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The front of our house faces east-northeast, so in the summer the sun rises to blast our windows. They need protection.

We have interior drapes, but I’ve wondered if the house would stay cooler if we also had something outside to absorb the sunlight before it ever reached the window. I’ve considered awnings or exterior wood shutters, but they’re expensive and permanent. First, I’d like to see if I can’t make a living barrier work.

Last year I trained tomatoes to grow up strings in front of some of the windows:

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The results were less than ideal, however. As you can see in the above photo, the foliage on the tomatoes was not dense enough, especially as it climbed higher, to make much of a shade difference. Also, the plants required constant effort to prune out side branches and twist up the strings.

So this year I’m trying green beans — and yellow and purple beans. They’re doing better. The official first day of summer is almost upon us, and the bean stalks continue to fill in. Thus far, they’re requiring less water than the tomatoes while providing more dense greenery.

From the inside of the house looking out, you already get the feeling of being surrounded by jungle.

Update: I’m finding that grapevines do an even better job than pole beans, as I wrote about in this post titled “Grapevine on eave to shade house.”