We all seem to get the itch to plant in spring. It’s the way God designed us. Sun shines, soil warms, man wants to grow huge plants all around side of house to make pretty. Sound familiar? Consider these simple points before loading up the kids and dog for the local nursery.
Remember that we live in a pretty warm zone (Zone 7 for you gardener types). But we also have a decent drop in temperatures over the winter. That means you want to take advantage of passive solar heating in the winter and natural cooling in the summer. Translation? Where you plant the trees and shrubs is just as important as the kind of plants/trees you choose.
Remember from your elementary school science class that the winter sun is lower in the horizon than the summer sun. This means you will receive more sun on the front, southern side of your house in winter and more overhead sun in the summer. (Our last house baked on the west side during late summer afternoons.)
Which way does your house face?
- Plant deciduous trees (ones that lose their leaves) on the southwest corner and west sides. This gives you protection from the scorching sun in summer and allows the heat to warm the house in winter. Even better? Plant a fruit tree. You’ll be cool in the shade and have a snack!
- I‘ve seen reports about planting deciduous trees to shade your outdoor AC unit. Okay, fine, but don’t plant it so close that falling leaves choke it or prevent good air circulation. 24 inches around the unit is sufficient. No thorny bushes please! (Our techs will thank you.)
- Plant shade trees over patios and driveways. How about Muscadine grapes over the hot deck?
- Plant evergreen conifers (or evergreens) as a windbreak on the north and northwest sides of your home to block cold winter winds.
- Avoid planting evergreens on the south side. They will block the sun in the winter when you want the warmth the most.
And call 811 before you dig!
So go outside and do what comes naturally in spring. Just remember to curb your enthusiasm with a little common sense and save money on your heating and cooling costs!