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A Gardener's Solar Envy

Sharing your place in the sun.

My house is in the middle of the woods. Seen from space (courtesy of Google Earth), the roof appears as an island engulfed in green. No wonder I have shade gardens. 

I'm not complaining at all. I love the woods. Still, there are times I wish I could have the vegetable garden my neighbor has. His garden basks all day in the sun. From my yard, through the branches, I can see the sun glint off the leaves of the corn. 

For a few years, I grew lettuce in containers. I stopped buying greens in the supermarket and just stepped outside my door a few minutes before dinner. The rest of the meal might be meat and potatoes, but the salad was definitely five-star gourmet.

Alas, the lettuce bolted around the time the leaves filled in overhead.  

"Cut a few trees," my friend Sue said. She's carved a garden out of her leafy back yard and grows the whole salad, plus zucchini.

But which trees? Not the oak with the apron of wild, white astersor the one over the hosta garden. Fewer trees and more sun would have a domino effect I'm not sure I'm ready for.

My neighbor's backyard was once as thick with trees as mine is. I'm not sure what year he took out his chain saw, but when most of the trees were gone, my yard suddenly had more sun. Everything, from daylilies to ornamental grasses grew larger and flowered more.    

The trees that were left next door—all oaks—grew full and spread shade across the lawn. They also spread sooty mold onto my neighbor's roof and skylights. And the acorns were a nuisance. Last weekend, he had most of them taken down. The first thing I thought of when I heard the saws was more sun.

One afternoon at the bus stop while we were waiting for our kids, he asked if I liked having more light in my yard. I admitted I did. 

If I wanted some trees taken down on my property, he told me, I could get the work done cheaper than the going rate, as the tree guys were already in the neighborhood.

I thought about the corn with its bright leaves and a jungle of tomatoes, and I thought about the asters and hosta. Maybe I have a few dead pines, I said. The oak above the hosta could use trimming.

I'm thinking I'll try the lettuce again and maybe even attempt a patio tomato. The sun in my yard doesn't have to belong to me.

Kathy April 03, 2011 at 06:41 PM
I love this article,Janet.My yard has very little sun.I try to plant partial sun flowers ,some make some don't.So each year I plan on having my dead trees removed but somehow after cleaning up from the winters wrath I pull out my hammock and enjoy the dappled sun/shade ! Happy Planting,Happy Spring !!!
Janet Belding April 07, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Thanks, Kate. Happy Spring to you, too. I know what you mean about the dead trees. Someone who was redoing my driveway did me a favor and knocked down some of my dead pines. Now I notice the oaks aren't faring too well. Too many winter moth and gypsy moth infestations maybe.


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