When Full Sun Doesn’t Mean MY Full Sun

I find myself feeling hopeful today. Nothing is really different. School is back in session, so the kids and I are still flailing around trying to get into some kind of rhythm that works. The house is still a mess, even though I have been in here hiding from the sun for over a month now. I have kids, dogs, cats, and birds. It probably won’t be clean for another six years, if I’m lucky.

What was I saying?

Oh, yes. I am feeling hopeful. That is because there is a shift happening. I can feel it. It is still outrageously hot out. Disgustingly hot. So hot that I have to water and care for my plants in short little bursts at an ungodly hour of the morning.

But change is coming and I can feel it. The temperature dropped to a cool 104℉ today. There is a breeze. Fall is coming y’all. Finally!

Surveying my garden of lovingly and meticulously cared for plant babies, I await fall’s arrival with impatience and hope. Some of my babies are really struggling, despite all of the precautions I took. I carefully selected heat and drought tolerant varieties of plants, kept them well watered, and mulched deeply. I sang to them, entertained them with true crime podcasts, and encouraged them with compliments and motivational speeches, but they still look pitiful.

Well, some of them look pitiful.

Not all. Just all of the plants in full sun. Which brings me to my point. I am going to reveal the secret that gardening experts have kept hidden from me for so long. When they say a plant absolutely HAS to have FULL sun, they don’t mean Texas full sun. 

The number of hours that a plant is supposed to receive unobstructed sunlight is some important data to have. Unfortunately, 2 hours in the sun down here feels like the equivalent to 15 hours anywhere else. It is so hot and intense that it makes my ears ring. 

Looking at the landscape in my area, I know that I am not alone. The only garden spots that are still alive and thriving are in the shade. I have evidently chosen to live in a sunblasted wasteland and need to remember that the term “full sun” is relative. Nothing is happy in “full sun” here. Plants, animals, humans, all seem to combust in the direct glare of Texas’ daystar.

Next year…

I plan to rework the layout. I can’t just put the plants that require full sun into the shade because they will not like that either. They can be so picky. Sun loving plants will go on strike and produce neither fruit nor foliage if they are even slightly deprived. 

I am thinking about building some temporary shade structures. Possibly putting up portable awnings that filter light instead of blacking it out. I have a friend that used something similar in her garden and it looks like she had better results than I did this year.

So…

If you live in the American south and are frustrated at the great plant die off that seems to happen in July, know that you are not alone. We are in this together. Gardening is more magic and art than science sometimes and you just have to roll with what gets thrown at you. Go back to the garden journal and try again.

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