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How to choose a shade cloth that is just right for your crop, home, or parking area, and how each type of shade netting affects your plants!

Learn here which type of shade net that it is that you need.

It is a satisfying experience to see how fast your crops of flowers and produce grow in the spring.  Temperatures are comfortable and it’s a friendly environment for your plants.  As summer approaches and outside temperatures begin to rise, you begin to water your plants at shorter intervals. 

But have you thought about putting up solar protection for your plants?

Providing a shade net for your plants, puts them inside a sun shield refuge, and you will save water and energy,  and also assure that your plants grow more rapidly and remain healthier.

macro túnel con media sombra en cultivo de flores
Macro tunnel covered with half shade to blur the light for the perfect development of the flowers

What you need to do is to become better informed about these “sun screens” and pick the right one to protect your plants from sunburn and other harmful effects from being under the burning sun of summer or late spring.

What is a shade cloth?

Con la malla para sombreo OBAMALLA® puedes crear áreas de descanso al aire libre

Shade cloth was developed in order to protect plants from high temperatures and it is used in a variety of ways, be it for home, horticulture, business, industry, warehouses, sports, livestock, recreational areas, or commercial crop production.  In summer the shade netting gets used to cover structures to create shade houses or to cover greenhouses in order to lower the temperature of your plants.  Hobbyists, farmers, greenhouse keepers, gardeners, and horticulturalists should protect young plants from the impact of direct sunlight.  This fabric is ideal for plants during the vegetative state, especially while seedlings.  Shade cloth also gets used to protect livestock, pets, and people from the sun’s harmful rays and from the wind.  The function of the shade net, apart from diminishing the intensity of light, is to reduce the temperature delta (day/night) and thus avoid sudden temperature fluctuations, so that plants don’t suffer from thermal shock, while at the same time maintaining a degree of beneficial moisture trapped between the ground and the fabric.

ganado protegido con malla sombra raschel móvil
With a little ingenuity you can create mobile shadows, perfect for your cattle

Historical context

Since the 60s some European textile makers have modified their mills so as to be able to weave plastic products with a relatively heavier weight than traditional fabric for clothing.  This product was made by Swiss mills of the Shultzer brand.  It could be cloth or netting made from round polyethylene or polypropylene threads (called monofilament).

Or, with the right modifications to the machinery for Raschel warp knitting, it could be made from a flat twine which is the product resulting from cutting a film of polyethylene or polypropylene (stretched from a bubble) into very fine ribbons.

For commercial agricultural use, monofilament fabric is much more durable due to the thicker thread and so the process of photo-oxidation takes longer than it does for the thinner threads used for twine.  The netting made with monofilament threads, takes longer to produce and also uses a heavier weight thread.  When compared with Raschel warp knitted netting, this results in a high quality but also high cost product.

casa sombra en cultivos de hortalizas
Casa Sombra is the perfect protection for your long vegetable crops

The Raschel shade netting functions very well in residential applications where it won’t be subjected to mechanical stress and agrochemicals (be it in a nursery, greenhouse, or shade house) and also is cost effective for crops when shading is only needed for a few years, e.g. several cycles of peppers and chilis.

From what is shade cloth made?

It is possible to find shade cloth made from polyethylene, polypropylene, polyester, and even aluminized (bright metallic) material.  The purpose of the aluminized fabric is to create greater refraction and a diffused effect of the light under the fabric. 

The percentage of shade can vary from a scant 5% for white or transparent shade netting, up to 95% for thick fabrics that are black in color.  All types of shade net are water permeable (rain or irrigation) so that plants can be kept well hydrated.

What types of shade netting does the market have to offer?

Basically, there are two ways of making shade net fabric:  by Raschel warp knitting or by weaving.  Weaving is usually done using monofilaments but at times strands of twine are used also.

Raschel warp knitted shade cloth

This product is made from UV stabilized polyethylene and is ideal for shade houses, greenhouses, and nurseries that require economical shading.  It will not fray if accidentally cut.  Raschel shade cloth can be considered decorative, since it is available in a variety of colors or a mix of colors (green and white stripes, blue and white, tricolor, or beige and white) and this makes it perfectly suitable for parking areas, patios, gardens, restaurants, and gazebos.

The open configuration of this type of knitting makes it resistant to wind damage and reduces heat buildup and wind speed within the structure that it covers.  It is easy to install and can be formed and cut to length without needing to be hemmed (although it is easier to stretch it tight when it is hemmed).  It is resistant to agrochemicals and detergents.  One does need to take into consideration that, since it is a thermoplastic product, its dimensions can vary by 3-5%.

This type of knit shade net is generally available in various colors, in addition to black which is used commercially, so that even a school yard, a skylight for a house, or a parking area can take advantage of this shading and at the same time decorate with its colors such as blue, green, beige, white or a combination of colors.  This shade cloth is also frequently installed on walls, fences, wrought-iron gates, and cyclone fencing as a privacy barrier for gardens, houses, and offices.  It is also used during building construction to prevent rubble and other objects from falling on the sidewalks and harming pedestrians.

malla anti escombros en construcción
During construction, debris can fall and harm people. The solution is to put a barrier with the OBAMALLA® mesh

High density, monofilament, polyethylene shade cloth

Known as woven shade cloth, this type of shade netting comes made on a loom and is woven with monofilament polyethylene that is UV stabilized for protection against the sun’s harmful rays.

This shade net is considered to be commercial quality and weighs more than the Raschel netting, when comparing similar grades and shading percentages.  Being woven means that it requires a well sewn hem to prevent the fabric from fraying.  There is less stretching than there is with Raschel knitted fabric because being woven makes it more rigid. 

pasillo con malla para sombear
Thanks to the variety of colors, with the shade of woven monofilament you can shade corridors and exteriors in your home

Shade Cloths produced with monofilaments for commercial agriculture (greenhouses, nurseries, or shade houses) last many years under the sun and are not deteriorated by agrochemicals.  Monofilament shade cloths can be sewn together using a heavy-duty sewing machine.

Shade percentages for different types of shade netting

The Raschel warp knitted and monofilament woven shade nettings come in different densities and degrees of shading, which, in industry parlance, is referred to as “percentage of shade.”  The difference between percentage of shade and the covered amount of the surface is considerable.  The same type of weave or knitting can have different percentages of shade depending on the color.  Another variable is the latitude of the installation site and another, the time of day when the percentage is measured since the sun being at different angles means it blocks more than when it is at its zenith over the equator!

The phrase used for percentage of shade can vary from place to place.  The terminology used is not always the same.  For ease of communication, we specify it as “percentage of shade.”

We all know how important sunlight is for plant growth and so the correct density must be chosen. This might be the most open and lowest percentage that your crop will allow, since shading too much would induce the plant to produce leaves in place of bearing fruit. In general, shading between 30% and 50% is ideal for produce and a density between 80% and 95%  is ideal for people or animals.  The majority of plants produce optimally with percentage of shade that oscillates between 40% and 60%, although there are plants that plainly love shade (e.g. orchids, ivy, and other ornamentals) of 75% or more.

variedad de malla sombra raschel
There is a whole variety of shade mesh, different for all kinds of occasions

The more common percentages of shade are:

  • 35% shade in black Monofilament.  Uses: shade houses or greenhouses for peppers and chilis in vegetative state;  in temperate or hot climates with medium sun angle (Mediterranean).
  • 50% shade in black Monofilament.  Uses: shade houses or greenhouses for leafy vegetables or for peppers and chilis in zones with high sun angle (tropics).
  • 60% shade in black Monofilament.  Uses: nurseries for produce seedlings.
  • 70% shade in black Monofilament.  Uses: nurseries for ornamentals or leafy produce. 
  • 80% shade in Monofilament.  Uses: nurseries for ornamentals.
  • 90% shade in Monofilament.  Uses: covering for rest areas for workers, protect machinery and vehicles.

Below you will see a gallery displaying the different types of shade cloth that you will be able to find here:

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