Where to grow
Column 4 in Homegrown, Weekend Magazine, Sunshine Coast Daily, by Zaia Kendall
My husband Tom always says that if you want to confuse him, give him a tree for a present. He will take ages to determine what the best position is for the tree. We have had trees in our nursery for years while Tom decides where to put them.
Positioning your plants is tricky, you have to think about light, shade, shelter against wind or sun, residual heat sources and more. You also need to assess how much care the plant needs, so you know whether it needs to be somewhere close by and where you regularly visit or can be further away from common areas.
Think about the size of the adult plant or tree and any possible issues you may get from sun or a cooling breeze being blocked out by larger vegetation.
If you have a brick wall that faces west for example, this wall will retain a lot of afternoon sun heat. This means that heat sensitive plants will basically fry in that location. Hardy sun loving plants are better in that location, like cacti and other succulents. They need little watering and love the afternoon (hot) sun.
Or you may want to plant lots of thick vegetation along your west wall to cool down the inside of the house. If you still want to heat the house in winter, you can make the vegetation deciduous. Plants and trees of different heights and different varieties can work well together to cool areas.
You can use vegetation as a fire or wind break, as screening from the neighbours or the road, for cooling and shading and of course as food. A lot of plants and trees can function in more ways than one.
Think about a grape vine instead of a shade sail, trees and shrubs instead of fencing and veggie gardens instead of lawn. Assess where the sun comes and goes, what are your “hot spots”, where predominant breezes come from and whether you would like to catch those breezes or block them. If you want to encourage more cooling breezes, plant trees and plants that allow the breeze to move through them before it goes through the house. This will cool the breeze down. Temperature underneath trees can be up to 6 degrees C cooler! When the breeze moves through the trees, it will cool the air down. For example, if you get predominant southerly breezes and would like it cooler in summer but sheltered in winter, you want to plant trees and shrubs on the south side of your house. This will then cool the southerly breezes in summer, but shelter the house from the cooler wind in winter.
Similar principles apply for container gardening. You will need to look at sun angles. You may be a bit more limited in what you can grow. Do you have a balcony or courtyard that barely gets sun? Look at plants that can grow in those conditions. Chat with your neighbours, they may have an area that does get a lot of sun, and you can co-operate and each grow plants that are ideal for those areas and trade once they are mature and edible.
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