy to work with and can be quickly tailored to fit your project needs. Once you try it out you will probably discover that it can have an impressive array of uses – pool cover, creating a shaded area in your back garden or a privacy screen. The possibilities are limitless.

• Customizable
• Can be used as windbreaker

• Somewhat limited availability
• Needs to be fitted

Best for:
• DIY enthusiast or people that like to customize
• People on a budget
• All types of greenhouses or projects
• Most varieties of plants or outdoor needs

You Have Your Shade Cloth, What Now?

Don’t worry, the shade cloth setup is as easy as 1, 2, 3…

1. Measure the roof or the greenhouse area that you intend to cover with your shade cloth. Remember that you want to leave some space so that more light can come in from the sides. Do not worry if the shade cloth is larger, just fold the excess material and secure with string or anything else similar.

2. Run cord through the grommets and anchor with poles, or something similar such as tent stakes.

3. And Voila!, you now have one of the best greenhouse setups available.

Final Thoughts

Shade cloths can greatly improve the lifetime and health of your plants. If you care about your greenhouse, then why not give it that little bit extra during the hot summer months. Remember, this also reduces your greenhouse gas footprint!

The items presented were options for best greenhouse shade cloth for sale on different levels of pricing, in order to cover any potential needs or situations. They are also versatile and can be used in more ways than just cover for your garden. You can now have that great shaded area for relaxing or a privacy screen to enjoy a day in the sun — right in your backyard.

So, have you made up your mind yet? Did one of these best rated greenhouse shade cloths catch your eye?

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While tomatoes like warm weather, most varieties tend to struggle immensely when temperatures start breaking into the high 80’s and 90’s. These high temperatures can negatively impact tomato production just as much as cold temperatures.

Sun scald, fruit cracking, blossom drop, uneven ripening, and Yellow Shouldering Disorder are just a few of the negative impacts too much heat (and sunlight) can have on production. For this reason, keeping tomatoes cool in the hottest part of the year is vital for improved tomato production. Finding the best shade cloth for tomato plant protection is a big part of maintaining yield.

The Best Shade Cloth for Tomatoes

In this post we outline the best shade cloth for tomato production. Our conclusions are based on conversations with various growers, as well as referencing numerous agricultural extension offices across many states.

While there are many variables for growers in different climates (which we cover further on in this post) here are our conclusions based on available research for the best shade cloth for tomato production:

Best all around shade cloth for tomato production: 40% black shade cloth

Best reflective shade cloth for tomato production: 40% Aluminet Shade Cloth

Best budget shade cloth for tomato production: 30% black shade cloth

While having reflective properties for shade cloth has its benefits, we selected the 40% black shade cloth as the overall best for production because it is a bit more affordable when compared to the reflective options on the market.

If there is room in your budget for reflective shade cloth it is definitely worth considering since there are additional benefits from the aluminet and white shade cloth. We cover these in more detail further on in this post.

Research Supports Between 30% and 50% Shade Cloth Best for Tomato Production

Our focus here is on high tunnel and greenhouse production. That is to say, we manufacture high tunnels and greenhouses. And while we work with farmers very closely, and have experience growing ourselves, we find it best to reference experts and data when trying to determine which growing methods will be best for yield and production.

Below are some quotes from agricultural extension services regarding the use of shade cloth for tomato production.

From West Virginia

“Shade fabric (30-50%) will lower air temperatures within the high tunnel by as much as 5-8 degrees Fahrenheit”

“Yellow shouldering disorder (YSD) of tomatoes is exacerbated by high air temperatures. Shade cloth (30-50%) can reduce YSD.”

-Lewis W. Jett, West Virginia University Agricultural Extension; High Tunnel Temperature Management

From Arizona

“The best shade level is 20 to 40% shade…even with our heat the whole plant doesn’t need to be shaded.”

-Yavapai County Cooperative Extension, Tomato – Planting/Growing/Harvesting

From Indiana

“My suggestion is to apply shade cloth, but only use the ones that have moderate shade level such as 30% shade or less.”

“If shadecloth is used till the end of the season, this practice might increase tomato yield in a hot summer, considering there would be less blossom drop because of the lower temperature.”

– Wenjing Guan, Purdue State University Extension, Whether to Put Shade Cloth on High Tunnel Tomatoes

The research of agricultural extension offices, regardless of geographic location, has seemed to come to similar findings. More specifically, that shade percentages between 30% and 50% are best. These findings seem to span different regions of the US where seasonal high temperatures and number of days with full sun vary.

The various stances from agricultural extensions across the country led us to the recommendations we make at the beginning of this post.

Why 40% vs a 50% or 60% Shade Cloth for Tomato Production

While the agricultural extension papers we reference recommend lower shade cloth percentages for tomato production we do recognize that all climates are different, and we also understand that there are different ways shade cloth can be employed to protect tomatoes.

For example, maybe your plan is to put on and take off shade cloth as temperatures go up and down. Maybe for this application it makes more sense to use a higher percentage shade cloth to curb the highest spikes in temperature on any given day.

For the most part, however, the reasons higher percentage shade cloth isn’t recommended by most agricultural extension services for tomato production has to do with potential reductions in tomato yield.

Affects of Greater Shade Percentages / Densities

According to Wenjing Guan at Purdue State University Agricultural Extension, “When shade level is more than 50% plants developed larger but thinner leaves, longer internodes and less vegetative biomass. Water, nitrogen and potassium uptake was declined as shade density increase.”

Further on in his report Guan states, “…50% shade was applied at the time when greenhouse tomato began to ripe, total yield was reduced after 3 weeks of shad application even though the early yield was not affected.”

It should be noted, however, that the study Guan is referencing above took place in the northeastern United States. Regardless of this fact, the decreased yield and nutrient uptake is enough to question higher shade cloth percentages.

If growers in your area typically use a shade cloth percentage greater than 50% there are likely reasons for it. Or, perhaps, the duration and type of application is such that it doesn’t hinder plant growth, nutrient uptake, or yield. If this sounds like what you need to do, here is a link to some high quality knitted 60% shade cloth.

Why White and Aluminet Shade Cloths Are Great Options

White and aluminet shade cloth options are quickly becoming favorites for tomato producers. The reason for this is the additional heat they tend to keep off the structures. Black shade cloth absorbs more heat than white or aluminet shade cloth, and for that reason structures with white or aluminet shade cloth coverings can reach even further reduced temperatures.

The aluminet, and white shade cloths are reflective in nature so they do a good job of reducing the amount of light that gets in while also reflecting the light that doesn’t get in away from the tunnel.

Know Your Climate Before Selecting Shade Cloth

This sounds obvious, but it needs to be stated. If you live in Cleveland, OH where there are approximately 299 cloudy days each year it is unlikely you will require the same shade cloth that a grower in Palisade, CO where the number of overcast days are minimal.

Extension services provide great research and guidance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t manage tomato production with a different shade cloth percentage. As mentioned above, some people put on and take off shade cloth intermittently. While this comes with increased labor inputs it may be worth considering for some growers if time and labor are available.

Day Length Matters More for Some Growers than Others

This might sound the same as checking how overcast your climate is, but it is referring more to actual hours of day.

For example, climates further north and south in relation to the equator may experience vastly longer day lengths for a part of the season than climates close to the equator. This can translate to a ton of sun.

I had a conversation about this with someone in Alaska, just the other day. They are located where it gets very cold, but during parts of the summer they get about 22 hours of daylight. That’s a lot of sun!

In the scenario outlined above, the growers’ tomatoes are being grown inside a high tunnel. Since high tunnels are designed to efficiently capture and hold heat the tomatoes get hammered during the longest days of the year. That much sunlight combined with that much heat can present a lot of challenges for mitigating temperatures and maintaining tomato yield.

Begin Using Shade Cloth For Tomato Production

Tomatoes are one of the most profitable crops to grow inside high tunnels and hoop houses. As such, their yield and fruit quality should be a priority for growers.

The reduction in high temperatures will reduce blossom drop, which will increase the number of fruit that reach harvest. Additionally, the reduction in intense sunlight will reduce the incidence of Sunscald and Yellow Shouldering Disorder.

Whether 30%, 40% or 50% shade cloth, if you are growing tomatoes in a high tunnel, implementing some form of shade protection through the hottest months of the year are likely to increase yields significantly.

Since standard shade cloth can be used for about ten years, shade cloth is an investment that has a reasonable “pay-back period” in the sense that increased yields could pay for the cost of the shade cloth over time.

For those growers not yet using shade cloth in their tomato production, it may make sense to begin exploring how you could employ shade cloth to improve yield and profitability.

Shade for Cooling Greenhouses

In many parts of the United States, cooling a greenhouse is a greater problem than heating. When ventilation will not control temperature, shading can be used. By reflecting the sun’s rays or blocking them so they can’t get in, a significant portion of the heat load is removed. This can reduce electricity use associated with fan ventilation systems.

The heat load is created by the infrared part of the radiant energy from the sun. Plants are photosynthetically active in the blue to red range (380 – 700 nanometers) of the total light spectrum. Wavelengths greater than 770 nanometers result in an increase in temperature. This can affect plant growth and at high temperature cause plant injury. It’s the same as standing in the sun or putting your hand next to an incandescent light bulb. You are feeling the far-red radiation.

Reducing the heat load in the greenhouse can be done in a number of ways. Ventilation can cool it to near the outdoor ambient temperature. Further cooling requires introducing mist or fog into the air to absorb some additional heat. Fan and pad or fog systems are available for this. These can require considerable energy for fan or high pressure pump operation.

Shading is a low-cost method of providing some cooling. It is best done outside the greenhouse over the glazing but can also be done with screen systems inside. Shading will result in lower electric bills if fans are being used.

Shading compounds are materials that are brushed, rolled or sprayed onto the glazing. They are applied in the spring and if the correct material is used will usually wear off before the first frost occurs. These materials are difficult to get on uniformly. Some growers add additional layers of shading as the sun’s intensity increases during the summer or the shade material wears off. Some materials, such as ReduSol (available from Griffin Greenhouse & Nursery Supplies), have been developed to allow a high light level but reduce the amount of infrared light to penetrate.

An alternative is woven or knitted shade fabrics from materials such as polypropylene, saran, polyethylene and polyester. These are lightweight, easy to apply and available in several degrees of shade from 10% to 90%. They usually have to be custom-fabricated to fit the greenhouse. Most materials are ultra-violet stabilized and have a life of about 10 years. Cost depends on the amount of shade but is usually between 10 – 40¢/sq ft.

Polypropylene is strong, tough and highly resistant to flexing, abrasion and chemical attack. It will shrink about 1% when placed on the greenhouse. Saran is fireproof and shrinks about 3%, requiring that it be installed with a slight sag. Lock-stitched, knitted polyethylene netting will not fray or rip-run when cut. It is fire and mildew resistant. Metalized material, such as Aluminet (GREEN-TEK) will moderate both day and night temperatures.

Research by Dr. Dan Willets, Agricultural Engineer, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, determined that the percentage shade ratings were accurate but the reduction in total energy was only half of the shade percentage due to conduction of heat from the material to the glazing. A black or green material although it gives longer life will conduct more heat than a white material. A 50% shade reduced radiation about 10°F. Keeping the material wet with spray nozzles will increase its effectiveness as it removes heat from the material.

Laboratory tests conclude that any shade material is more effective on a windy day as a greater amount of energy that is intercepted is removed before it is transferred to the interior. Tests also indicate any shade material will perform better in reducing heat if the greenhouse interior is painted a light color.

Interior mechanized screen systems are becoming popular for both gutter-connected and free-standing greenhouses. Usually referred to as energy/shade screens, these systems may be eligible for USDA grant programs.

A shade screen is a mechanical system consisting of a drive motor, support cables, energy/shade material and controls. A single gear motor will power up to an acre of shade system. The screen material is supported or suspended from the cables and can be closed or opened as needed. Control can be by timer, thermostat or light level sensor.

A retractable system has the advantage that it can be pulled back on dull, cloudy days to allow maximum light transmission. Being located inside the greenhouse, it is not affected by weather conditions.

A typical screen material is made of 4 mm wide aluminum and polyester strips held together with a polyester filament yarn. The aluminum reflects the incoming sun back outside the greenhouse rather than being absorbed. This will reduce the inside temperature about 10°F. At night when the greenhouse is being heated, the screen is closed and it traps the heat within. Screen materials are light weight and available with a wide range of light transmission and energy conservation. One of the largest suppliers is Svensson.

In free-standing greenhouses such as a hoophouse, the mechanical system to move the screen can be simple. Three or more light weight tracks with rollers are suspended from the frame. The rollers with clips support the screen material. This system can be opened and closed by hand or can be fully automated. In a 100′ greenhouse, the screen is usually split into two 50′ sections that store at each endwall.

Mechanized systems usually have 8′ – 12′ panels that move between the trusses or collar ties. The gear motor powers the drive cable or rack and pinion to move the panels. For energy conservation, an edge seal is needed to contain the heat under the screen. For shade purposes, this is not as important. Mechanized systems usually cost from $1.50 – $4/sq ft installed.

Shading is one method of controlling greenhouse temperatures during warm weather. It can supplement fan or louver ventilation and evaporative cooling. It also helps to reduce plant leaf temperature reducing burning.

John W. Bartok, Jr., Extension Professor Emeritus & Agricultural Engineer, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Connecticut, Storrs CT -2013

How to install a shade sail

Before you commence installation it is very important that you consider the most suitable location for your shade sail(s) taking into account the factors below. We’ve also prepared a 10min video that takes you through how to install your shade sail.

Before you commence installation it is very important that you consider the most suitable location for your shade sail(s) taking into account the following:

  1. Size of the shade sail(s)&
  2. Strength of existing structures intended to be anchor points
  3. Ability to insert fixing posts
  4. Location of barbecues
  5. Sun direction etc

Watch the video

This short video provides a simple overview to installing a triangle and square Coolaroo Shade Sail.

There could also be other factors, specific to your situation, which require consideration.

Installation Tips

Before you start

There are some important factors you need to consider before you get started. Let’s take a look!

  • Determining The Correct Fixing Points

    Once you have identified the location for your shade sail(s) it is important to determine the most suitable fixing points for the corners. Some of these fixing points could already exist e.g. pergola/sundeck, large tree, fence post or fascia.

    This stage of the installation is critical. You should ensure all fixing points are structurally sound and if unsure, obtain independent advice from a builder or engineer.

  • Building Approvals

    Prior to installation, check with local authorities for any relevant building regulations which may exist.

  • Selecting Fixing Accessories

    There is an extensive range of fixing accessories available to help you secure your shade sail(s). These accessories are readily available from your normal hardware supplier.

    Rope/chain – to extend your shade sail to a fixing point if required.

    Select the fixing accessories which best suit your own installation.

Attaching to Existing Supports

  • Attaching To Fascia

    If you intend to fix your shade sail to a fascia the use of a Fascia Support is strongly recommended. The Fascia support is used to connect the overhangs of rafters or trusses to fascias ledgers giving a strong connection between the two and improved strength.

  • Attaching to trees

    We recommend that the fixing of shade sails to trees be for TEMPORARY USE ONLY. The diameter of the tree where the sail will be fixed must be at least 250mm(9.75”).

Attaching to additional supports

  • Post Supports

    If additional posts are required, the use of treated softwood (H5 level treatment) is recommended. Hardwood of durability Class 1 can also be used. Your local timber supplier can assist you in selection. Post lengths should be calculated taking into account the proposed height of your sail plus the depth of your footings.

    Steel posts are also suitable and are available from either your normal hardware outlet/home centre or your local steel supplier. Steel posts can be cut to predetermined lengths and painted to a colour matching your shade sail and the environment.


Measure out centres of footing positions and mark as illustrated. Dig holes 400 mm (16”) sq. & 800mm (32”) deep.)

  • Firm Ground

    Lay a 100mm (4”) depth of 20mm (3/4”) dia gravel at the base of the post.

  • Soft Ground

    Pour a 100mm (4”) depth of concrete at the bottom of the hole to provide a solid pad. Insert the posts and, with string lines, ensure they are in plumb alignment. Temporarily brace the posts.

  • Concreting

    Mix concrete in line with manufacturer’s instructions. These will be labelled clearly on the packet. Your supplier will be able to give you any special advice you may require for your own conditions. Pour concrete to the top of the holes ensuring it is packed well. Ensure the concrete surface is sloping away from the posts to assist water drainage. Allow poles to set in concrete for a minimum of 48 hours. Brace if required.


Connect fixing accessories to mounting points as required. Ensure all connections face towards the middle of the sail and are tightly secured. Check again to ensure all mounting points are solid. Lay your shade sail out and commence the installation.


Using the selected fixing accessories, commence connecting the corners of the shade sail to the fixing points.

Connect all points, using a ratchet tensioning tool if necessary to gain increased leverage. Stop tensioning when the shade sail is rigid with little or no creases. CAUTION: Do not over tension. Re-tension periodically if required.


Your Coolaroo shade sail is designed to provide UV protection and comfort in domestic areas. When selecting the position for your shade sail, ensure all fixing points are structurally sound and fixings are tightly secured. Inspect regularly. Prior to installing, consult your local council regarding building regulations which may apply in your area. Exposure to certain chemicals e.g, Chlorine can lead to the premature breakdown of the fabric. Chemicals to be used on or around the fabric should be referred to Coolaroo prior to their use.

Do not have fire or an open flame close to the fabric. Do not use your barbecue under the shade structure.

Care Instructions

Your shade sail(s) may be cleaned at any time using a solution of mild detergent and water. Apply the solution with a sponge or a very soft brush. Let the solution stand on the fabric for 10 minutes and rinse thoroughly with water from your garden hose.

DO NOT put the fabric in your washing machine, clothes drier, or scrub it with a stiff brush, scouring pad, or an abrasive cleaner.

For more information about shade sails check out our articles on choosing the right shade sail and DIY shade fabric installation.

Find specific instructions on how to install the Coolaroo 3.6 x 3.6 Triangle Sail Shade here.

How to put up a shade sail

Prepare your shade sail

Lay out the sail, keep the fabric relaxed and don’t pull it too tight.

Calculate the space you need to leave between each corner of the relaxed sail and the structural fixing points (this is to allow for tensioning). You need to leave at least 10% of the sail length. For example, if the sail is 3m x 3m square at each corner you need to have a gap of at least 300mm.

Now mark out the points where you want to fix your sail to. Generally you’ll need fixing points on the side of your house and then away from your house as well. Start by attaching the fixing points on the side of your house first. Fixing points on your house need to go into the fascia (the fascia is the horizontal board the guttering is attached to).

For standalone posts mark out where you need to dig holes for them to go in. The centre of the hole should line up with the point of the sail corner. You could use treated timber posts (round posts use minimum 125mm diameter, or square posts 125mm x 125mm) or a galvanised steel post at least 4mm thick (round minimum 100mm diameter, or square 100mm x 100mm).

Once you’ve decided where you want the fixing points to be check they are structurally sound. When fixing into your fascia you want the hook to be aligned with your roof rafter. Nails are a sign of where your rafter is behind the fascia. If you can’t see the nails, you can tap the soffit as you should be able to hear where there is a rafter. You can drill through the fascia into the rafter and fix the hook in place. If you can’t find a rafter, or its not where you want to put your hook, you will need to go into the roof and attach a fascia support bracket to the rafter so you can then connect a pad eye to the front of the fascia, which allows the hook to be screwed in securely. If this is the case and, you’re not familiar with working within your roof its worthwhile consulting an expert for advice.

Be safe using a ladder. Ensure your ladder’s feet are flat on the ground and that the ground is level. Secure the ladder well and keep three points of contact with it at all times. Never over-reach sideways.

To install standalone posts, dig holes for them to go in. The depth of the hole will depend on the size of the shade sail. Dig an 800mm hole for a 3m shade sail and 1200mm hole for a 5m shade sail.

Remember before digging to make sure you check with your local council for any pipes and wires in the ground as you don’t’ want to hit those!

Tips for Installing Shade Sails

Just a few years ago, the use of shade sails was limited to the school, colleges, parks and mostly commercial area, but now it’s become one of the most important part of the house and office, because its provide many benefits like protection from UV rays, its offer great ventilation, cooling and aesthetic value, in case if you have purchased a shade sail of waterproof material then it provides resistance from water as well. As compared to other benefits of shade sails, the most important is protection from UV rays of the sun because it causes many skin diseases including skin cancer. Other than that, shade sails also add unparalleled appearance to residential and commercial area, especially when you purchase shade sails which match with the color of the building.

In the country like Australia, it is important to have shade sails to save yourself from harmful UV rays in summer, it is very hot and you cannot enjoy your summer activities in garden, pool, deck, roof and the parking area until you have shade sails to stop the heat of summer. The market is full with different style, size and types of shade sails. They are easy to install, which means that you did not require a professional to install shade sails at your place, whether its commercial area or residential area. Following I am sharing with you the tutorial How to install shade sails, in case if you have not installed shade sails before, I am sure this tutorial gone help you to learn how to install shade sails without having an expert on site.

Step 1 Planning:

Before we purchase shade sails, we need to plan that where did we install it and what is the purpose of installing shade sails. These have been installed for many purposes, for example, some people install over the pool to get protection from UV rays during swimming, some people install in their parking area to keep the area cool while some people install to shade the eating area to enjoy their food outside in summer etc. Planning with help you to decide:

  • The location where the sail need to be installed
  • The size and type of shade sail to purchase
  • What type of shape would be perfect to purchase etc.

At the planning stage, you need to also consider the direction of sun and wind speed and availability of place to fix the shade sail structure.

Step 2 Preparation:

Once you have decided what type and size of sail you have to purchase, the other thing is to purchase one and prepare the shade sail. You did not require to purchase some special tools and equipments to install your shade sail, the tools available in the toolkit like the hammer, wrench and pliers are enough for the installation of sail.

Mark the area with the help of a pencil to know where you have to dig the holes. You need to mark 1 corner of the area of one side of the sail, for example, if you have a triangle sail, then you will mark three sides while four sides of square shade sail and so one. Make sure, you know the length of your sail and don’t make more or less than the total size of sail.

Step 3 Installation:

Dill the holes at marking area. Consider to dig a deep hole to get a better grip for mounts and nails. You can dig holes with the help of a drill machine or hammer, its depend that where are you digging the holes. For wood, the hammer is enough while you need to drill machine if you have to dig solid material.

Now fix the turnbuckle which has already attached to your sail. Move points to point and tension your turnbuckles as its required.

If you looking to buy Shade Sail or Shade Sails Accessories

Custom Shade Cloth

You won’t always be able to find a shade cloth in exactly the size you need for your application, that’s why Greenhouse Megastore has made it easy to order custom sizes to any dimension that fits you. Just enter in the correct information above, and if everything looks all right, add the piece to your shopping cart. It’s that simple! Order anytime, 24/7, and no phone call is necessary. Please read the instructions below for more details on custom pieces of shade cloth.

Factory Seams

Depending on the size ordered, your shade fabric may contain a factory seam.

Optional (Tape and Grommets)

Tape – Edges are reinforced with black tape. Required if grommets are provided.

Grommets – Brass grommets are provided every 2ft, starting with the corners. Please contact a sales representative for special requests at 1-888-281-9337.

Minimum Order Charge

A $20 minimum order charge will be applied to custom shade cloth purchases less than $60 in value. This charge will be added if the total value of your custom shade cloth purchase is less than $60 (not including other products, accessories, sales tax or shipping). Please contact Greenhouse Megastore customer service if you have any questions regarding this fee.

Dimension Guarantee

Greenhouse Megastore guarantees +/- 4″ to your specified dimensions. Accuracy has only very rarely been a problem, but keep in mind these variances.

Return Policy

Specially cut and custom fabricated items including but not limited to polyethylene film, polycarbonate panels and shade cloth are not returnable. We will, however, exchange any defective items. Specially fabricated items that do not meet ordered specifications (within stated tolerances) will be replaced upon confirmation of discrepancy by Greenhouse Megastore or the manufacturer. Customer may be subject to additional shipping and handling charges if it is confirmed that returned pieces do indeed meet stated tolerances.



Product Video

Hanging Instructions

When hanging shade cloth pieces larger than 100 sq. ft., you may need extra center support to prevent the cloth from sagging in the middle. One easy way to do this is by running lightweight cable from corner to opposite corner, forming an X pattern that the cloth can rest on. For pieces larger than 400 sq. ft., you may need cables running end to end every 4′ or so.

Shade Cloth For Greenhouses: How And When To Put Shade Cloth On A Greenhouse

A greenhouse is a carefully controlled environment designed to give your plants the ideal growing conditions. This is achieved by a combination of heaters, fans, and ventilation devices that all work together to keep the temperature and humidity at a constant rate. Using shade cloth in a greenhouse is one of the ways to keep the interior cooler, and to cut down on the solar radiation that hits the plants inside.

During hot summer months, and even throughout most of the year in hotter environments such as Florida, a greenhouse shade cloth can save money by helping your cooling system to work more efficiently.

What is Greenhouse Shade Cloth?

Shade cloth for greenhouses can be installed over the top of the structure, just inside the roof or a few feet above the plants themselves. The right system for your greenhouse depends on the size of your building and the plants growing inside.

These greenhouse tools are made of loosely woven fabric, and can shade out a percentage of the sunlight that reaches your plants. Shade cloth comes in different thicknesses, allowing differing amounts of sunlight through, so it’s easy to make a custom design for your environmental needs.

How to Use Shade Cloth on a Greenhouse

How to use shade cloth on a greenhouse when you’ve never installed it before? Most shade cloths come with a system of grommets on the edge, allowing you to create a system of lines and pulleys on the sides of the greenhouse. String lines along the wall and up to the center of the roof and add a pulley system to draw the cloth up and over your plants.

You can make a simpler, more accessible system by running a line along each of the two longest sides in the greenhouse, about two feet above the plants. Clip the edges of the cloth to the lines using curtain rings. You can pull the cloth from one end of the building to the other, shading only the plants that need extra cover.

When to put a shade cloth on a greenhouse? Most gardeners install a shade cloth system as soon as they build their greenhouse, to give them the option of shading off plants when needed through the planting season. They’re easy to retrofit, though, so if you don’t have any shade installed, it’s a simple matter of choosing a design and running the lines along the edges of the room.

85% Shade Netting UV Resistant for Plant Cover YFMMM Green Shade Cloth with Grommets Greenhouse,2x2m/6.6×6.6ft

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canopy enclosures, Shop online for barbecues, Keeps vegetable garden and greenhouse cooler, please contact us if you ever face any problems, site barriers, 85% Shade Netting UV Resistant for Plant Cover Greenhouse,2x2m/6.6×6.6ft YFMMM Green Shade Cloth with Grommets, The sun shade net can provide shade from the sun while allowing the cool breeze to enter through the mesh, garden tools, Grommets are located along the entire reinforced edge for easy hanging, 2x2m/6, Worked really good, 85% Shade Netting UV Resistant for Plant Cover, protect swimming pool from leaf, Is this sun shade sail commercial grade, 85% Shade Netting UV Resistant for Plant Cover YFMMM Green Shade Cloth with Grommets Greenhouse,2x2m/6.6×6.6ft, snow blowers and more at, Shade Rate: 85%, Lawn & Garden, FUNCTION – Save summer garden, such as dump truck covers, Material: High-density polyethylene, DURABILITY MATERIAL – Manufactured of High Density Polyethylene, Greenhouses, Knitted construction resists tearing and fraying

What Percentage Shade Cloth Should I Use?

What is shade cloth?

Shade cloths have been around for a long time; they’re a pretty basic concept. Shade cloths are a piece of fabric used in gardens to protect plants from too much sunlight.

Although protecting plants from too much sun is the main focus of this post, you should know that shade cloths can also be used to protect plants from cold and wind, and can be used to provide shade for animals and people.

When buying shade cloth, keep in mind that these other uses for it exist; if you don’t want to browse through patio furniture departments or pet supplies, specify that you’re looking for garden shade cloth.

How shade cloth can INCREASE plant production

We’ve all heard of the phrase “too much of a good thing.” When it comes to gardens, sunlight is a good thing–a critical thing!

In fact, research has shown that using shade cloth–especially during the hottest times of the year–can actually increase photosynthesis, increase crop yields, and increase the length of the growing season.

It seems counterintuitive. But it actually makes sense, once you know the science: photosynthesis peaks within a specific temperature range–for most plants, between 50 – 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The amount of sunlight also affects optimum photosynthesis.

So, higher temperatures and too much sun will actually decrease plant production.

Long story short: Shade cloth during the hottest, sunniest times of year will increase plant production.

Every elementary-aged kid knows that sunlight is one of a plant’s most basic needs. Plants capture energy from the sun and turn it into sugars in the process of photosynthesis. These sugars sustain the plants and allow them to grow. The nutrition that we get from plants is really solar energy, combined with key nutrients, that they’ve made accessible for us.

Thank you, chlorophyll.

Bottom line, the sun is the source of all the energy that makes your garden grow. But there is such a thing as too much sunlight. If the sun is just too strong, for too many hours a day, it can seriously damage plants.

Sunburned fruit and vegetables (yes, they can get sunburned!) can be unusable, with damaged areas marked by wrinkles and white patches.

You don’t want shriveled white raspberries or wrinkled peppers.

Luckily, it’s a lot easier to create a bit of shade than it is to conjure up some more sunshine.

Shade cloth setup: horizontal or vertical?

Most of the time, shade cloth is set up horizontally over plants, allowing enough room for proper air circulation. It can be tightly secured straight across, or domed over a garden or greenhouse.

The image that comes to your mind when you hear “shade cloth” (if any image comes to your mind at all), is probably the image of a shade cloth set up horizontally. For me, the image that comes to mind are those tight-as-trampoline black shade cloths stretched over the tobacco fields of my home region.

Although it’s less common, shade cloth can also be set up vertically; this allows the amount of shade to change based on the time of day.

A shade cloth set up vertically would provide shade similar to the way that a tall plant in your garden would provide shade to shorter ones. This is more difficult to set up, so when the average gardener is talking about shade cloth, they’re usually thinking a horizontal set up.

Though your greenhouse is teeming with vibrant plant life this spring season, hot summer days will take over before you know it. Consider installing a simple shade cloth as a sunscreen for your plants. Find out how a shade cloth can control and cut down the harsh effects of intense weather!

Smart Tips To Pick The Best Greenhouse Shade Cloth

Every green thumb knows that while the sun is your best friend, it can also be your worst enemy. When the summer months hit, no plant is spared from the harsh heat—and it’s on you to make sure your greens continue to thrive.

Which shade cloth you pick for your high tunnel garden can mean the difference between success and failure of your crops. Even this spring, as the growing season kicks in, these tips and guide for shade cloth installment can be very handy!

What Is A Shade Cloth?

A shade cloth is simply a stretch of fabric which is commercially available for use in draping over greenhouses or plant beds. It is an integral part of a greenhouse and is cost-effective and fully customizable according to a greenhouse’s needs. A shade cloth is used to block or limit the effect of sun’s heat on plants thus preventing damage. It’s especially essential for protecting seedlings or young plants with low tolerance to the harsh heat of the sun.

What To Look For In Greenhouse Shade Cloth

Fabric Material

There are two types of shade cloth: knitted cloth and woven cloth. Knitted cloth comes in a polyethylene blend that deflects heat and light but is breathable enough to make sure your plants don’t suffocate. Most ready-made cloth comes in this polyethylene blend, while the woven cloth is made from 100% polypropylene, which is heavier and more suitable for winter gardening.

Light Color

Gardening experts believe that a lighter-colored shade cloth resolves any issues you might encounter with ventilation, a problem common among darker or heavier cloth coverings. It’s also a common knowledge that dark colors absorb sun’s heat while light colors reflect sun’s heat. If you live in harsher or hotter weather, a lighter shade might be more beneficial to your plants.


Density, or more commonly referred to in gardening as ‘percentage,’ in shade cloths have a direct effect on the plants they shade. Since sunlight can be both essential and harmful for your plant’s growth, the amount of sunlight allowed to penetrate to your plants should be controlled. Consider your area and the kind of plants that you need to shade. For example, 40% to 60% is advisable for vegetables while shade-loving plants, like orchids, need a 75% or higher shade percentage.

How To Get More Out Of Your Shade Cloth

Site Location

Perform a close study of the sun’s position from sunrise to sunset to identify the shade angle. Try draping a larger swath of fabric over the entire greenhouse roof, or lining the ceiling of your greenhouse with a shade cloth. Or you can also use accessories for your shade cover which will be further discussed below.


A shade cloth may have to be taken off during nighttime, or in the spring season to invite beneficial insects to help pollinate your plants. It will be very convenient to create an adjustable canopy with pulleys and lines. You can easily slide your shade cloth back or to the area that you want to be shaded. This will also allow you to adjust the height from your shade cloth to the plants to allow for ventilation as needed.

Reorganize Your Plants

If you can only cover a part of your greenhouse with a shade cover, consider re-positioning your plants. Rotate their placements so all get equal shade, or simply secure the more delicate plants under the shade. Relative to the percentage in shade cloth, as previously stated, use this idea for grouping or organizing your plants.

Check out this video to install a shade cover for your greenhouse easily:

Now that you’ve got these ideas and tips for picking and installing a shade cloth, plan your greenhouse garden while the weather is still on your side. There’s no need to fear the summer heat if you’ve got your greenhouse covered—literally!

Got any questions, comments, or additional tips for picking a shade cloth for your garden? Leave them in the comments section below!

Microclimates and Shade Cloths

The Essence of Microclimates?

Experienced farmers will often tell you how the sun passes over the farm at different times of the year, even if they aren’t talking in terms of north, east, south, and west. They may point to the path across the sky, describing the pattern. And as the sun sinks in the sky during the short winter days, they’ll tell you about how that group of tall trees next to the garden casts a long shadow over a full quarter of the garden area (see title image) although it still protects it nicely from strong winds. Nearly every farm has microclimates of one sort or another.

The term refers to close proximity areas that vary in climate conditions. In the above example, the trees are affecting exposure of the amount of light and wind a certain area of the farm receives. These variances are important to consider when deciding what to plant, when and where, impacting both growth and yield.

Factors of Microclimates

From a macro perspective, microclimates are often noted when looking at urban and rural settings. In the urban setting, things like the asphalt, concrete and buildings absorb the energy of the sun, heating up and then releasing that heat back into the air. This results in higher urban temperatures than in rural settings. In the rural settings, factors like proximity to water may cool down the air, resulting in more moderate climates at times, advantageous to areas with high summer temperatures. Water bodies like lakes, ponds, reservoirs and streams not only affect temperature levels but also humidity levels (more water in the air).

The soil itself can cause climatic variances, mostly due to the amount of moisture absorbed and the evaporated back into the air. Clay soils retain more moisture than sandy soils and can affect the humidity and air temperatures of an area. Knowing the composition of your soil (sand, silt and clay) will provide a baseline for the effect it can have.

The slope of the land is another factor that can affect climates, with some areas receiving more sun radiation than others. As the days get shorter and the sun sits lower in the sky, shadows can lengthen and block out entire portions of beds. Therefore, it’s a good idea to place garden structures further apart in the garden during these times to allow for more direct sun exposure. Sometimes, the wind can whip up and around slopes, damaging plants. Areas like this should be treated as any high wind area, and setting up windblocks, either naturally or synthetically, can help protect plants and infrastructure. Even though strong winds may not directly kill plants, they can stunt the growth or set the plant back.

Microclimates can be effectively used in farming practices too. For example, in market farming (using a small amount of space intensely), plants are spaced with precision so that they quickly reach a point where the leafs touch, creating a canopy

and shading out the soil underneath, mitigating potential weed growth and protecting the soil. In this situation, the farmer is intentionally creating a natural microclimate within a single bed.

You will gain a sense for of the different variances that are already occurring naturally quite quickly! Last summer, I experimented with growing lettuce on a side of our house that only receives direct sun exposure until around noon; after that it is in complete shade. This worked quite well (we had a few salads off of it), and will be expanding the idea throughout this summer too.

Intentionally Creating Microclimates using Shade Cloths

The use of shade covers is an effective way for farmers to intentionally create artificial microclimates by blocking out a portion of the direct light, reducing the average temperature around your plants by 10 degrees or more depending on the density of the shade.

Shade cloth consists of either knitted or woven fabric made from polyethylene or polypropylene and naturally resists mildew and rot. Knitted polyethylene shade cloth is the most common variety used for covering agricultural structures because is has some give (will stretch a few degrees), is lightweight compared to woven fabrics and doesn’t fray along the edges. It is very durable and can be easily and quickly installed, especially when used in conjunction with cover hold-down clips, which firmly grabs the cove, holding it in place.

Which Shade Cloth is Right for You?

There are a variety of different shade cloths to choose from and the use for them will depend on farm location and direct sun exposure, so knowing the uses for the various different available options is advantageous to maximizing production wherever you are. They are offered in percentages of light blocked. For instance, 30% shade cloth would allow for 70% light transmission.

The most commonly used shade cloth percentages for protecting vegetable crops range from 30-50%. In northern climates, 30% shade cloth is the recommended density for extending the season into the summer for cool-loving crops like lettuce, spinach and Cole crops, whereas in southern climates, 50% shade cloth is recommended for these same crops. In both northern and southern climates the use of 30% shade cloth is being used effectively to protect Solanaceae crops like tomatoes and peppers from sunscald.

Paying Attention to Plant Growth

It is important to pay close attention to the plants as they grow under shade cloth due to the fact that if they aren’t receiving enough light, they may become leggy, stretching and stressing for ample light. One grower we’ve talked to recently had experienced this while growing salad greens under shade cloth during the heat of the summer. What they quickly learned was that when they kept the shade cloth on an entire day, the greens became leggy and droopy, but if they gave the greens full light until 3-4pm, only putting on the shade cover after misting off the greens, they did just fine. This is a technique we will be utilizing this year to help us have salad greens longer into the summer.

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