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Shade Gardening Tips

The Martha Stewart Show, April 2008

1. Determine what kind of shade you actually have. Look at your garden at different times of the day -- you might be surprised to observe that you have a half day of shade versus the full shade you thought you had.

2. Determine the soil moisture of your garden. Is it dry shade? Is the soil very moist?

3. Take a soil test. Know if your soil is acid or alkaline -- many of our loveliest shade natives will not survive without specific soil pH.

4. Choose plants that are appropriate for the specific light, moisture, and pH that exists in your garden.

5. Have fun! The fact that most shade plants have reduced flowers allows you to really experiment with combining the shapes and textures of leaves and plants.

6. When mulching and topdressing your shade garden, perennials love composted leaves (leaf mold). For no cost and almost no work, you can recycle fallen leaves to emulate what naturally happens in a woodland. What you'll get is lots of nutrients going back to the soil for your plants, as well as a kind of compost that will build your soil structure -- a must for challenging soils!