How to Build Simple Garden Shades

So, out here in Arizona, all your work, toil and effort in your garden can be quickly eradicated when the triple digit degrees come. Luckily, there are ways to extend the life of your garden.  In our case, we have two raised garden beds that are on the north side of our house.  This helps with the sun exposure factor, but in the early summer days, it can still get quite intense.  If there’s a way to save basil, tomatoes and Italian parsley from this heat effect without shade, we haven’t found it.

That’s where these garden shades come in.  Well, I don’t know if they’re actually specifically made for the garden, but this material is a great solution.  It can be used for patio coverspergolas (stay tuned for this article coming soon as our 1st attempt with the burlap only lasted about one season), gardens, greenhouses and could probably be used as shade sails, too.

What is it?

The material is a nylon-type, knitted and lock-stitched fabric we purchased called the Easy Gardener™ Sun Screen Shade Cloth that we got from Home Depot for around ~$35.  It comes in various sizes.  The 6’ x 20’ roll was perfect for us because our beds are ~4’ x 8’. All I did was unroll it and cut the 20 foot length in half.

raised garden bed_artichokes

Here are a few of our artichokes growing in our raised garden beds. There are two bigger ones and 3 or so smaller ones just popping out.

If you recall, these are the same beds where we planted the peas a few months ago.  The pea trellisworked great, but our peas suffered an early death.  We’re still not sure what happened. They were doing great, UNTIL we started training them on the trellis in that picture. Still confused – early heat, insect problem, watering issue..?? The excitement over the artichokes we have growing have helped to soften the blow! 🙂

Garden Shade Frame Structure

In any case, we opted for the ‘low tech’ version of a garden canopy for our raised planting beds. You can see the basic design in the photos.  All it requires in materials is rebar (1/2”) and PVC pipe (1/2”) and some 1/2” elbow fittings. (and some clamps for the model you see, ha!)

How to Assemble the Frame

garden shades_pvcStep 1: It is as simple as hammering your rebar into the soil as far as you need to get the stability you need, for the height of the shade as is necessary.  With our raised bed, this meant putting them inside the corners, but it would be just as easy to lay out a square or rectangle shape on the ground, too. I purchased the 20’ x ½” rebar and cut them to 5’ lengths.  Each 20 footer was ~$6.50. This saves quite a bit of money as the 6’ pre-cut rebar pieces are close to ~$5 each.

Step 2: Make the PVC ‘supports’. These fittings are all just pressed, I didn’t bother with the whole PVC glue thing.  The PVC fits right over the rebar.

Step 3: Hang the garden shade cloth material over the PVC and clamp.  You can see some sag in there because they lack that side PVC support* I was originally going to use.  With wind and weather, I may have to fabricate some type of lateral support. Time will shades_clamp

For now, these do the trick. The sun is blocked in the intense hours of the day, while allowing the plants to get sun for growth. Depending on how your garden is shaped and how large it is, you can use this same type of design for your garden shades. If you come up with a cool design, please send a photo. Happy shady summer days!

*Normally, I end up doing an ‘overkill’ job when it comes to the engineering aspects of my designs.  For example, I would have liked to use a ‘Y’ shaped PVC fitting that would have given me a perpendicular attachment pipe between the two longer sides of the shade’s frame.  One, I couldn’t find such fittings at my local Home Depot that were un-threaded on one end. Two, it isn’t required.


Since this shade cloth screen material is quite airy, it allows air to flow through and doesn’t need to be permanently fixed – hence the clamps you see.  Now, we do have plans to stitch those, so that they can be slid over the PVC, like a curtain on a rod.  But, you know how those types of projects get shoved down the list over time.

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