Skip to Content

Is 50% shade cloth OK for veggies?


Growing vegetables in the hot summer sun can be challenging. Excessive heat causes plants to wilt, stop producing, and even die. Using shade cloth is an effective way to protect your veggies from scorching temperatures. But how much shade is enough? 50% shade cloth is a good compromise that blocks some sun while still allowing sufficient light for growth.

What is shade cloth?

Shade cloth is a woven fabric that blocks a certain percentage of sunlight. It comes in different density ratings from 30% to 80% shade. The higher the percentage, the less sunlight gets through. Shade cloth is made from polyethylene or polypropylene and has a loose, open weave construction. It’s breathable and allows air flow while reducing direct sun exposure.

50% shade cloth blocks about half the sun’s rays. It cuts the temperature underneath by up to 15°F and reduces harmful UV exposure. It’s an affordable and reusable way to create a cooler, more favorable environment for plants. Shade cloth can be used to cover rows, greenhouses, patios, or other areas. It’s easy to install on support frames or polypipe hoops.

Benefits of 50% shade cloth for vegetables

Using 50% shade cloth for vegetables offers a range of benefits:

– Lowers temperatures to prevent heat stress. Vegetables grow best at moderate temperatures around 70-80°F. Too much heat causes wilting, poor growth, lower yields and bitter taste. 50% shade cools the microclimate while still allowing enough sun for photosynthesis.

– Reduces water needs. Plants shaded from intense sun don’t lose moisture as quickly. Less water evaporates from soil and transpiration from leaves decreases. 50% shade cloth can cut water use by up to 30%.

– Protects against sunburn. Direct sun scorches delicate leaves and fruit. 50% shade prevents sunburn damage while allowing sufficient light exposure. Fruit may develop fuller flavor without harsh ultraviolet rays.

– Provides light diffusion. Direct midday sun can be harsh. 50% shade softens and scatters light for more even coverage. Light penetration and quality improve.

– Cuts wind. The open weave of 50% shade cloth allows good airflow while reducing drying winds. Plants grow healthier with less shock from wind damage.

– Extends growing season. Cooler conditions let plants thrive longer into warm weather. 50% shade can add several weeks on either end of the season.

– Increases yields. With protection from heat, sun, and wind, plants invest more energy into growing lush foliage and producing abundantly.

Potential drawbacks of 50% shade cloth

While 50% shade cloth has many advantages for vegetable gardens, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider:

– Lower light levels. Although 50% shade allows more sun passage than denser fabrics, some plants may not receive sufficient light for ample growth and fruiting. Low light can lead to reduced yields.

– Need for ventilation. On very hot days, even 50% shade may not keep plants cool enough. Providing ends open, sides rolled up, or extra airflow is important to prevent extreme heat buildup.

– Difficulty reaching mature size. If sunlight is too diminished, some vegetable varieties may have stunted growth or not form mature heads, fruit, or pods.

– Legginess or reaching. Seeking sufficient sun, some plants become lanky and lean outside the shade. Support or trellising may be needed.

– Moisture retention on leaves. The cooler, more humid environment under shade cloth can encourage diseases like mildew. Allow air circulation and use fans if needed.

– Added expense. Buying shade cloth, pipes, and lumber represents an upfront cost. This must be weighed against benefits in growth, yield, and season extension.

Best vegetables to grow under 50% shade cloth

Many common vegetables perform well under 50% shade. The best choices include:

– Lettuce & leafy greens – Shade prevents bitterness and bolting.

– Spinach & chard – Grow lusher leaves out of hot sun.

– Peas & beans – Get higher yields without excessive heat.

– Broccoli & cabbage – Form better heads with light diffusion.

– Carrots & beets – Soil stays cooler for good root growth.

– Cucumbers & melons – Reduce sun scalding on fruits.

– Tomatoes & peppers – Set fruit with less risk of blossom drop.

– Radishes & turnips – Quick crops that appreciate shade.

– Onions & garlic – Get larger bulbs by blocking sun.

– Herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, mint, and more grow wonderfully under 50% shade.

Many warm season crops like eggplant, squash, and corn may not receive enough light under 50% shade. But providing shade when plants are young allows them to establish before removing the covers.

Is 50% shade cloth enough for hot climates?

In very hot southern climates or desert regions, 50% shade by itself may not be sufficient. Temperatures under 50% shade can still reach above 100°F on a hot sunny day. Additional ventilation and misting may be needed.

For extremely hot regions, a two-layer system often works better. Use 30% shade overtop of 50% shade. This provides 65% total shade while still allowing adequate light through. Another option is to use 50% shade only during the hottest part of the day, removing it early and late in the day.

Lighter, removable shade cloth is also useful for sudden heat spikes. During a prolonged hot spell or heat wave, an extra 30% layer can be added. Be prepared to adjust and combine shade levels as needed.

Is 50% shade too much for some vegetables?

For plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, and squash, 50% shade may reduce light too much. These love the sun and need maximum exposure for best flowering and fruit production.

However, newly transplanted seedlings of these veggies benefit from 50% shade for a couple weeks as they establish roots. Just be sure to remove shade covers once plants start actively growing.

Cool weather crops like cabbage, kale, and broccoli also want full sun when growing in spring and fall. Go with 30% shade, or use covers only during warm spells.

Watch plant growth and fruiting under 50% shade. Legginess, small pods, or low yields indicate too little light. Be prepared to modify shade levels as needed for specific crops.

Using shade cloth in a greenhouse

Adding 50% shade cloth in a greenhouse provides excellent protection during summer. Cover the roof and possibly side walls with the fabric. This will prevent overheating while allowing sufficient light for most vegetables.

For a hoop house or high tunnel, secure 50% shade over top of the plastic film. Open the doors and sides for ventilation to prevent excess heat buildup. Remove shade cloth in cooler months when sunlight is limited.

In low, enclosed greenhouses, use 30% shade instead of 50% to avoid too much darkness. Make sure fans are providing good air circulation. Shade cloth works beautifully to keep greenhouses productive year-round.

How to install 50% shade cloth

Here are some tips for installing 50% shade cloth:

– Use a sturdy support structure like a PVC frame, timber, galvanized pipes, or polypipe hoops. Shade coverings need firm supports.

– Stretch fabric taut for best shade. Sagging allows hot spots. Use pipe, lumber, or galvanized wire to secure tightly.

– Attach with shade cloth clips, fasteners, belt clamps or fabric tubing. Durable fixing prevents billowing, tearing or collapse.

– Allow for ventilation and airflow. Roll up sides, leave ends open, or install wire screen panels. Prevent heat buildup underneath.

– Use UV-treated and weather-resistant shade fabric. Look for long-lasting, durable materials.

– Consider semi-permanent or movable options. Makes it easier to modify shade percentage as needed.


Installing 50% shade cloth can greatly improve vegetable growth, yields, and quality during hot summers. It reduces heat stress and protects plants while allowing sufficient sunlight for most crops. Best results come from providing good air circulation and ventilation while using quality shade materials. Adjust shade levels as needed to find the right balance for each vegetable type. With 50% shade cloth, gardening is possible even in high heat.

Summary Table

Shade % Benefits Drawbacks
50% – Lowers temperatures 15°F
– Reduces water needs 30%
– Protects against sunburn
– Provides light diffusion
– Cuts wind
– Extends season
– Increases yields
– May be insufficient light
– Need ventilation
– Stunted growth on some plants
– Legginess possible
– Disease risk if poor airflow
– Added expense
30% – Lowers temperatures 10°F
– Reduces water needs 20%
– Protects against sunburn
– Provides light diffusion
– Cuts wind
– Extends season
– Increases yields
– Less cooling and shade protection
– Need ventilation
– Legginess possible
– Disease risk if poor airflow
– Added expense
80% – Dramatic cooling
– Cuts water needs 50%
– Provides deep shade
– Diffuses harsh light
– Stops wind damage
– Disease prevention
– Too little light for good growth
– Extreme reduction in yields
– Legginess likely
– Stunted plants
– Added expense