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Art Of Redirecting Sunlight For Gardening

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Overhead View Of Mirror Redirecting Sunlight Onto Shaded Garden --- Illustration by Robert Kernodle

The above illustration represents a bird’s-eye view of a semi-circular raised garden bed that I made using found slabs of concrete pavement that somebody jack hammered and dumped into a small patch of woods nearby.

This raised bed is at the edge of these woods, with a stand of tall tress extending 150 feet or more from its rear and running along one side not far away.

Close by, directly across from the garden bed is a densely overgrown oasis of wisteria, wild blackberries, and wild rose bushes that I left in place, after clearing most of the rest of the field (years ago). … There are a couple of small trees nestled within this wild oasis, as well.

The cumulative effect of the small forest and the wild overgrown oasis is to enfold my semi-circular garden bed in shade all day. … Some morning sun filters through, ... some late afternoon sun filters through, ... and just a very small amount of other sun shines through breaks in the leaves at other times of the day.

I was not convinced that this amount of sunlight was sufficient, even for a planned stand of elephant ears, and so I built a mirror to redirect a little more sunlight onto this plot. … To make the mirror panel, I used exterior insulation board covered with highly reflective mirrored plastic sheeting (otherwise known as “mylar”), which I taped into place using Gorilla Tape. … I could find only one company that sold mylar of a suitable thickness (4 mm) and reflectivity (95%).

I attached the mirrored panel made from this mylar to a frame that I made out of concrete reinforcing wire (otherwise known as “remesh”). … I bent the remesh frame into shape by hand, after cutting out corner slots with bolt cutters, effectively forming a thick wire panel that had great stability due to folding at the edges and securing with cable ties. … I essentially sandwiched the mirrored panel on the remesh face between strips of wood that I bolted together, forming a clamp on all four edges of the frame. … I did this, knowing that even the Gorilla Tape would not hold up to weathering, but the clamps would then take over, when the tape eventually failed.

I wanted a mirrored surface that I could leave outside.

After finishing the mirror, I cleared a spot in the wild oasis, and used the remaining natural growth behind it as a means of holding it at a workable angle to redirect sunlight where I wanted it.

I am now sculpting sunlight, hoping that I have created a more optimal environment for my elephant ear project.