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Shade Tree Solutions

How to thin canopy trees to produce more light in a shady yard

By Maureen Gilmer, landscape designer, author and LandscapingNetwork.com columnist
shade garden
The canopies of these old shade trees are regularly thinned to allow enough sun to penetrate to support a diverse garden.

Trees are the most common cause of problem shade in home landscapes. Dense trees block sunlight from entering the house, or create perpetually cold damp conditions beneath where nothing will grow. The solution is to change the density of a tree canopy in order to reduce the amount of shade it casts. The technique is called "canopy thinning" and must not be confused with topping or radical pruning. Proper thinning is routinely done by certified arborists trained to thin a tree without damaging its health, strength or form. Insist on a professional certified by the International Society of Arboriculture.

Beware: Canopy thinning is no problem for trees on your lot, but if the shade is created by street trees or others in the public domain, they belong to the city. Before you begin, check with your local Department of Public Works to find out if you can thin street trees that influence the shade in your yard.

Related:
Create the Illusion of Sun Dappling
Shady Shrubs for North Foundations
Add Excitement to Shade With Perennials

Maureen Gilmer
Morongo Valley, CA

Maureen "Mo" Gilmer is a landscape designer, author, and speaker about horticulture topics and landscape design.