Garden Planning: Filling Out Rest of Shade Row

The western most row of my garden will receive the most afternoon shade. As a result, the rest of the space not occupied by hops crowns will be planted with more shade tolerant plants.

Mother Earth News and this chart gives options for shade tolerance and produce (all errors and typos preserved from source):


Crop Shade Notes Growing Tips
Arugula At least three to four hours of sun per day. Arugula welcomes shade, as this crop is prone to bolting as soon as the weather turns warm if in full sun.
Asian greens At least two hours of sun per day. Asian greens such as bok choi (also spelled “pac choi” and “pak choi”), komatsuna and tatsoi will grow wonderfully with a couple hours of sun plus some bright shade or ambient light.
Chard If you grow chard mainly for its crisp stalks, you will need at least five hours of sun per day; if you grow it mainly for the tender baby leaves, three to four hours of sun per day will be enough. Expect chard grown in partial sade to be quite a bit smaller than that grown in full sun. Baby chard leaves are excellent cooked or served raw in salads.
Culinary herbs At least three hours of sun per day. While many culinary herbs need full sun, chives, cilantro, garlic chives, golden marjoram, lemon balm, mint, oregano and parsley will usually perform well in shadier gardens.
Kale At least three to four hours of sun per day. You’ll notice only a small reduction in growth if comparing kale grown in partial shade with kale grown in full sun.
Lettuce At least three to four hours of sun per day. Lettuce is perfect for shadier gardens because the shade protects it from the sun’s heat, preventing it from bolting as quickly. Often, the shade can buy a few more weeks of harvesting time that you’d get from lettuce grown in full sun.
Mesclun One of the best crops for shady gardens. Grows in as little as two hours of sun per day and handles dappled shade well. The delicate leaves of this salad mix can be harvested in about four weeks, and as long as you leave the roots intact, you should be able to get at least three good harvests before you have to replant.
Mustard greens At least three hours of sun per day for baby mustard greens. Mustard grown for baby greens is best-suited for shady gardens.
Peas and beans At least four to five hours of sun. If growing these crops in partial shade, getting a good harvest wil take longer. Try bush and dwarf varieties rather than pole varieties.
Root vegetables At least four to five hours of sun per day for decent production. Beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes and turnips will do OK in partial shade, but you’ll have to wait longer for a full crop. The more light you have, the faster they’ll mature. Alternatively, you can harvest baby carrots or small new potatoes for a gourment treat that would cost an arm and a leg at a grocery store.
Scallions At least three hours of sun per day. This crop does well in partial shade throughout the growing season.
Spinach At least three to four hours of sun per day. Spinach welcomes shade, as it bolts easliy if in full sun. If you grow it specifically to harvest as baby spinach, you’ll be able to harvest for quite a while as long as you continue to harvest the outmost leaves of each plant.


Another consideration is shade-tolerant currants. However I will reserve these to grow on the garden boundary fence that get the most shade from the tall silo.

Peas are removed from consideration as they are already planned to be grown with corn and sunflowers in more sunny spots. Herbs deserve their own post so they will not be included here either.

The shadiest row has an abundance of space so both salad greens and highly marketable plants can be included. Considering brassicas reported affinity for rhubarb means that mustard (for greens and seeds), collard greens and kale will be experimented with in the spring while cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower can be added in the fall. Additionally, columbine flowers and numerous salad greens will be planted adjacent to rhubarb and compared to those grown away from the plant.

Therefore I will be filling out the shade row with Arugula, Chard, Kale, Lettuce, Mesclun (as a premixed salad that can be harvested directly as a mix), Mustard, and Spinach. Lettuce is really the only plant with varietal considerations so it will be planted in thirds: 1/3 will be iceberg (head) lettuce, 1/3 will be romaine, and 1/3 will be batavia. Considering aphids, companions will be planted along side the lettuce, but I have not yet determined which herbs or flowers to use.

Quickly weighting the plants by preference gave me the final amount of 1 square foot spaces to dedicate to each plant. Spacing requirements were determined entirely from this PDF from Virginia Tech.

Here is how the shade row looks all mapped out with spring plantings:



Cattle, Chicks, Side Projects

Experiment: Growing Bamboo for fodder

Turns out just about every livestock animal enjoys bamboo at different stages of its growth. Chickens will eat new shoots, cows/horses will graze the foliage and goats will browse any part of it that isn’t overly mature/woody.


About Bamboo:

I’ll always remember a poem from one of my rather-hippie forest ecology professors:

“Sedges have edges, rushes are round, grasses have joints unless there are cops around.”

Therefore, bamboo is technically a grass!

Found on bamboofarmingusa,com, 2 laboratory analysis reports were shared that break down the nutrient content of bamboo.

From Dairy One Forage Testing Laboratory (PDF Link):



From the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Customer Services:


The crude protein figures above are high enough to be considered a “Premium” grass hay by USDA guidelines (retrieved from Oregon State University). Bamboo requires significant amounts of nitrogen so some sort of legume ground cover (likely peas or clover) would be a natural companion for the bamboo stands.

Letting animals graze bamboo also has the subjective benefit of breaking the monotonous boredom of extended hay feeding. As bamboo is an evergreen perennial, the stands could be opened to grazing in winter. I am not sure how nutrient composition changes with winter dormancy though.

Containing the potentially invasive bamboo:

Growing up in a metropolitan area that has spent countless resources battling the encroachment of bamboo, I want to take steps to ensure it remains contained. Originally meant for containing hops plants from taking over the garden, physical root barriers were actually invented with bamboo in mind.

Here are my two favorites on Amazon:

18″ x 100 ft

24″ x 100 ft


Time will tell how this experiment goes!

A friend brought up an interesting point in a comment on yesterday’s blog post. There is a species of bamboo native to Virginia and the Southeast US called Giant Cane. He provided a descriptive PDF from the USDA that explains the historical value and use of the plant. My favorite passage states:

According to environmental
historian Mart Stewart (2007), “Modern studies
have established that cane foliage was the highest
yielding native pasture in the South. It has up to
eighteen percent crude protein and is rich in
minerals essential for livestock health.” Livestock
eagerly eat the young plants, leaves, and seeds and
stands decline with overgrazing and rooting by hogs
(Hitchcock and Chase 1951).

Which demonstrates the plant is on par with bamboo as a nutrition source for livestock. Not to mention the renewable building material provided by mature stems. I could build chicken coops, green/hoop houses, storage sheds, etc. Interesting stuff to say the least!

General Pasture

Calculating Fencing Costs

Full digitization of fence lines and posts in GIS software makes the basic calculations simple. GIS provides geometry of the digital features including fence length:

Total Length of Permanent Fencing

(In “Sum” field)


Also determined by GIS, I have 26 wooden corner posts and 162 steel line posts in the full phase fence plans. Breaking it down to Phase 1-only shows a need of 23 wood and 119 steel posts.

Those figures alone let me derive most of the other materials needed in simple excel formulas. For example, each wood post requires insulators for both the spark and ground wires, while the leaving the steel posts uninsulated to the ground wire acts to ground it! However I am still trying to research if it is desirable to only leave the steel posts uninsulated at specific intervals. I am also debating if I need to install a gate at every paddock. For now the last question is factored in as affirmative.

For Phase 1 Fencing:

Fence Calc P1

Now with 3 wires added for phase 2 plans, the calculations are as follows:

Fence Calc P2

Other than buying the animals themselves, this should be the biggest investment I have to make!


Calculating Cattle Needs

In my previous post, I decided to start with a paddock size of 5,000 square feet. Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm has recommended in the past to use 200 square feet per cow-calf pair per day.

I adapted that figure to 300 square feet per pair per day as the pasture I will be using has been unmaintained for about a decade. So until I see how much the cattles graze, I am going to be very conservative. The beauty of Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing (MIRG) is that I can easily change on the fly if required.

So theoretically, each daily-use paddock: (5,000 ft^2) / (300 ft^2/pair/day) means I can support 16 and 2/3 cow-calf pairs a day.

I made an interactive spreadsheet to automate these calculations for different scenarios, but I will save that until I dig more into the economics of cattle.



Brief Overview: Grazing Sciences

Cows are picky if given the opportunity to selectively graze. They will return to the most delicious grasses as soon as new growth appears while letting the less palatable (but equally nutritious) grasses reach maturity (thus no longer nutritious), seed and eventually crowd out the good stuff. With the Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing (MIRG) system, the animals are given the exact amount of pasture that they can eat in 24 hours before being moved to a fresh paddock which encourages the animals to take a more “mowing” approach opposed to selective. Each paddock is rested until it regenerates.

Grass grows on an “S” curve as demonstrated by this excerpt from the California Grazing Association’s publication titled Principles of Controlled Grazing (PDF):


Since I am working with so little land (~6 Acres with trees removed), I want to manage it as efficiently as possible. The next question is how much do I let the grazers mow the paddocks? According to these fantastic demonstrations on Forage Decision Aids by the University of Kentucky, we can directly compare the regeneration of Orchard Grass of the 6 days following simulated grazing to 3.5 inches vs mowed all the way down to 1″.

Combined with various different university studies, most grasses regenerate best when grazed to ~10 cm. At this length, grasses retain enough photosynthetic tissue to create the energy required for regrowth without having to use reserves stored in the root system.