Are North Facing Gardens Really That Bad? (North Facing Pros and Cons)


Are north facing gardens really that bad large

North Facing Garden how bad are they you might ask? This is a question you might be asking if you are contemplating purchasing a house with a north facing garden and you may be wondering whether its a good or a bad thing to do.

The direction the garden faces affects how much sunlight hits the garden. How much sunlight that any garden gets depends on a number of factors.

These factors will affect whether or not you consider if north facing gardens are really that bad. North facing gardens are bad if you love sunshine and bright gardens. They get less sunshine, especially in the winter months, which is bad because the lawn will struggle to grow and is particularly noticeable across the back of the property. Plus the rooms at the rear of the house will be dark.

You may be wondering how you check which way the garden faces. Firstly, the particulars for most property listings will say which way the garden faces. Especially if it’s south facing and a selling point. But not necessarily if it’s north facing. So what is the best way to check which way a garden faces?

Side note: This article is written for those living in the northern hemisphere. This includes the UK, North America and Europe. But if you live in the southern Hemisphere, like Australia and New Zealand, substitute south for north. In the southern hemisphere the sun still rises in the east, but tracts around the sky to the north instead of to the south.

What is the easiest way to check which way a garden faces large

What’s the easiest way to check which way a garden faces?

The easiest way to check which way a garden faces is to download a compass app onto your smartphone and use this to check.

Follow these three steps to check which way a garden faces:

  1. Go into the garden of the house and stand with your back to the house.
  2. Open the compass app (the one I use is literally called “Compass“) and hold your phone out in front of you.
  3. Read the compass and whichever way the compass points, as per the small red arrow (see above image), this is the way the garden faces. For example, in the above image the compass is pointing due north, which is 0° or it can also be 360° depending on the app or compass you use.

What are north facing garden pros and cons?

If you are looking to decide if north facing gardens are bad, you’ll want to be able to weigh-up the pros and cons. These are as follows:

What are the pros of north facing gardens?

  1. North facing gardens are great if you like shade during the day, as the rear of the house will be shady.
  2. North facing gardens tend to be cheaper than south facing gardens.
  3. If the house has a conservatory on the rear of the property this won’t get too hot in the summer months.
  4. The rooms at the rear of the house won’t get too hot during the summer.
  5. If you have children you want to protect from the sun, this is easier to do in a north facing garden.
  6. If your lounge is at the front of the house this will be warm and bright during the day. As will the other rooms at the front of the house

What are the cons of north facing gardens?

  1. It’s difficult to grow a good lawn in north facing gardens. The garden will be shaded, especially in the winter months and across the back of the property.*
  2. The ground will struggle to dry out, especially in the autumn and winter months.
  3. The lawn will be very mossy, as moss prefers shaded and damp ground.
  4. The rooms at the rear of the property will be dark and will be cold in the winter.
  5. The rooms at the front of the property will get very hot in the summer.
  6. In the winter months, and if the garden is short, a north facing garden probably won’t get any sunshine at all.
  7. Fruit trees, most vegetables and many plants and flowers don’t like the shade. So these will be difficult to grow in a north facing garden. You will have to choose your plants and flowers carefully, and ones that like it shady.
  8. If you want to sit out in the sun late evening you will have to do this at the bottom of the garden. But to get the sun late evening the garden has to be long enough.
  9. If you want a late afternoon/evening barbeque this will need to be done at the bottom of the garden to get any sunshine.
  10. Your paths and patios will ‘green-up’ with algae due to the damp and shade. You will therefore have to treat this with algae killer or power wash it more regularly.

I make that more cons to pros of a north facing garden. But only you can decide which of the above pros and cons of a north facing garden are important to you.

* To overcome the lawn problem, you’ll need to plant a grass mix for a shady lawn. But even with this variety of grass it will still struggle to grow. The grass will be competing against moss and the soil will struggle to dry out in the winter, especially if the soil is clay, which isn’t ideal for lawns.

Poll to help your decision on a north facing garden

If you read this discussion on Houzz with a starting question: “North facing garden – yes or no?” I’ve toted up the yes votes vs the no votes and these work out as: 10 no’s to a north facing garden; 2 yes’s; 4 on the fence.

Whilst this isn’t a conclusive survey, it may help your decision.

What will help you to decide if a north facing garden is really that bad?

The best way to decide if a north facing garden is bad is to view the property at different times of the day.

At the very least walk past the property at different times to see how much sunlight hits the garden. However, if the vendors are keen to sell, they should be willing to oblige if you ask them to visit the property more than once.

In fact this article about viewing a property again before you you buy would be worth a read. If you explain your concerns about checking how the sunlight hits the garden, they should understand.

What will help you to decide if a north facing garden is really that bad

Will a sun app help you decide if a north facing garden is really that bad?

Having a sun app may also help you decide if a north facing garden is good or bad. You can download the app on your smartphone. The one I use is “Sun Position and Path“. The above screen shot was taken from the Sun Position and Path app. Included on the sun position screen is the following information:

  • Compass north, as marked on the above image to the top right.
  • The sun’s rotation and daily position by hour for summer, which is indicated in red.
  • The sun’s rotation and daily position by hour for winter, which is indicated in blue.
  • Orange indicates the sun’s rotation and daily position by hour for the time of year you view the app.
  • Your position will be indicated on the screen with a blue dot. But you can position the map anywhere you like, as I’ve done in the above screenshot. When you first open the app, it will position the cross of the lines exactly over your current position.

Alternative apps include “Mr Sun” and “Light Trac” too, both of these apps are also free to download and use. Which apps are available to you will depend on whether your smartphone is Android or Apple.

Conclusion to are north facing gardens really that bad

If you currently live in a house with a south facing garden and love it, you may struggle with a north facing garden. If you’re used to having the sun across the rear of your property for most of the day, you may not like not having this. Particularly in the winter months.

Also, if your kitchen is at the rear of the house you will have to get used to this being dark and gloomy. The same applies to your living room if this is at the rear of the property. The same will be true of the bedrooms to the rear too.

But on the other hand, if you don’t like it too hot. Also, if you prefer to have some shade, a north facing garden really won’t be that bad. So long as you don’t mind having a lawn that will struggle to grow that will be riddled with moss.

Finally, and before you make your decision, I recommend you read this article about buying a house with a north facing garden. Included in the article is a north facing garden sun diagram too. This diagram helps to explain the movement of the sun throughout the day. But the apps described above are very handy for this.

But what about a north-east facing garden? Take a read of this article too about buying a garden with a north east facing garden. This article includes a north east facing garden sun diagram too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article about are north facing gardens really that bad

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