rosss_tomatoes2Q: How much sun do I need for my new veggie garden? Does it matter what time of day the sun hits it?

A: Due to our current economic downturn, more families are starting a new garden within their back yard this year. There are certain prevailing rules that govern gardening success. Good soil is of primary importance. Another key fundamental is, simply said, right plant – right place.

The orientation of your home should guide where to site a new garden. Tall trees, perimeter walls and fences can play an equal role. Plants need to capture enough sunlight to produce well. Veggies need to bask in 6 to 8 hours of direct sun each day.

There is something about Colorado Springs weather in the morning here that needs emphasis. The morning is often the calmer time of the day. Cloudless skies and slow breezes offer the purer experience of sunlight and warmth for your vegetable garden.

Your plants need protection from wind. A wall or fence can offer just that. In my yard I have the advantage of a north-south wall. This wall captures and reflects morning sun from about 7am to 2pm during peak summer months. It also serves as a protective barrier from the baking afternoon sun since the plots close to it are shaded later in the day. It deflects hot winds, preventing water loss and protecting tender blossoms.

If you are planning to create a new garden area in your backyard, consider placing it near a solid protective barrier. An east-west fence allows more sunlight to hit your garden than a north-south structure. Locate your late harvest plantings here. The east-west orientation allows more sun to hit the plants as the sun travels lower across the sky in latter months of the season. As an added benefit, walls and fences reflect late-season sunlight to provide soil warmth even when the air is cool.

Morning sun is a gardener’s good friend. Plan for it. Capture it. One just never knows what challenges the afternoon weather patterns can deliver.

Contributed by Ross Krummel, Colorado Master Gardener. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 636.8921 or Access fact sheets and seasonal information on the El Paso County Horticulture Website