A Beginner's questions...

Panoply76(8)November 7, 2012

What, exactly, is meant by full sun? Partial shade, etc?

Just how bad is it to have a lot of clay? Any ways p 'fix' iy - short of miving!

Thanks & Bod Bless,


I recognize this is the question of an absolute beginner, but that is exactly what I am.

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Full sun means it's a good weather. A sunny day. A partial shade means there are clouds in the sky that make shade and might cause some rain.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 12:26AM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

Another way of thinking of 'full sun' and 'partial shade' is to think about which way is south. Plants put in on your south side are going to get lots of sun from dawn to dusk (unless it is blocked by trees, fences, or buildings).

Part sun - planted on the eastern or western side of your house where the sun is blocked for quite a lot of the day by the building/s. East is good for summer plantings but can warm up too soon for some plants over winter and lead to frost damage. West can be hard if you have high temperatures over summer, though plants such as petunias and pelargoniums can probably take it.

Another place for partial sun is in the dappled light under trees or a pergola/garden shade. There are many plants that appreciate growing in this filtered and dappled light. Hostas and japanese maples are two that do.

You asked about clay. On the down side it can be very hard work. It's slow to warm up in spring. It can be soggy in winter. Dig at the wrong time and you can lose the very important soils structure that lets air and food and water get to your plants' roots.

On the plus side - it holds water well and can be nutritious for plants.

Never, but never, add sand to it because some clays will literally set like concrete in the summer dry if you do, and they can be very hard to work after.

If mixing is a challenge for you and you want to plant traditionally (rows and beds) then remove the perennial weeds using either weed killer or someone else's labour (!) and call in the roto tiller people.

Have your amendments on hand - enough compost (bought, if you have to) to put at least an inch over the bed/s you have dug and any plant foods.

If you grow plants quite closely then the soil will stay moist over the summer - and more workable.

Every time you plant something - whether it's a shrub or simply an annual plant - add more compost and gently stir it through the soil.

If you plan to stay in your present house for a while and you keep on adding compost season by season, plus mulching around your shrubs and long-stay plants, your soil will become much easier to work.

Try to keep manures and rough compost on or very near the surface because, as it rots sown, it can give off natural chemicals that will slow the growth of any plants you put in.

If you use 'mature' compost (looks black-brown and smells earthy) you can dig that through more deeply - up to twelve inches - which also lets in more air and water.

The plus about using compost is that it helps the soil hold water better and means less watering/water bills for you.

If you check out 'lasagne gardening' you'll find you can easily garden in compost placed on top of your clay. Over time your soil will improve because the soil creatures will use that compost for food and shelter and work it all through.

Just to say - there is NO powder or liquid fertiliser that can do this for your soil. Neither lime nor gypsum, though each might help.

Horse manure can - and will need some lime to sweeten it every few years or so. Compost definitely can, and it's hard to have 'too much'.

However - don't expect overnight results. With compost - give yourself 6 months lead time - put it on in fall for planting in spring. You'll be thwarted otherwise.

Clay can be a very rewarding soil to work with once you work out (like Goldilocks and the porridge) when is 'just right' to work it - just dry enough to break out of clods easily and into a finer soil fit for seeds and seedlings.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 4:48AM
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