Country Lore: Planting Vines for Shade

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Using vines for shade cut down on the need for expensive air conditioning in this Nevada mobile home.

I had a mobile home I thought would be a great place for my brother to move into, but it was an old unit, built in 1979. Our fix-it man explained to me that because of the price of electricity, the cost of adding air conditioning to the mobile home would be prohibitive.

He tapped on the outside wall. “See, aluminum,” he said. Inside he stuck a nail in the wall and moved it around and frowned. “There’s nothing between this wood veneer and your outside wall but a few 2-by-4s and air. That’s how they built them in 1979. To replace it with vinyl and put in insulation could cost up to $10,000. It would be cheaper to buy another mobile home.”

As he left, he knocked again on the outside aluminum skin. “Nothing will keep this wall cool,” he said.

“Not unless I can keep the sun off the wall,” I thought. What I had in mind was planting vines for shade. At the nursery, I asked for a vine that would not be prickly and would grow quickly. I bought a climbing fig and planted it by the front corner of the home and lavished it with fertilizer and water. The first year, it did well.

About vines, my grandmother always said, “First they sleep, then they creep, then they leap.”

In the third year, the fig vine covered the whole front of the home. Delighted with our success, we bought cat’s claw and honeysuckle vines to cover the other sides of the mobile home.

The passive cooling savings are considerable. The house isn’t hot until almost 3:30 p.m., and the air conditioning bill is now about $200 a month during the summer — a bargain in the desert.

Shirley Braverman
Las Vegas, Nevada