Using shade cloth is a great idea for protecting new plants (shrubs, trees, etc.) that you've just planted in your landscaping. Not only will it keep the pounding sun off of your plant's leaves, but it will also help the surrounding soil retain moisture. Moreover, if you surround your new transplant with it, the fabric will serve as a windbreak (wind works in tandem with sunlight to dry out transplants).
Shade cloth comes in different densities (ranging from about 20% to about 90%), so that you have a choice regarding how much sunlight you wish to exclude. The lower the density number, the more light you're allowing in. Since the fabric is permeable, it won't stop the rain from reaching your plants.
Depending on the severity of the heat you're dealing with (and on the density of the shade cloth), you may decide either to leave the shade cloth on for a considerable period of time or alternate between covering and not covering. If you have a newly-transplanted shrub, for example, that already has wilted leaves, you'll probably just want to leave the fabric on to provide shelter for a while, until the shrub recovers.
"But what about wind?" perhaps you're asking. "Won't gusts blow the shade cloth away?" That's a good point. Ideally, when buying, you'll be able to acquire shade cloth that has brass eyes built right into it. Then all you would need to do is to pound four poles into the ground around your shrub or other plant and attach the shade cloth to this temporary structure, using twine, long twist-ties, etc. If you're willing to put a little more work into the frame to stabilize it, add crosspieces. For a rough idea of what I have in mind, see my tutorial on how to build a free shelter for shrubs, making the necessary modifications (since the shelter in that tutorial served a different purpose).
Anyone who has worked at a nursery or greenhouse business is well aware of the usefulness of shade cloths for protecting plants. Such businesses frequently employ a shelter known as a "lathe house" as a holding tank for shade-loving plants. The lathe house will often be covered with a fabric to keep out intense sunlight.
But many homeowners may not be very familiar with this product and may wonder where to buy shade cloth. Here are some possibilities to look into:
- Gempler's (online)
- Home Depot
As a bonus, if you have a bird or rabbit problem, shade cloth can function like another product, BirdBlock and be used to keep birds and rabbits away from bulb plants, for example.