How to Make a Sun Map (and Why You Need One!)

2 Materials
30 Minutes

Spring is coming, and that means gardens, plants, and more time spent outside growing. How do you know the best areas of your yard to grow full sun, part sun, and low sun plants? Create a sun map of your yard!

Despite what it sounds like, sun mapping is not making a map of the Sun. I feel like a large ball burning gas would be hard to map. A sun map though is a map of the sun’s presence in your yard. Simply put, you observe and map to assess how many hours of sun each area of your yard receives in a given day. 

Why Make a Sun Map?

If you’re interested in growing anything in your yard, then knowing how to make a sun map is essential. A sun map will help you to see what areas you can use for plants that require full sun, partial sun, and low sun. It can also help you map out the best areas for growing a vegetable garden, putting a compost pile, or placing a chicken coop.

No permaculture degree is required to make a sun map of your yard, but I do recommend not doing a your map in the dead of winter. Late winter or early spring work if you’re trying to make a map for your  spring garden would be just fine. But I notice areas of our yard get less sun during the winter months due to shorter days. Just take this into consideration if you are trying to make a sun map in late December. Now, onto the supplies:

  1. Blank, unlined paper
  2. Colored pencils (3)
  3. Ruler

The Instructions:

1. On a blank piece of paper, draw your home approximately where it sits on your land/yard. Don’t forget to include driveways and walkways, as well as hedges and trees.

2. Grab 3 colored pencils (I used yellow, red, and blue). Any colors will do; just make sure they’re different.

3. Shade in yellow the areas of your yard that receive more than six hours of sunlight per day.

4. Shade in red the areas that receive 4-6 hours of sun per day.

5. Shade in blue the areas that receive less than 4 hours of sun per day.

6. Use your map to plan where you will plant your garden, shrubs, fruit trees, and bushes so that they receive the proper amount of sunlight for optimal growth. 

Learning to make a sun map isn’t difficult, but it does require a bit of observation. I first learned about creating sun maps in Amy Stross’s book  The Suburban Micro-Farm. Amy blogs at the  Tenth-Acre farm, and even though she no longer lives on a suburban micro-farm, she has fantastic articles and resources for using every square inch of space your yard provides. I can’t think of a better use for flower beds and open yard area than for growing fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and even grains. Check out her site and her book if you’re interested in learning more about using your yard productively!

Resources for this project:
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Courtney |The Kitchen Garten
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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