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Can I grow vegetables in the shade?
Yes you can! The good news is that there really are a lot of great options for growing vegetable plants in the shade to help make the most of your garden space all season long. Whether you are planting a new garden bed in the shade, or if you just want to stick in a few containers and grow veggies in them, it is totally possible!
Understanding Shade vs Full Sun
If you are unclear about the type of shade you have in your garden or where you would like to put your garden, lets discuss the different terms involved to help you identify the most common situations.
- Full Sun: This is when you have direct sun for 6-8 hours a day.
- Partial Sun/Partial Shade: Generally this is when you have 3-6 hours of sunlight a day. Perhaps the sun is partially blocked by leaves on the trees, so the sun is dappled instead of on full blast. Or maybe the late afternoon sun is blocked by your house or something else.
- Full Shade: This means the area receives no direct sun at all throughout the day, or just a very limited amount.
Take a look at the shade you have in your area. Is it true shade from day to night? This is common in areas between houses that are close together. Almost nothing beyond some moss and weeds will thrive here.
Other areas that are in high shade usually get at least a bit of direct sunlight in the early morning or late evening. Timing how much sun your shady areas actually get is a great way to decide if you need to dig only grow those shade tolerant veggies or if you have enough sun to grow anything you want through the peak of the hot summer.
Why should you grow vegetables in the shade?
If you have a lot of space in your yard that is under shade, you may be wondering just how to make use of it. The good news is that some edible plants actually do grow well in the shade. And with the current state of the world, food security is a good thing to have by growing your own.
So if you thought you could not grow a vegetable garden because you have a shady yard, think again! It doesn't have to be big, you can grow quite a lot in just a few small containers! But growing your own food is wise for many reasons, or at least knowing how to is! Read on to find out the best vegetables for shaded areas.
What Vegetables Grow in the Shade?
The general rule is that if you are growing the plant for the root or the fruit you should grow it in full sun but most of your cool-weather green vegetables can thrive in the shade, and planting in the shade can even increase the growing season by a few weeks. But keep reading to see the full list of 30 vegetables that will grow well in the shade.
How to make the most of growing food in the shade
Growing vegetables in the shade is easy and by planning it just right you can actually use the shade to increase how long you can grow some of your favorite foods. Your trees will grow more leaves and provide more shade as the spring wears on, giving your cool weather plants time to establish themselves before providing shade that will help keep them cool as the summer heat rolls in.
The same works for in the fall season where the shade helps to allow you to plant a bit earlier and the falling leaves can act as mulch for your plants while revealing the sun as the weather starts to turn cool.
When growing vegetables in the shade you want to make sure that you do your part to ensure that your plants can grow even if they are not getting full sun. To do this pay extra attention to soil quality and provide your plants with plenty of compost and fertilizer to make up for the limited sun exposure.
Tips for growing vegetables in the shade
If tree roots are a problem in your shady area, consider growing in containers or raised beds as your vegetables will fair much better when not competing with the tree roots for nutrients.
Vegetables growing in the shade, are not gaining the benefits of added sunlight. So it is a good idea to be sure that all of their other needs are being met to the best of your ability, to ensure that they thrive and do well.
Be sure that you provide good soil that has been composted well and provide a good vegetable fertilizer so that all of their nutrient needs are covered. It is a good idea to throw in a handful of compost or worm castings into the planting hole and/or mulch with a layer of compost.
Mulching with compost can also help prevent weeds. Less weeds means there is less competition for the nutrients and space and makes for healthier happier vegetable plants!
Also be sure to water adequately, but not to over water. With less sun, the water may evaporate slowly. On the other hand, if you have overhanging trees, the leaves may prevent rain from hitting the garden so it may not be as wet as you think.
Be careful of pests like slugs and snails who love a cool damp environment. Be sure to go out at dawn or dusk when they start to emerge from their daytime hiding places and remove them from the area.
Due to the lack of sunlight, vegetables grown in shady conditions may take longer to reach full maturation. Take this into account when growing in shade, and note that the growth time on seed packets or plant labels may be shorter than what you actually experience.
The best vegetables to grow in the shade
If your area receives at least 6 hours of direct light you can grow just about anything. For areas with less than 6 hours, these are the best shade vegetables to grow.
Asparagus is a must have perennial edible that will come back year after year. It will tolerate being grown in the shade, but may produce less than in a sunny location. Consider planting more plants to make up the difference.
Beans will grow in the shade, but will take longer to mature. There are many types of beans to consider, bush beans, pole beans as well as dry beans. Consider growing a teepee of pole beans for the kids to play in or underneath and among your cucumbers especially if you are growing them on an arbor of some type.
All of the brassica family of plants will do well in the shade. In fact, some may do better than in direct sun in the heat of the summer. Broccoli and cauliflower are two of those. These two are cool season crops that prefer the mild temps of the spring and fall, so planting them in the shade for summer is a great way to harvest some in summer time.
The light green color of celery allows it to absorb a lot of light even in an area where it doesn't receive much direct light at all. Celery is a resilient plant that many people even start to regrow right in their kitchens where they only get indirect light. Grow it in bulk and dice it up and dehydrate it for adding to soups and stews all winter long.
So many greens to choose from and many of them can be grown year round in a greenhouse or cold frame. All greens will do well in the shade.
Leaf lettuce varieties can thrive in indirect light or use in your companion planting to make the most use of your garden beds around large plants like peppers and tomatoes that will provide them shade. Use all of these greens as young snipped greens in salads.
Like leaf lettuce spinach doesn't require full sun to thrive. Particularly if you prefer to harvest the young tender leaves of baby spinach. For this leafy vegetable indirect light and partial sunlight at some point in the day is enough for the plants to thrive. This is one of the healthiest vegetables that you can grow in the shaded areas of your garden.
Kale may have a bad rap for flavor but it is packed with nutrients and a great option for hiding in your food to help get more nutrition into your family and it is easy to grow even in a high shade area. If you are looking for a true superfood to use up the space in your garden you should consider this option.
Swiss Chard is a great option for growing in shady garden beds. It makes for an interesting filler to garden beds and is a simple way to add more food to your garden even in areas where you would not typically grow food. choose a rainbow variety to add more color and a pop of interesting texture to your front flower beds.
Or you can grow kale, swiss chard, collards and the like in bulk. Steam them and then throw them in the freezer in silicone cupcake molds, then pull them out and vacuum seal them for use all winter long. Canning them is another option!
Leeks do not mind growing in the shade and neither do scallions aka green onions. When it comes to flavorful plants that can handle the shade in areas like under a try or beside the house green onions are a great option. These simple vegetables are not very picky and can be grown nearly anywhere allowing you to add flavor to all of your favorite meals.
Leeks are lovely to have in the garden to add to soups or to sauté as you would with any other onion. We never have enough scallions and slice them up thinly and use them on toppings from everything from nachos to soups and salads.
Peas hate the heat and will usually wither and die in the heat of the summer. They love being planted in spring and fall, but for a summer crop, they will love the shade. Don't forget the different varieties to try, snap peas, snow peas as well as your standard shelling peas.
When it comes to easy to grow perennial vegetables that thrive in the shade you can't go wrong with rhubarb. This vegetable can grow in the shade making it a great perennial option for adding to your landscaping in shady areas. While it can help bulk up your landscaping in the spring it is a great edible that can be used in place of citrus for tart fruit recipes like jams and pies.
Root vegetables will do ok in the shade, but these crops will also take a bit longer to mature than the seed packet or plant label may indicate. You can always harvest them a bit early as baby root veggies are delish, petite and your kids will love them! Just plant a little extra so you don't have to wait as long!
We love to grow a lot of these veggies and preserve them for winter use. Many will last a long time in cold storage with little effort. Or they can be frozen, dehydrated or canned.
A Complete List of Shade Tolerant Vegetables
- brussel sprouts
- bok choy
- mustard greens
- swiss chard
Final Thoughts on the Best Shade Vegetables
I hope you have learned that you can grow food, even if you have a shady yard. This list of the best shade loving vegetables is the perfect guide to help you grow shade tolerant veggies with success. Happy Growing!
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