Shade in Summer, Sun in Winter Homesteading Basics: Create Cool Shade with this Easy Plant

Grapevine provides cool shade

Cool Shade with Fast-Growing Plants

Marjory has a big patio that’s a really nice place to sit outdoors and relax… But it used to be much different.

The patio is located on the southwest corner of her house, where it gets direct sun all afternoon long. Without any shade, the entire patio got extremely hot. So for several months each summer, the patio was basically useless except for during the early morning.

Marjory thought about adding a permanent roof, but that would have been expensive. It also would have prevented the south side of her house from getting sun during the winter, when the sunshine is actually nice to have.

Read more: The Top 5 Technologies for Self-Sufficient Buildings

The Problem is the Solution

With a just little resourcefulness, and a few cattle panels, Marjory was able to come up with the perfect solution.

She applied that important lesson from permaculture, which says that “the problem is the solution.” Marjory found a great use for that unwanted sunshine, ensured that her patio would still get plenty of sun in the winter… and she even scored a little extra food, to boot. Check it out:

The Unique Benefit of Deciduous Plants

Deciduous plants are uniquely useful because of their leaf-dropping behavior. They have lush foliage for cool shade during the spring and summer, and then they drop those leaves during fall and have little if any foliage during the winter.

It seems like the most basic thing, but it can be really important when you’re looking for ways to provide shade for part of the year but allow sunlight through for another part of the year.

On Marjory’s patio, the grapevine is the perfect solution because it provides heavy shade during the hottest part of the summer. She could have gotten the same effect with an evergreen vine, but she would have missed out on the warming sunlight on the south wall of her house during the winter.

So put a little thought into your plant choices, especially on the south and west sides of your house. The same ideas that apply to Marjory’s vine also apply to the trees you plant near your home. And of course, bonus points if you can find a plant that also gives you something to eat (or drink)!

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Michael Ford


Contributor

Michael has been the resident editor at The [Grow] Network since January 2015. Michael grew up in St. Louis, where he became a lover of nature - hiking and fishing his way through the Ozark hills in Missouri. He attended Baylor University in Waco, TX, and he currently lives in Austin. Michael has background experience in small-scale farming, commercial growing, vegetable gardening, landscaping, marketing, and software development. He received his Permaculture Design Certification from the Austin Permaculture Guild in 2013.


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8 Comments
  • tuffy

    by the way, Marjorie-
    one of the amazing things about grapes is that they are NOT a plant that likes or needs fertilizer–or even much water at all after the first year.
    you’re almost wasting the compost and wetness/water on this vine; it will produce more and sweeter fruit with less water and less compost. also, you want the roots to reach down for water, not stay near the surface, so watering it, isn’t a great idea, if you also want drought tolerance. it’s the big mistake most of California has done with their grapes.
    France does not allow irrigation for their grapes and they have grape vines with roots as deep as 50 ft or more…one farm reported 80 ft roots!

  • Lisa

    What variety of grape is that? I have a Shrank Mustang Grape planted on a gazebo and it has grown like crazy but with very little grapes. It is the only variety that I have been able to keep alive in Abilene Texas. Thanks for your videos and information. Lisa

  • Lisa

    what about on the East side of a house? We can’t plant trees because the septic is very close to the house. ( 1920’s)

  • Evelyn

    Hey Lisa! I am in Abilene, Tx too! I feel your pain! We had the most wonderful sweet, red grapes, about 4 yrs ago! But, we haven’t tried again…some, nasty white flies ate them up! Anyway, just had to comment when I saw Abilene! God bless! Evelyn

  • GB

    Grapes would be wonderful – when I bought my house there was a wild grape growing along side the patio; oh yes, it grows and grows! As wild grapes would have it though, there is usually no fruit on 🙁 Last year I had 5 little grapes, what a surprise! this year there seem to be another 4, still green. On the west side I let the poke weed grow, makes wonderful shade and just takes some pruning to keep it from going crazy.

  • Sarah

    Another tip! If you have over the amount of needed foliage, pull off a few leaves for dinner! Boil in a bit of lemon juice, stuff and roll. We stuff ours with a mix of veggies and rice and boil them up with some garlic, broth and carrots. Yum yum! Homegrown stuffed grape leaves!

  • Tyrena

    Yes. I’m in Texas as well. What kind of grapes are these?

  • Bob

    I am in San Angelo Texas and I understand about not much productivey with grapes, but I think that most of my trouble comes from not much watering. At least in the first year, the plants start out doing ok when the spring rains come and I keep watering. So I believe that water is the main problem especialy the first year. I may be wrong, but this is what I have observed.

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