How to Build Backyard Shade

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Shade not only makes a gathering spot cool and comfortable, it can also protect plants and save on your home’s cooling costs. Shade can be built into your landscape in several ways, but the simplest methods typically involve the use of plants, such as trees and shrubs, and structures, such as fences, pergolas and gazebos.

Cooling Patios and Decks

  • A patio or deck that bakes in the afternoon sun isn’t appealing, but shade can be built in these areas with arbors, pergolas or lattice panels. Pergolas with supporting beams and rafters, and simple arbors are often used to support vining plants. The plants can provide shade, as can the structures. A lattice panel along the side of your patio or deck with vines growing up is a simpler way to provide shade. Vines and lattice panels provide the most shade when planted on the south and west sides of the area you’re shading.

Shading Large, Empty Areas

  • Gazebos are an attractive way to provide shade in a large, empty area of the landscape. A gazebo provides a shaded seating area that allows fresh hair to blow through, adds visual interest to your yard, and if screened, keeps biting pests out. Gazebos typically have eight sides and a solid roof. The sides may be made of framed screens or half-walls made of a solid a material such as wood. You can find gazebo kits at garden centers and hardware stores, or hire a contractor to build a custom gazebo.

Create Shady Corners

  • Use trees and shrubs to focus on small areas that would benefit from shade, such as walkways or seating areas. Plant a few small trees, such as crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia spp.), which vary in hardiness between U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 and 10, depending on species, or flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), which is hardy in zones 5 through 9, to create a cool corner for relaxing.

    To shade a portion of your house or a large deck, tall trees, such as maple (Acer spp.), hardy in USDA zones 5 and 9, depending on species, or oak (Quercus spp.), which vary in hardiness as well, with many hardy between zones 3 and 10. You can also scatter small plantings of two or three trees around your landscape. To provide optimum shade for decks or patios plant small trees or shrubs on the south and west sides of these structures. Use large deciduous trees on the east, west and southwest sides of the landscape to shade large structures or spaces.

Don't Forget Your Garden

  • Some garden plants find the intense afternoon sun deadly, but a hedge or fence along a garden edge can bring relief to the plants as well as a seating area. Evergreen shrubs such as cedar (Cedrus spp.), hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9, boxwood (Buxus spp.), hardy in zones 5 through 8, and juniper (Juniperus spp.), which range in hardiness depending on species, with many hardy in zones 3 through 9, provide shade all year. Flowering shrubs such as viburnum (Viburnum spp.), hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8, oleander (Nerium spp.), hardy in zones 8 through 10, and magnolia (Magnolia spp.), which vary slightly in hardiness depending on species, with many hardy in zones 5 through 9, also add color and fragrance.

    Fences require less maintenance than hedges, and you only need one or two panels along the sides of a garden to add shade. Fencing can also be used to shade a seating area or a pond. Add some visual interest and texture to a garden fence by hanging planter boxes along the top or planting climbing vines at the base.

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