Starting a new flower bed? Planting a vegetable garden? Finally replacing those dying shrubs? The beginning of a new gardening season is exciting, but as tempting as it is to jump right in and get growing, there are a few things to consider before putting trowel to soil. First, and most important, is to measure the amount of sunlight your planting space gets.

Sun Stick Labels

Knowing the amount of sun your planting space gets is the first step toward growing a beautiful, thriving garden.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Plumstone

Sun loving daisies

Daisies are a delight – but these beauties require at least 4 hours of sun a day to bloom. Does your garden have enough to keep them happy?

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Sun Sticks

SunSticks are an easy, accurate and affordable way to measure sun levels in your garden.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Plumstone

Shooping in the Garden Center

Choosing plants can be a pleasure or a chore, depending on what you know about your own garden. After measuring your sunlight, check plant tags to be sure the sunlight the plants require is the type of sunlight you have in your garden.

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All plants have specific light requirements – from full sun to full shade. Failing to meet their specific needs can cause various problems, including scorched leaves, leggy growth, bloom failure or even plant death. Not giving your blooming beauties the appropriate amount of light they require is a sure way to kill your dreams of having a healthy, thriving garden – not to mention a great way to throw your money away. All the water, fertilizer and care you lavish on a plant won’t matter if you don’t start off with its most essential need: proper sunlight.

The good news is that measuring the amount of sun your planting space gets isn’t difficult. With some good old-fashioned time, observation and recording, you can note how many hours of sun your planting bed (or patio or deck) receives each day, depending on the season. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have the time (or patience) to get a thorough, accurate light account this way. Another – and easier – way to get a good reading for your garden is to use a light meter. While there are different types available for you to try, one of the easiest and more affordable is the SunStick®.

Developed by a pair of home gardeners to measure outdoor light conditions, the SunStick is a simple light meter that resembles a red daisy. And like a real flower, the SunStick reacts to sunlight: Simply place it in the ground where you’d like to plant, and the “flower” will change color, depending on how much sunlight that area of your yard, garden or patio receives – classifying it as “full sun” (which means the area receives 6-8 hours of sun), “part sun” (4-6 hours), “part shade” (2-4 hours) or “full shade” (up to 2 hours of sun). These classifications are found on all plant labels, whether it’s an annual, perennial, shrub, grass, vegetable, herb or tree, so once you know the kind of sun you’ve got, you can match it with the appropriate plants sold at your garden center. At the end of the day, just compare your SunStick results with the included color chart, and you’ll know how many hours of sunlight your yard receives to help determine what kind of plant should flourish in that particular part of your garden.

Without knowing how much sunlight your garden receives, you can spend several years waiting for plants to bloom only to learn that a particular variety is never going to thrive where you’ve planted it. Misplaced plants either can’t produce enough food energy to power a blooming cycle (too little light) or they may get scorched and stressed (too much light).

But when you know exactly how much sun your outdoor space receives, you can plan your new garden appropriately and pick the right plants that will grow best under those particular sun (or shade) conditions. What’s more, you’ll be one step closer to shedding light on the secrets to great gardening success!