Tarps Versus Shade Cloth: Which One You Should Use For A Greenhouse

You want the best for your greenhouse, but there’s so much information out there that it can get overwhelming. I want to make things easier for you – that’s why in this article I will be talking about if you should be using greenhouse tarps or shade cloth for your greenhouse to make sure that your garden thrives.

Keep reading – things are about to get so much simpler.

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Greenhouse Tarps vs. Shade Cloth: What’s The Difference?

Tarps and shade cloths are like two sides of the garden care coin, each doing its own thing to help plants thrive.

Greenhouse Tarps

Greenhouse tarps are all about keeping things cosy and controlled inside a greenhouse. They let in sunlight while holding in warmth and moisture, making it possible to grow plants even when it’s chilly outside. These tarps are usually clear or a bit cloudy and made from tough stuff like polyethylene or PVC to stand up to the weather.

greenhouse tarps

Shade Cloth

Shade cloth – on the other hand, are the go-to for keeping plants cool under the hot sun. They’re made from a mesh-like fabric that throws shade (literally), cutting down on the intense sunlight that can stress out plants. You can use them in lots of places, not just over greenhouses, to protect plants that prefer the chill side of life.

💡 Greenhouse tarps and shade cloth are both greenhouse covers, but they just serve different purposes.

What Are The Benefits Of Greenhouse Covers?

Greenhouse covers bring a bunch of perks to the gardening game and they make it much easier to grow healthy plants year-round. Here’s why they are so handy:

Extend the Growing Season:They trap heat and create a cozy microclimate, so you can start planting earlier in the spring and keep going later into the fall, or even through winter in some climates.
Boost Plant GrowthBy optimizing conditions inside, these covers help plants grow faster and healthier, thanks to the extra warmth and light they let in.
Protect Against Bad Weather:Whether it’s a chilly wind, a heavy rain, or a hailstorm, greenhouse covers shield your plants, keeping them safe from the elements.
Keep Pests Out:They act like a barrier against insects, birds, and other critters that might want a taste of your plants, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.
Control HumidityThese covers can help maintain higher humidity levels inside, which is great for a lot of plants. Plus, you can control it better by opening vents or using fans.
Save Water:By trapping moisture inside, they reduce the need for watering since less water evaporates compared to open-air gardens.

Choosing Between Greenhouse Tarps and Shade Cloth

When it comes to choosing between tarps and shade cloth for your greenhouse, there are a few factors to consider. Differences in material and options for cost effectiveness can help you make the right choice for your specific gardening needs.

Differences in material

Greenhouse tarps and shade cloth differ in material composition, with tarps typically made of heavy-duty polyethylene or vinyl for durability and weather resistance. In contrast, shade cloth is usually woven from lightweight, synthetic materials like polyester or high-density polyethylene to provide UV protection while allowing light and air permeability.

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The variation in material affects their strength, flexibility, and longevity, ultimately influencing their suitability for different greenhouse applications.

When considering the differences in material between greenhouse tarps and shade cloth, it’s essential to weigh factors such as tear resistance, UV protection, moisture control capability, and how they affect temperature regulation within the greenhouse environment.

Options for cost effectiveness

When considering options for cost effectiveness in greenhouse covers, tarps are an affordable alternative to shade cloth. Tarps offer excellent protection from UV rays and extreme weather conditions, making them a durable choice for greenhouses.

They are available in various sizes and colors, providing flexibility while fitting into budget considerations.

Tarps are also great because of their ability to be repurposed for other gardening needs outside the greenhouse. This dual functionality makes tarps a cost-effective investment for any gardener looking to protect their crops without breaking the bank, allowing for efficient use of resources and budget-friendly solutions.

Exploring ways to reduce costs while maintaining effective greenhouse cover options is essential in maximizing value and sustainability in your garden setup without compromising on quality or performance.

💡 In a nutshell – tarps hold heat in your greenhouse, while shade cloth cools things down.

So now that you know the differences between the two, let’s go into how to use each of them along with which ones to buy.

How To Use A Tarp For Your Greenhouse

Using greenhouse tarps effectively can make a big difference in your gardening success, especially if you’re looking to extend your growing season or protect your plants from harsh weather. Here’s a casual guide on how to use them:

  1. Choose the Right Tarp: First up, pick a tarp that suits your needs. Think about the climate you’re in and what you’re growing. If you need more warmth, go for a clear tarp that lets in lots of sunlight. If cooling or light diffusion is the goal, look for a tarp with those specific features.

  2. Measure Your Greenhouse: Get the dimensions right. You’ll want a tarp that covers the entire structure without leaving any gaps. It’s better to have a bit extra than not enough.

  3. Frame Preparation: Before you throw that tarp over, make sure your greenhouse frame is ready. Clean off any old material and fix any sharp edges that might tear your new tarp.

  4. Secure It Properly: When you’re putting the tarp on, make sure it’s tight and secure to prevent damage from wind or heavy rain. Use clips, ties, or a locking channel system to keep it in place. You don’t want it flying off during the first storm.

  5. Ventilation is Key: Remember, plants need fresh air, even in a cozy greenhouse. Fit your tarp so you can still open windows or vents. Some tarps come with built-in vents, which can be super handy.

  6. Check for Condensation: Keep an eye on moisture levels inside. Too much humidity can lead to mold or plant diseases. If you’re seeing a lot of condensation, improve airflow or consider a tarp with anti-drip properties.

  7. Maintenance: Every now and then, give your tarp a once-over to check for tears or wear. A little TLC can extend its life and keep your plants happy.

Best Greenhouse Tarps On The Market Right Now:

Here are a few recommendations on greenhouse tarps to use right now.

I’ll break them up according to thickness (10 mil, 14 mil & 16 mil)

#1: Guard Shield Tarp (Best 10 Mil Tarp)

greenhouse tarps

Where To Buy: Amazon

Specs & Features:
– 10 mil thickness

– Dimensions of 10’x 12′ feet

– Made of polyethylene with double sided coating.

This Guard Shield green tarp is a solid pick for your greenhouse or garden. It’s made from polyethylene, comes in at a thickness of 10 mils, and it’s waterproof and UV resistant, making it tough against the elements. Sized at 10×12 feet, it’s designed to be durable, with heat sealed seams, a rope in the hem for extra strength, and rustproof grommets every 18 inches. This tarp is great for keeping your plants protected, whether you’re shielding them from too much sun or keeping them dry from the rain. Plus, it’s washable and reusable, making it a practical addition to your outdoor gardening toolkit.

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Check Price ➡️ Amazon

#2: Chocikick Tarp (Best 14 Mil Tarp)

Where To Buy: Amazon

Specs & Features:
– 14 mil thickness

– Dimensions of 10’x 20′ feet

– Made of polyethylene with double sided coating.

greenhouse tarps

The Chocikick Clear Greenhouse Tarp is a heavy-duty, 14 mil thick polyethylene cover that’s waterproof and UV resistant, designed to last. Measuring 10×20 feet, it’s perfect for greenhouses, letting all that good sunlight in while keeping the bad elements out, thanks to its tear-resistant material. With grommets every 20 inches, it’s a breeze to secure in place. This tarp is all about durability, equipped with anti-aging features for long-term use. Whether you’re dealing with hot or cold, this tarp’s got your greenhouse covered, literally.

Check Price ➡️ Amazon

#3: Xpose Super Heavy Duty Tarp (Best 16 Mil Tarp)

greenhouse tarps

Where To Buy: Amazon

Specs & Features:
– 16 mil thickness

– Dimensions of 10’x 12′ feet

– Made of polyethylene with double sided coating.

The Xpose Safety Super Heavy Duty 16 Mil Brown Poly Tarp is a real beast when it comes to durability. With its 16 mil thickness and built to withstand all sorts of weather, from blazing sun to pouring rain, it’s perfect for keeping your greenhouse protected. It’s waterproof, UV resistant, and rip and tear-proof, ensuring your plants stay safe and sound. The tarp comes with grommets every 18 inches, making it super easy to secure over your greenhouse. Plus, its reinforced edges add an extra layer of toughness. This tarp is all about giving your greenhouse the shield it needs, no matter the season.

Check Price ➡️ Amazon

How Thickness Works With A Tarp

Choosing the thickness of your tarp depends mainly on the weather conditions that your greenhouse will be exposed to along with your budget.

A 10 mil tarp is the lowest cost option that is best suited for milder weather conditions and for growers who might be looking for a more economical option for short-term use or for plants that don’t require as much protection

A 14 mil tarp steps up the protection, offering better tear resistance and longevity. For harsher environments or when you need maximum durability.

A 16 mil tarp offers better durability and resistance to wear and tear, making them a better choice for areas with harsh weather conditions, like strong winds, heavy snow, or intense sun. The thicker the tarp, the more protection it provides against the elements, but keep in mind that very thick tarps may reduce light transmission slightly

💡 If you’re confused then choose the 14 mil because it will meet most peoples needs.

How To Use Shade Cloth

Using a greenhouse shade cloth effectively helps manage light and temperature, crucial for plant health and productivity. Here’s how to use one:

  1. Determine Shade Needs: Different plants require different levels of shade. Research your plants to decide the percentage of shade cloth that matches their needs, typically ranging from 30% to 90%.

  2. Measure Your Greenhouse: Know the dimensions of your greenhouse to ensure you purchase a shade cloth that covers the entire area without gaps.

  3. Select the Right Material: Shade cloths come in various materials, including polyethylene and aluminum. Choose based on your climate and the specific light filtering and cooling needs of your plants.

  4. Install Securely: Attach the shade cloth to the outside of your greenhouse. Ensure it’s taught to prevent sagging or flapping, which can damage both the cloth and the greenhouse structure. Use clips, ties, or other fasteners designed for shade cloth installation.

  5. Adjust with Seasons: Be prepared to change the shade cloth as seasons shift. Summer might require heavier shading than spring or fall. Some gardeners switch cloths or adjust the coverage as needed.

  6. Maintenance: Regularly check the shade cloth for tears or damage and clean it to remove dust and debris that can block light.

  7. Ventilation: Even with shade cloth, ensure your greenhouse is well-ventilated to prevent overheating and allow for air exchange.

By following these steps, you can create an optimal environment in your greenhouse, protecting your plants from harsh sunlight and heat while ensuring they receive the light they need to thrive.

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Best Greenhouse Shade Cloth On The Market Right Now:

Again – I’ll give you a few recommendations on shade cloth options.

I’ll break them up according to shade coverage (75%, 70% and 60%)

#1: Fotmishu Shade Cloth (Best 75-80% Shade Cloth)

Where To Buy: Amazon

Specs & Features:
– 75 – 80% Shade Coverage

– Size of 10ft x 20ft

– Made of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

The FOTMISHU Shade Cloth is a durable, high-density polyethylene mesh designed to block 75-80% of the sun, making it perfect for protecting plants in your garden, greenhouse, or any outdoor space. It’s anti-aging and tear-resistant, ensuring it can last for 3 years or more. The design includes triangular protection corners and aluminum grommets every 3.28 feet, complete with bungee balls for easy hanging. This shade cloth is great for reducing temperature, providing windproof benefits in spring and autumn, and it allows water and air through, so you don’t have to remove it when watering plants. Plus, it comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Check Price ➡️ Amazon

#2: Kesfitt Shade Cloth (Best 70% Shade Cloth)

Where To Buy: Amazon

Specs & Features:
– 70% Shade Coverage

– Size of 20ft x 30ft

– Made of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

The Kesfitt Garden Shade Cloth is a heavy-duty, 20x30ft mesh tarp designed to block 70% of the sun with its high-quality HDPE material, providing excellent UV protection and heat insulation. It’s built to last, featuring solid copper grommets for added durability against pulling and extreme weather conditions. The breathable design allows for efficient ventilation and rainwater passage, making it ideal for protecting plants, pergolas, and patios. Installation is a breeze thanks to the evenly distributed buckles, ensuring a secure fit. Plus, it comes with a one-year warranty, making it a reliable choice for a wide range of outdoor shading needs.

Check Price ➡️ Amazon

#3: Windscreen Supply Co (Best 60% Shade Cloth)

Where To Buy: Amazon

Specs & Features:
– 60% – 70% Shade Coverage

– Size of 20ft x 20ft

– Made of fine HDPE Mesh

The Windscreen Supply Co shade cloth is a robust, high-density polyethylene shade cloth, offering 60-70% light blockage for versatile use around the garden, pool, or any outdoor space. It’s designed to withstand the rigors of UV, wind, and temperature fluctuations, making it perfect for crafting greenhouses or covering pools. Installation is hassle-free, thanks to solid brass grommets spaced every 20-21 inches for easy tie-downs. This tarp also features reinforced edges and double-stitched sides for enhanced durability, ensuring it can handle the elements and last for years. Plus, with a choice of sizes, it’s easy to find the perfect fit for your needs.

Check Price ➡️ Amazon

How Does Sunblock Percentage Work?

The sunblock percentage is an important factor to consider when choosing shade cloth for your greenhouse. This percentage refers to the amount of sunlight that is blocked by the fabric.

Different plants have varying sunlight requirements, so it’s crucial to choose a shade cloth with the right sunblock percentage for your specific plants. For example, tomatoes may require more sunlight than tropical houseplants or orchids.

By selecting a shade cloth with the appropriate sunblock percentage, you can ensure that your plants receive just the right amount of sunlight they need for optimal growth and photosynthesis.

Unfortunately I can’t list every single plant out in here because that would take far too long, but I can give you some general guidelines.

General Guidelines: What Percentage Do I Need?

Shade Cloth %Details:
30% Shade ClothA 30% shade rate is optimal for plants like geraniums and chrysanthemums.
40% Shade ClothThis is great for growing vegetables and it will also stop lilies and bedding plants from burning.
50% Shade Cloth50% is great for hotter climates (especially the white shade) and it is good for things like tomatoes, watermelons, chard and Limba beans in hot weather.
60% Shade Cloth60% is great for plants like orchids.
65% Shade ClothThis is the most popular choice for backyard shade
70% Shade ClothThis is also extremely popular for backyard shade
80% Shade ClothVery good for shading your plants in extremely hot climates
90% Shade ClothThis is generally best for shading animals.
Want more information on shade cloth? Here’s our guide:
A Down & Dirty Guide To Choosing The Right Shade Cloth For Your Greenhouse 🌱


Choosing the right cover for your greenhouse—be it a tarp or a shade cloth—is crucial for the health and productivity of your garden. Greenhouse tarps are excellent for retaining warmth and moisture, making them ideal for cooler climates or seasons when you want to extend the growing period. On the other hand, shade cloths are perfect for protecting plants from the harshness of direct sunlight, particularly in hotter climates, by providing varying levels of sunblock. Understanding your plants’ needs, the local climate, and the specific benefits of each type of cover will help you create the best environment for your greenhouse.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use both a greenhouse tarp and a shade cloth on the same structure?

Yes, you can use both, but not necessarily at the same time. A tarp is great for colder months to keep the greenhouse warm, while a shade cloth can be added in the warmer months to protect plants from too much sunlight.

How do I know which thickness of tarp to choose for my greenhouse?

Select a tarp thickness based on your climate and the durability you need. A 10 mil tarp is suitable for mild conditions, a 14 mil offers a balance between durability and flexibility, and a 16 mil tarp is best for harsh weather conditions.

How often should I replace my greenhouse cover?

The lifespan of your greenhouse cover depends on the material’s quality, your local weather conditions, and how well you maintain it. Generally, a tarp or shade cloth can last from 3 to 5 years with proper care.

Do shade cloths reduce the need for watering?

Shade cloths can help retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation rates under direct sunlight, potentially reducing the need for watering. However, regular checks are necessary to ensure plants receive adequate water.

Can I adjust the amount of sunlight coming through the shade cloth?

While you can’t directly adjust the permeability of a shade cloth, you can choose different percentages of shade coverage based on your needs. Alternatively, you can layer cloths or remove them during parts of the day to modulate light exposure.

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Jason Watson

My initial goal was to protect my loved ones from harmful pesticides & help them enjoy nature more. Now, I want to tell as many people as I can about what I've learned... I hope that I can inspire you to help cool our planet with your own little slice of paradise 🌱. Let's do this together!

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