Garden Sun Shade – How to Protect Yourself from the Sun

The sun can be a blessing but also provide challenges for gardeners. On the one hand, sunlight supplies precious Vitamin D for your skin and sustenance for your plants. Yet overexposure to the sun is detrimental to your health and can also damage your garden.

Garden Sun Shade - How to Protect Yourself from the Sun Pinterest pin

As discussed in my beginner tips for gardeners, understanding your garden’s sun and shade requirements is fundamental. The same goes for you, too! Whether you have a sprawling backyard or a cosy balcony, we’ll look through various garden sun shade options and provide tips on how to use them effectively.

I’ll also share advice on personal sun protection measures and the importance of staying hydrated. Try these tips to protect yourself and your garden from too much sun.

Garden Sun Shade and Protection

a garden table under a pergola with curtains

From sunscreen to natural shade, there are plenty of sun protection tools available. Understanding these tools and using them effectively can help protect you and your family from the sun’s harmful rays while enjoying the beauty of your garden.

  1. Apply sunscreen and stay hydrated
  2. Install an awning
  3. Wear sunglasses
  4. Water your plants early or late in the day
  5. Clothing and accessories
  6. Umbrellas and Parasols
  7. Pergolas and gazebos
  8. Natural Shade

1. Appy Sunscreen and Stay Hydrated

a man applying sunscreen

Gardening is generally good for your health. Being in nature boosts your mental well-being and the physical acts of digging up roots, planting seeds, and watering grants you aerobic activities that can help work towards your fitness goals.

However, spending too much time in the sun can also increase your risk of sunburn and skin cancer. To protect yourself against those risks, use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more and a 5-star UVA protection rating.

This will ensure you’re getting broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays, which can be harmful in large doses. Just make sure to reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours or after you get sweaty.

a glass of water with lemons in it

Staying hydrated is just as important as seeking shade when you’re spending time outdoors in the sun. Dehydration can occur quickly on hot, sunny days and can lead to a range of health problems, from minor issues like headaches and fatigue to more serious conditions like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

When you’re in the sun, your body works to cool itself down through sweating. This means that you’re losing water, and if it’s not replenished, you may become dehydrated. Moreover, hot conditions often mean that you’re losing water more quickly than you realize.

Here are some tips to stay hydrated – 

  • Drink water regularly and carry a water bottle with you
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can dehydrate
  • Eat water-rich food such as watermelon, cucumbers and oranges
  • Take breaks to cool down and drink water

2. Install an Awning

a striped awning

You can’t help how much sunshine your garden gets on a daily basis. However, you can control the amount of shade that they get. There are plenty of ways to do this and installing an awning is a popular choice.

Simply putting an umbrella over your plants can shield them from direct sunlight. However, if you want a more long-term fix that gives an added aesthetic to your garden, you can invest in an awning. It will keep your plants from sun overexposure and safeguard them from other adverse weather conditions, such as heavy downpours or strong winds.

For best results, you can purchase a retractable awning that can be extended or retracted according to your needs. 

The major advantage of retractable awnings is their flexibility. You can adjust the amount of shade to suit your needs, and retract the awning completely when it’s not in use, prolonging the lifespan of the fabric and allowing you to enjoy the sun when you want to.

3. Wear Sunglasses

three pairs of sunglasses on a marble surface

When gardening in the sunlight, you also need to protect your eyes. The same UV rays that can hurt your skin can also damage your eyesight by causing photokeratitis, also known as corneal sunburn.

It can also lead to conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration in the long run.

To counter this, wear protective eye gear. It’s best to purchase durable sunglasses suited for the work you do in the garden. Glasses Direct offers specs from reliable brands like Ray-Ban and Arden, which come in various designs to fit your functional needs.

If you wear glasses, for example, you can get sunglasses with prescription lenses for convenience. You can also get pairs with polarised lenses for better visual clarity.

4. Water Your Plants Early or Late in the Day

a person watering their garden plants

One of the best ways to keep your plants healthy in hot weather is to hydrate them. However, water drains fast during dry seasons, so if you don’t want to continually pour buckets and potentially overwater your plants, be strategic in how you do it.

A simple tip is to water your garden early in the morning or late at night to ensure your plants can drink down to their roots before the day’s heat evaporates what water you have given them.

Also, watering during these times will help you avoid working during the hottest times of the day and ensure your plants get their daily shower while protecting yourself from sun overexposure.

5. Clothing and Accessories

a sun hat and watering can in a garden

UV-protective clothing can provide a physical barrier between your skin and the sun’s harmful rays. This kind of clothing is often rated with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) that indicates how much of the sun’s UV radiation can penetrate the fabric.

The higher the UPF, the better the protection. Light-coloured, loose, long-sleeved clothes made from UV-resistant materials are an excellent choice for sun protection.

A hat, particularly a wide-brimmed one, provides additional protection by shading your face, ears, and the back of your neck – areas that can be particularly sensitive to sun exposure. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends hats with brims of at least three inches for effective sun protection.

6. Umbrellas and Parasols

a sunflower fabric parasol in a garden with sunflowers on a bistro set table and chairs

Umbrellas and parasols are simple, portable, and cost-effective solutions to provide shade in your garden. They can be easily installed and moved around as per your needs.

Garden or patio umbrellas, similar to rain umbrellas, consist of a canopy made from weather-resistant fabric that is supported by metal, wooden, or plastic pole and ribs. The umbrella’s canopy is designed to block the sun’s rays, creating a shaded area beneath it.

The term parasol is often used interchangeably with umbrella, but traditionally, parasols were lightweight devices designed specifically for sun protection (whereas umbrellas were intended for rain). However, in modern usage, especially regarding garden furniture, the terms are often considered synonymous.

When choosing an umbrella or parasol for your garden, consider the size, material, UV protection offered by the fabric, ease of use (opening, closing, and adjusting the angle), and the sturdiness of the base.

Some umbrellas and parasols also come with additional features such as built-in lights for evening use or vents for wind resistance.

7. Pergolas and Gazebos

a pergola with retractable shade in a contemporary garden

Pergolas and gazebos are beautiful outdoor structures that not only add a sense of style and sophistication to your garden but also provide substantial shade, making outdoor living spaces more comfortable and usable throughout the day.

While a traditional pergola has an open roof designed to support climbing plants or vines that provide shade, modern pergolas can be equipped with a variety of shading options.

Retractable canopies or shade cloths can be added to the top of the pergola for additional sun protection. When vines are grown on them, they not only provide shade but also create a beautiful and serene green space.

A gazebo is a freestanding, often octagonal structure with a solid, pitched roof and open sides that provide a panoramic view of the surrounding area. Gazebos are typically used as a spot to relax and enjoy the outdoors while being protected from the sun and rain.

The solid roof of a gazebo provides more shade than the open roof of a traditional pergola, making gazebos a great option for areas with intense sunlight. They are often larger and more enclosed than pergolas, which provides additional protection from the elements. Better yet, consider installing a star structure shelter, such as those built by Greenline, for a more architectural look. 

8. Natural Shade

a tree shading a corner of a garden

You can use the plants in your garden to provide the shade you need without having to buy additional items! Natural shade from trees and tall shrubs is not only a functional choice for sun protection in your garden, but it also adds beauty and contributes to the overall atmosphere of your outdoor space. 

Trees and shrubs can beautify your garden in a way that artificial structures cannot. They provide a natural look and feel that blends seamlessly with the outdoor environment. Over time, as they grow and mature, they can become stunning focal points in your garden.

Once established, trees and shrubs require relatively little maintenance compared to other shade structures. Besides routine trimming and watering, they can provide shade year after year without any additional costs.

Trees and shrubs can also help lower the temperature of your garden in the summer by blocking the sun’s rays and through a process called transpiration, where water evaporates from the leaves, cooling the surrounding air.

However, it’s important to consider that growing trees and tall shrubs for shade requires time, patience, and space. The type of tree or shrub, its size, shape, and the direction of sunlight at different times of the day are all factors to consider when planning for natural shade.

Choose species that are appropriate for your climate and soil conditions, and keep in mind their size at maturity to ensure they don’t interfere with power lines or buildings.

In addition, deciduous trees can provide shade in the summer while letting in light during the winter, whereas evergreen trees will provide consistent shade year-round.

garden parasol and dining table and chairs in a garden

Sunlight is a blessing to you and your garden if you’re exposed to it in the right amounts.

Remember, the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so it’s best to avoid prolonged outdoor activities during this time if possible. And even when you’re in the shade, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation can still reach you, so ensure to take precautions.

Each type of sun shade has its own set of benefits and considerations, so it’s crucial to choose the ones that best suit your needs, preferences, and the size and style of your garden.

By integrating sun protection into your outdoor space, you can create a comfortable, health-conscious environment that allows you to fully enjoy the outdoors while staying safe from the sun’s harmful effects.

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