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Shadecloth Net House

Growing vegetables in a shade cloth net house in the arid regions of Southern Africa can be a game-changer for small-scale farmers and homesteaders. Let’s explore the benefits and best practices of using a shade cloth net house in this environment in detail:

Benefits of a Shade Cloth Net House:

  1. Temperature Regulation: Arid regions often experience scorching temperatures. A shade cloth net house provides a cooler environment for vegetables, protecting them from excessive heat stress and sunburn.
  2. Water Conservation: The shade cloth reduces evaporation, helping to conserve water. This is crucial in regions where water is scarce and valuable.
  3. Protection from Harsh Weather: A shade cloth net house acts as a shield, safeguarding plants from extreme weather events like strong winds, hailstorms, and sandstorms.
  4. Reduced Pest and Disease Pressure: By covering the plants, a net house can reduce pest access, keeping away insects and pests that might damage crops. It also provides a physical barrier against some plant diseases.
  5. Extended Growing Season: With a shade cloth net house, you can extend the growing season by providing a more controlled microclimate. This allows you to grow vegetables during hot summers or protect them from chilly nights.
  6. Better Crop Quality: The controlled environment in a net house can lead to higher-quality vegetables with improved color, texture, and taste.

Best Practices for Growing Vegetables in a Shade Cloth Net House:

  1. Site Selection: Choose a location with adequate sunlight for your shade cloth net house. While you want to reduce direct sunlight, you still need some light for plant growth. Avoid areas with strong winds and consider the accessibility of water sources.
  2. Selecting Shade Cloth: Opt for a high-quality shade cloth with the right shading percentage based on your needs and the specific vegetables you plan to grow. A shade percentage between 30% to 50% is commonly used in arid regions.
  3. Structural Integrity: Ensure the net house is well-constructed and sturdy enough to withstand weather conditions. The frame should be made of durable materials like galvanized steel or treated wood.
  4. Irrigation and Watering: Install a proper irrigation system to ensure consistent water supply to the plants. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are efficient methods for water distribution in a net house.
  5. Crop Selection: Choose vegetables that thrive in shaded or semi-shaded conditions. Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and kale, as well as certain herbs and root vegetables, tend to perform well in a shade cloth net house.
  6. Soil Preparation: Prepare the soil with organic matter, compost, and appropriate nutrients before planting. Adequate soil preparation will support healthy plant growth.
  7. Ventilation: Install vents or openings on the sides or roof of the net house to allow for proper air circulation. This helps prevent humidity buildup and reduces the risk of fungal diseases.
  8. Monitor and Manage: Regularly monitor the plants for signs of pests, diseases, or nutrient deficiencies. Implement appropriate measures to manage any issues that arise.

By applying these best practices and using a shade cloth net house, you can create a controlled and favorable environment for growing vegetables in the challenging arid regions of Southern Africa. Enjoy the benefits of extended growing seasons, water conservation, and improved crop quality as you cultivate delicious and nutritious vegetables for your homestead or market. Happy growing!

A Shade Cloth Net house for your village.

Plan to build a 2000m2 facility. Our online research has shown that this should be sufficient to feed a village of 75 people for a year. Including the sides we will need +- 2750 m2 shadecloth.

In 2022 the cost of shadecloth is around NAD 12,- per m2. If we can use poles we find on the farm then the cost for this shadecloth house is 30 000,-.

We can build one 13m2 keyhole garden with raised beds for each family. According to the Permaculture Design Course by Bill Mollison this should supply enough. So you’d need 16x 13m2 keyhole raised bed gardens in the Nethouse.

Make the net 42m wide. This way you have 42m shadenet on top and 4m for both sides, not wasting anything off a 50m roll. The rolls you can buy are 3m x 50m.

Construction method

Building a shade cloth net house of 42m x 36m for a vegetable garden in arid Southern Africa requires careful planning and construction. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you with the process:

Materials Needed:

  • 40% grey shade cloth (dimensions: 42m x 36m plus more to cover the sides)
  • Galvanized steel or treated wood poles (height: around 2.5 to 3 meters)
  • Galvanized steel wires or cables
  • Ground anchors
  • Shade Cloth string
  • Wire
  • Irrigation system (optional, but recommended)
  • Tools: hammer, drill, saw, measuring tape, level

Step 1: Site Selection and Preparation:

  • Choose a flat and well-draining area with adequate sunlight for the net house. Remove any rocks, debris, or vegetation from the site.

Step 2: Marking and Installing Poles:

  • Mark the corners of the 42m x 36m area using stakes and strings. This will help you ensure the net house is properly aligned.
  • Place the galvanized steel or treated wood poles at each corner and along the sides, spacing them around 3 to 6 meters apart. Use a level to ensure they are straight and upright.
  • Dig holes for the poles and secure them in place using concrete or compacted soil.

Step 3: Installing Wires and Cables:

  • Run galvanized steel wires or cables horizontally between the poles along the length and width of the net house. Space the wires around 3 meters apart.
  • Attach the wires to the poles using cable clamps and secure them tightly. A small wire formed to a U can be used to hammer in at the top like a stapler.

Step 4: Attaching Shade Cloth:

  • Lay out the 40% grey shade cloth over the wire frame. Ensure it covers the entire area of the net house.
  • Use shade cloth string to fasten the shade cloth to the wires securely. Start at one side and work your way across, pulling the shade cloth taut as you go.

Step 5: Creating Entry Points:

  • Add an opening to the net house open to serve as an entrance. You can use zip ties or eye bolts with turnbuckles to create a roll-up or sliding door for easy access. You can also install proper gates.

Step 6: Secure the Net House:

  • To reinforce the net house, attach ground anchors or additional poles along the sides and at regular intervals along the perimeter. This will prevent the structure from shifting or collapsing during strong winds.
  • Add a small fence or barrier made from chicken wire along the outside of the chicken house to keep out unwanted or dangerous animals. This also prevents your other animals from damaging the shadecloth during the very dry season when they are hungry for the nice green growing in your shade house. Dig this chicken wire at least 30cm into the ground to stop burrowing animals from entering.

Step 7: Install Irrigation System (Optional):

  • If desired, install a drip irrigation system inside the net house. This will ensure consistent watering and help you conserve water.

Step 8: Final Checks:

  • Once everything is in place, walk around the net house and inspect for any loose connections or tears in the shade cloth. Make necessary adjustments and repairs.

Step 9: Planting Vegetables:

  • After completing the net house construction, you can start planting your vegetables inside. Choose shade-tolerant varieties that will thrive in the protected environment.

Building a shade cloth net house for your vegetable garden in arid Southern Africa will help create an ideal microclimate, allowing you to grow vegetables year-round and protect them from harsh weather conditions. Enjoy the benefits of extended growing seasons and enhanced crop quality as you cultivate delicious and nutritious produce. Happy gardening!

Detailed drawings

Here are sample plans. Ensure you calculate your own needs of materials based on the size of shade house you are going to build.

Side view:

Outside view from an Indian Net House.


Here’s a great example what a finished net house looks like. This is from a project in Oranjemund.

Amended from https://www.omdis.co/2020/11/30/oranjemunds-agriculture-project-thrives/

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