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In hot climates around the world, vegetables and cut flowers are grown under shade cloth to reduce heat and light intensity, resulting in better quality and higher yields. Shade cloth is a weather-resistant woven or knitted fabric that is available in densities ranging from 12 percent to 90 percent. The density represents the percentage of light blocked by the cloth; for example, a 47 percent shade cloth blocks 47 percent of the light. Most vegetables should be grown under 30 to 50 percent shade. Shade cloth with density of greater than 50 percent is generally used for shade-loving plants or as windbreaks.
The key to success with shade cloth is to hang it high enough above the plants, and provide enough ventilation that heat does not build up beneath it. That's easily accomplished in a hoophouse or a specially built shade structure such as those seen at nurseries. An inexpensive alternative is a low tunnel made with Johnny's Quick Hoops Bender. Shade cloth can be laid over the Quick Hoops, with the sides uncovered for maximum ventilation.
The shade cast by buildings and tall plants such as corn also can be used to relieve some of the heat for heat-sensitive crops. Choosing varieties with good leaf cover to shade fruits such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, can be helpful, too.
Providing shade of any type can reduce the ambient temperature around your plants by 10 degrees F. or more - in some cases, enough to keep plants from going dormant in the hottest weather.
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Reprinted from JSS Advantage August 2010