Albuquerque summers, as can be expected, are HOT! Our garden sits in what used to be an empty parking lot, which means shade is limited. Last year, we tried to construct tents out of shade cloth in order to keep our greens from getting scorched, but this made harvesting difficult. The year before, we experimented with flimsy shade tents which didn’t stand a chance against our high desert winds. This year, Bonnie arrived to the first meeting with a plan: Why not install a shade structure?
Here were the factors we considered:
- How can we be sure the plants will still have ample sunlight?
- How can we be sure the plants have access to the desert rains?
- How do we create something stable, yet flexible enough to make it through those high desert winds?
As you can see from the pictures, a lot of man power went into the making of our shade structure. For those so inclined to construct their own, here’s the basic play-by-play of events:
- We began by “planting” the latillas. (20 total). This involved digging a LOT of holes and the process took several weeks and many, many diggers.
- Then, we cut the shade cloth into 9 inch by 60 foot strips. Under windy conditions, it was not easy to mark (with a chalk line) and cut up the shade cloth. However, with the help of many gardeners standing (and lying) on the edges while we marked the chalk lines, and then holding the fabric taut while it was being cut, we got the job done.
- Meanwhile, Lee and his “engineers” drilled holes near the tops of the latillas for cords that would be used to raise cross beams.
- Once everything was ready, we installed those cut strips onto the latilla cross beams using a drill, nylon rope, and a special staple gun.
- We also added some fence wire stabilizers at intervals along the strips. A trial run had shown us that the strips were curling in on themselves when pulled too taught. If you look closely at the pictures, you’ll be able to see the metal pieces attached periodically along the cloth.
- Finally, with stabilizers in place, we raised the strips and our shade structure was born.
So far, our garden is flourishing, and the shade cloth seems to be helping immensely. More pictures soon!