In July and August, things in your vegetable garden really start to heat up. High temperatures and full-day sun help the flavors of summer -- tomatoes, peppers, corn, cucumbers summer squash -- to really develop, and produce plenty of tasty fruit. However, the intense sun can scorch tender plants like lettuce, peas, broccoli, asparagus, spinach and other leafy greens.
To remedy this, try covering your spring-season plants with an easy DIY shade screen, which will shield them from the direct sunlight and keep growing all summer. They'll still get enough sun to produce fruit, and the weave of the fabric will still allow for rain and water to reach the soil, as well as evaporate when necessary. The best part is that you can build the whole rig with affordable, easy-to-find materials in under an hour.
Materials and Tools:
- Black nylon tulle fabric -- available at every craft and fabric store. Buy enough for a double layer
- 1/2" PVC pipe
- 1/2" 3-way PVC corner connectors
- 1/2" rebar, 18" long
- Plastic clips, clothespins, or clamps
- Hammer or mallet
- Saw or PVC cutter
2. When you've gathered your materials, begin by staking out your shade with the rebar. Hammer them in halfway into the ground.
3. Cut the PVC pipe to make the legs of your shade the desired height for your plants. Since our lettuces were in a raised bed, we cut ours to 24". Then, hammer the PVC into the ground a few inches to secure.
4. Next, measure the distances between the legs, and cut the PVC to create the front, back, and sides of your shade structure. Attach them with the corner connectors to build up the basic structure.
5. Lastly, cover the structure with the fabric, folded into a double layer and then secure with the clamps or clips. These allow the fabric to be removed for harvesting, watering or other maintenance. You can purchase pricey shade cloth at garden centers and home improvement stores, but the nylon tulle performs the same task, reducing the direct sunlight about 30 percent and bringing the temperature down to tolerable levels for lettuces and greens. The tulle fabric is made from the same material from which they make tents and outdoor furniture, so you can be sure it'll stand up to the elements.
In total, the materials for this cost around $15, and can be easily disassembled and reused season after season.