If you have been trying out your green thumb during the lockdown and you are thinking of taking your gardening expertise onto the next level, you may have come across shade cloths. Shade cloths can be incredibly important for growing plants, vegetables and flowers, especially in a climate like Australia. Shade cloths work by protecting your plants from getting too much heat from the sun, while also improving the diffusion of light and providing ventilation. So, what should you consider when choosing a shade cloth? Take a look below to find out.
Pick a good colour
Although it may not seem that important, choosing the right colour for your plants is an important first step to take when choosing your shade cloth. Whether you are looking for a shade cloth to improve plant ventilation, reduce the quantity of light hitting your plants or absorb more heat, there will be a shade cloth colour for you. Dark shade colours will absorb the heat from the sun, which will heat up your plants, whereas light shade cloths will reduce the quantity of light. Light shade cloths are popular with gardeners who grow flowering plants, as the growth can often be more rapid than using a darker shade cloth. Lighter shade cloths may also improve ventilation, as the fabric can reflect more heat from the sun.
Choose your material
Most shade cloths are made from polyester or aluminium, with densities varying from as low as 5% all the way up to 95%. These cloths are made to be water permeable, so your plants can still be watered by you or even the rain while you have it set up. If you live in a hot climate, knitted shade cloth is the best choice, as it will protect your plants from the heat, allowing them to continue growing throughout the hotter months. Knitted shade cloth is popular amongst gardeners because it is also easy to install yourself, has a longer life expectancy than its woven shade cloth counterpart and is also UV resistant – perfect for a classic Australian summer.
Pick your shade density
Your choice of shade density or percentage will depend on what sort of plants you are growing. The density works by letting different amounts of sunlight in to get to your plants, so the percentage you choose will be the percentage of sunlight that is blocked out by the shade cloth. As sunlight is important for plant growth, it is also important to choose the lowest density you can for your plants to ensure they continue to grow healthily with their new shade cloth. If you are curious to know a blanket rule, the general rule of thumb is a 30–50% shade percentage is perfect for vegetables, with most plants thriving at a maximum of 40–60%. If you are growing flowers, especially more delicate plants such as orchids, you may want to find a shade cloth with a higher percentage, as these plants don’t like having too much sun.