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May 3, 2009 08:08 AM

full sun/partial shade....what do these really mean

I am planning where to plant things, trying out some new areas. I am watching where the sun falls right now, however being quite far north our sun always stays in the south, even in the summer it never gets directly above.

when my books or seed packs say 'full sun' does this mean direct sun for 8 hrs a day? how many hrs of shade does partial shade mean?

I was planning a whole bunch of new veg in the front of my house (west facing), but I am second guessing, just because of where the eves and trees are, they get a lot of shade until about 3pm, then sun for the rest of the day/eve which is till about 10pm.

any suggestions/thoughts?

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  1. At our old house we had far more shade than I thought because of trees surrounding the yard. I've ready that morning sun is best, probably because it dries damp foliage which helps prevent disease. I think full sun is supposed to be at least 6 hours and preferably including morning sun. I think another factor might be the temperature. Your garden would be cooler than one with more sun. At our old house, my perennials were about 2 weeks behind my MIL's because of all the trees and shade.
    Do you have the option of using containers in a sunnier area for things like tomatoes and peppers?

    1. According to this website:

      Full Sun: At least 6 full hours of direct sunlight. Many sun lovers enjoy more than 6 hours per day, but need regular water to endure the heat.

      Partial Sun / Partial Shade: These 2 terms are often used interchangeably to mean 3 - 6 hours of sun each day, preferably in the morning and early afternoon. However if a plant is listed as Partial Sun, greater emphasis is put on its receiving the minimal sun requirements.

      This information more or less jives with my understanding of the terms. For full sun, assume the plant needs at least 6 hours of sun per day. Hope this helps!

      3 Replies
      1. re: DMW

        thanks this all helps.

        I have a large garden in my backyard, but also wanted to make use of some beds in my front yard (which faces west). I thought that the front would get a lot more sun than it is seeming to. I was planning tomatos/peppers etc, but there is no way they will get enough sun. So I am revising it to be a lettuce garden up front. I will also include some radish, parsley and maybe try a cucumber. This will work just fine.

        1. re: cleopatra999

          Lettuce will do better with less sun at the height of summer so I would choose the shadiest spot you have for it. Heat will make it bolt early. The other plants you mentioned might do well there though.

          Full sun/part sun means different things to people in different areas. For example, here in the SF Bay area where it doesn't really get that hot, I have an area of my garden that gets regularly warms up to 90F despite only 3 hours of afternoon sun from about 1pm til 4pm. This area is surrounded by fences and high trees that break the wind. Everything I plant there fails because the sun/heat is too intense during that time but too shady the rest of the time. So, not sunny enough for full sun plants, but too hot for part shade plants. It pays to take into account temperatures as well as light when making your selections.
          Good luck.

          1. re: toastnjam

            Ya, I think this year will just be an experiment. the front does not get an sun until about 3pm right now, but in the summer it will be about 1 or 2 when the sun hits it. plus there is a window right behind the box that will reflect a bit more heat/light. It will be interesting!