Full-scale vegetable gardening in partial shade is not usually an option, but there are plenty of vegetables that will grow well without full sun. Hey, you with shady yards – be encouraged – you can grow vegetables, too.
Leafy vegetables require less sun because they don’t develop fruit or vines. These plants actually prefer cool temperatures and become bitter or develop seed heads (bolt) when temperatures soar. Leafy vegetables grow well in partial shade, especially in hot climates.
Tips for Growing Vegetables in Shade
Use Good Soil: If you are going to challenge your shade-tolerant crops to grow in partial shade, provide them with good-quality soil with plenty of nutritious compost. If tree roots are a problem, consider using a raised bed or growing vegetables in containers.
Moisture Requirements: The watering needs of your shade garden will be different than a garden in full sun. Moisture doesn’t evaporate as quickly in shade so you may not need to water as often. However, if your shade garden is near trees, you may need to water more frequently since your plants will be competing with trees for moisture. Also the leafy canopy can prevent rain from reaching your plants. Water when the soil feels dry and mulch to conserve moisture.
Watch for Pests: Shady and cool areas are very welcoming to slugs and snails. Consider using a border of crushed eggshells to deter slugs or provide a hospitable living area to Attract Frogs and Toads to Your Garden.
Maturation Times: Vegetables that prefer more sunlight but can grow in shade will grow slower. Expect to wait for a little longer for the plants to mature than what is indicated on the seed package to make up for the less than ideal growing conditions.
Partial Shade Crops
From all I understand, there is no vegetable that will grow in full shade or where they have to compete with tree roots. But these LEAFY vegetables will produce with four to six hours of sun per day, or fairly constant light dappled shade:
- Salad Greens, such as leaf lettuce, bok choi, arugula, endive, cilantro, spinach~ (See top photo ~ I plant to west of taller tomatoes or peppers. Notice the leaves that get more hot sun are slightly bleached in July/Aug, but we had sweet lettuce till 3rd week in July.)
- Brussels Sprouts
- Swiss Chard
- Leafy Greens, such as collards, mustard greens, spinach, and kale
ROOT vegetables need more sun than leafy vegetables, usually about six or more hours of sun daily. Green beans, peas, and cabbages could also fall into this category.
Some herbs are actually quite shade-tolerant. Members of the mint family fare particularly well, according to the University of Missouri website.
Other herbs for gardening in partial shade include basil, sage, parsley, chives, coriander and tarragon.
A good idea is to observe your proposed site through out the day and mark the limits of the shadows cast. It will also vary during the different times of the year as the sun sits higher or lower in the sky. A well-situated tree to the west of your garden can cast a cooling shadow after 3 or 4 PM in the hottest part of the summer. It might save water and extending the productive season for these veggies.
Warning: keep your garden away from walnut trees. They produce iodine which will stunt or kill vegetables and perennials.
If you’re blessed to have an area with full sun that you can reserve for a vegetable garden, knowing which plants will take some shade will help you get the most out of your space. You can use that sunny space to grow only the sun-lovers: peppers, okra, tomatoes, eggplants, tomatillos, corn, strawberries, rhubarb, potatoes, squashes and more.
The other crops, those that do well in the shade, can be tucked in anywhere. A trick I use in intensive gardening is to plant lettuces and spinach to the east of a taller, more sun-loving plant such as okra or peppers or tomatoes, and thus they are shaded in the heat of the day.
Consider growing some lettuce or radishes in a container or window box that only gets sun half the day. Make use of the space you have, in both sun and shade, and you can increase the amount of vegetables you would usually get.
Gardening in partial shade doesn’t mean you’re destined to go through the summer minus fresh garden vegetables. By making the most of what you have, you can harvest lettuces, peas, and other tasty veggies from spring through fall.
Avoid buying seeds or varieties from companies that are affiliated with Monsanto or Seminis… here’s how.