If you’re new to the idea of how to make a sun map, no worries! Until last year, I had never made one myself. But now that I know how to make a sun map, it has revolutionized how I view the growing space in my yard. It’s become so important to me, and my garden coach clients, that I included it as part of my Complete Garden Planner. It’s a must for garden planning whether you have a full veggie garden, container garden, or edible landscaping. (And see the video at the bottom of this post for an example of my sun map.)
What is a Sun Map?
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. I guess the last option is for those who really want to go urban homestead and have farm animals in your yard. We currently do not have chickens after the fox/dog incident of 2017, but I’m hoping to add some back this year.
A sun map can help you know exactly where to put each of the things listed above. This is important in planning the landscape around your home and taking advantage of all that your yard has to offer. For those who live on small lots in town, you may be surprised to find how much full-sun and part-sun growing space you really do have available.
How to make a sun map
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 steps:
1. Grab a blank piece of paper (standard printer paper is fine), a pencil, and a ruler. Imagine the blank space is your property. 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 use 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 orange 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. Her more in-depth instructions for a sun map also delve into where water runs off into your yard, or where it tends to pool. This is important, since there certainly are many plants out there that do not like wet feet. (Kind of like me!)
So, as you jump into making your sun map, use the video below as a help, and imagine all that you could grow in the space you have right now. 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 Amy’s site and her book if you’re interested in learning more about using your yard productively!