Where to locate my garden - light issues

Portland, OR

I am located in Portland, Oregon and have a house that faces North. I have heard that you want your garden to face towards the South to get the most sun exposure. The problem is, I have many large trees to the South, especially to the Southeast, so it will be a little tricky picking the exact spot to locate a garden. Since it is not yet summer (and I have not yet spent a summer at my house), I do not know exactly where the light will fall during that time of year. Are there any tricks for figuring this out?

Portland, OR

Also, I did not mention it, but I want this to be a herb/vegetable garden that is practical for cooking.

Moab, UT(Zone 6b)

herb vegetable gardens require like 6 hrs of sunlight.
If your house faces north plant out away from it - but on the other hand if the house faces north does that mean that your back yard [and garden space] is on the south side.?

Sorry if I seem dense here. I'm not used to trying to give garden advice, but this seemed simple enough.

There is a way to see where the sun will be shining in 6 months.... go out and follow the moonlight across your yard. This was something I read somewhere. oh that's not much help is it.?
I'll see if I can find that. ~Blooms

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Martell, a hearty WELCOME to the Site!

As for your garden, 'tis true, the North side of a house tends to get less sun than the South side, however that usually refers to planting "up close" to the house (where the house will be blocking the sun).

If you have a good-sized front yard on the North side you can easily put your garden there, you just have to put it farther away from your house so that the shadow of the house doesn't cover your garden.

As far as you backyard (South side) you mentioned having large trees. Are they shady trees? Skinny trees (allowing light to filter in through them?). And if there are more of them on the Southeast side, are there any on the Southwest side? (Southwest sun will do your plants justice if the number of hours is good.)


Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Herbs and veggies will need more sun, but unless you live in a really wooded area I think there'll at least be a small part of the yard that gets enough sun. My guess would be that the southwest part of the yard would be the place most likely to get the most sun and it sounds like you don't have as many trees over there, so that might be a place to think about unless it's close enough to your house or your neighbor's house that it'll get shaded by them. You also may get more sun than you think on the north side (unless you have big trees there too)--my last house faced north but the area of my front yard that wasn't shaded by trees or the house got more than enough sun to keep my full sun plants happy. When people talk about the north side of a house not being a good place to plant, I think they're usually talking about right up against the house, but if you get out a ways so you're not in the shadow of the house, there can be plenty of sunshine.

Sorry I can't help with any tricks on how to figure out where the sun will be, but I'm guessing you won't be making your garden until spring, so I would watch where the sun is now and the shadows from trees/houses, and pay attention to how those patterns change over the next couple months, and from that you should be able to get a good guess as to where the sunniest part of the yard is going to be. You could always talk to your neighbors too--if they spend a lot of time outside or spent a lot of time with the previous owner of your house they may have a pretty good idea where the sunniest spot will be too.

Moab, UT(Zone 6b)

"In December the Full Moon's path during the night mimics the sun's daytime journey in June, following a long, high arc from approximately ENE to WNW. I found this on the Abrams Planetarium site."

Originally I read the six month thing in a gardening book.

Portland, OR

Thanks for all the advice. The problem is my back yard is much larger than my front yard (we have a really long lot though). Also, I lied- the large trees are to the SW, and they are really large, like a couple hundred feet tall. There are other trees surrounding the yard to the South end, but they are not quite as tall. There are probably also a few I can cut down.

I am attaching a really ugly diagram with an idea of where I think it would work best. Maybe it won't though? You have to imagine the whole yard being surrounded by 10 feet tall trees plus whatever else I drew on.

Thumbnail by Martell
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

You will need to be careful of the shadows coming from the house, and the patio too if it's covered and the 20 ft tree. Is that area in full (or almost full) sun now? How long things are in shade for is going to change some as we move into summer, but if you have shade there for much of the day now, I don't think it's going to all of a sudden turn into full sun in the summertime. And along those same lines, are there any spots in the yard right now that are getting a lot of sun? I'm not sure exactly the scale of your garden, if the backyard is large enough I think there'll be a spot in the middle that will get enough sun, but if the yard is small then it's possible that you'll have too much shade all through the backyard. But if that's the case you should be able to tell now whether you're going to get a lot of sun or not (unless the 100 ft tall trees are all deciduous, then it might give you a false hope of more sun than is really there)

West Orange, NJ(Zone 6a)

My house faces north, my backyard has 40 ft trees all around it, but along one side of my house is an area that gets sun all afternoon through the summer. That's where I have my lilacs, roses, herbs, peonies, and dianthus. Maybe you have a place like that too you can use for your veggies.

Brimfield, MA(Zone 5a)

Hi Martell,

I'm not recommending Jungs, but on page 14 of their catalog, I saw a really neat concept they have for an herb garden. They post it to use for strawberries, but it can be used for herbs too. It's round and the dimensions are 6, 4 and 2 foot diameter and comes with a "complete sprinkling system" (whatever that means). I found it on their webpage, so you can check it out. The reason I thought you might be interested is because you could pretty much fit this anywhere. You can always get the parts at a hardware store or where ever and make your own too. Here is the link: https://www.jungseed.com/jungsite/jungsitebrowse.aspx?SearchText=53310&action=search

edited for spelling

This message was edited Jan 25, 2007 6:57 PM

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

lafko, I've seen those, too. Friends of mine have one and they love it!

I almost bought one years ago but kept thinking, "maybe I can make one". Unfortunately I never got around to it YET!

Good idea though, especially if you only have a small area that gets full sun. You could really grow a lot in an area like that.


Portland, OR

Thanks. My yard is pretty big, 50' wide by 150+' long. Of course space could be an an issue (like was pointed out) if only a tiny area gets light, so I will have to see.

I have been watching the moon and I tried using an astronomy program to calculate where the sun would be in the summer. Next I will be plotting out my yard by the square foot. Hmm, I guess this is what happens when computer geeks try and garden.

West Orange, NJ(Zone 6a)

It's easier, IMO, to take a compass and figure where the sun will be. You can look up and see what trees or building might block the sun. I love computers, but sometimes there's a limit, ya need to go outside sometime!

Moab, UT(Zone 6b)

Martell, I only just noticed you live in gardening heaven: Portland.
At the checkout the other month the clerk glanced at the lush cover picture and said: "Must be Portland" and it was. LOL just a little desert envy there.

Dunnellon, FL

well i live in florida and planted my butterfly garden on the east facing side of my house and it gets more than 6 hrs of sun a day and all plants seem to be very happy, but i see you have a big shade tree sitting where your planning on your garden, how much shade will that give toi that area? can you see the sun hitting that for at least 6 hrs a day?

Wichita, KS

Sunlight on the North Side of your House - Beginning the First Day of Spring

On the first day of Spring ( March 20 ), the sun will start coming Up slightly to the North side of your house and go Down slightly to the North side of your house. As the days
get longer - until the first day of Summer, ( June 21 ), More and more sunlight will fall on the North side of your house. A few hours in the morning. A few hours in the afternoon.
You May have enough sunlight to grow your Herbs and Vegetables if you are a few feet
out of the northern shade of your house. On the first day of Summer, the sun will reverse and start moving towards the south again when it comes up and goes down. It will still fall on the north side of the house in the morning and evening everyday until the First day of fall where it will again come up and go down exactly East and West.
Remember those days when you get up and drive to work with the sun blazing in your face as you drive east in the morning, and again blazes in your face as you come home in the late afternoon? This is around and on the First day of Spring, and the First day of Fall.

You Can plant on the North side of the house if you get enough morning light and afternoon/evening light. If you can get at least 6 hours of sunlight total a day, your in the game. If you go outside at Noon today and see where the shadow falls on the north side of your house. You will be able to figure where you can plant a garden when the sun starts hitting that side of the house in the spring. At noontime, the shadow will have receded By Nearly Half when Spring time comes. And you can just about figure where your garden will fall into the sunlight at Noon come springtime. Add more sunlight time in the morning and more sunlight time in the afternoon as you move into Summer. Don't be afraid to experiment . It can be fun and exciting the things you discover about your garden and gardening. And you will bewilder your friends when you say you grow vegetables on the North side of the house!
Hope this Helps,
Please Check out GrandBobs Garden Blog Here At Daves Garden.
( Gardening for the Fun and Health of It )
My wife thinks I'm crazy, but I'm trying to start onions in January - in Kansas, No less.

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

I was wondering how your project came along over the summer?
I thought I had was that if those shrubs on the back of your property line are really 30-40' tall, Do they have to stay that tall? you could have them pruned down to 10-15' and that would get you I'm sure more light and still have your privacy.


Vicksburg, MS(Zone 8a)

My garden is on the north side of my house and does great. It's about 15- 20 feet from the back of my house and gets plenty of sun in the summer and I get LOTS of garden goodies out of it every year. I believe you could grow plenty of veggies and herbs on your north side. One thing about that large tree--don't plant too close to it's roots. The roots of large trees tend to suck up all available nutrients and water and leave your garden plants to die (been there, done that). You could also consider breaking your garden up a little. If you have some smaller areas in other parts of your yard, you could put small plots of herbs or veggies if you don't have enough room on the north side.

Riverdale, NJ(Zone 6a)

It's probably a bit late to reply, but you could grow herbs this year in pots. You can usually scrounge all the black plastic pots you need from the local nursery/garden center. Most herbs do well in pots. You can move them around to catch the sun, and by next year you will know exactly where to dig.


Hello Martell,

There are so many tools are available in market so resolve the problem. My suggestion is the to start indoor gardening with the help of technology , There are many benefit to start gardening in your home want to see more please follow the link... http://goo.gl/SsFdyS

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Since this thread was started in '07, I think the problem has been solved. If in no other way the OP could have waited a year and watched the sun to see where it moved over the course of a year.

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