Can you grow vegetables in the shade?
Yes, there is such a thing as a shade vegetable. Some vegetables prefer limited exposure to sunlight. But it’s important to know which veggie needs what.
If you think your yard has too much shade to grow vegetables, think again. There are plenty of vegetables and herbs that can be grown in constant dappled shade or in as little as three to six hours of sun.
Here’s the general rule for home vegetable growers plagued by what they think may be too much shade from their own trees or shade from those in a neighbors’ yard: vegetables and herbs grown for their stems, leaves or buds will tolerate light shade.
Here are some of our recommendations:
Cooking greens, such as kale, collards, mustard greens and Swiss chard can be grown with minimal light. Super nutritious greens like spinach, Swiss chard, collards, mustard greens and kale only need about three or four hours of sun each day to thrive.
Lettuce, specifically the soft, loose-leaf types. Don’t pull the plants up after your first harvest. Removing leaves encourages more to appear, which yield repeat harvests.
Salad greens, including sorrel, endive, cress and arugula. These tasty additions to a salad mix will expand your options for flavor and texture.
Spinach, a cold-hardy vegetable that has growing requirements similar to lettuce.
Broccoli , a great choice for growing in the relative coolness of partial shade rather than full sun. After cutting off the large central head, leave the plant in the ground. Smaller heads will form along the stem in the leaf axils.
Cauliflower, which will tolerate partial shade, though it prefers full sun. It also prefers cooler temperatures.
Cabbage, another veggie that thrives in the cooler temperatures of partial-shade.
Herbs, such as mint, chervil, coriander and parsley actually prefer partial shade. Here’s a mint hint worth taking to heart: It is an aggressive spreader. Plant it in a container or you may spend years pulling it from places you didn’t plant it and don’t want it to grow.
Keep in mind that veggies and herbs grown in constant dappled or filtered shade or those grown in partial shade will not be as large as those grown in full sun. The yields won’t be as much, either. However, the taste will be every bit as good and so will the satisfaction of having grown your own food.
Root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips and beets, fall somewhere in the middle regarding light requirements. In general, they need more hours of sun than leafy vegetables but not as much light as full sun for all or most of the day. If you are the adventurous type, why not give them a try in your shade garden?
Leeks and Onions — Leeks and onions thrive in cooler, more moist environments, and need less sun in order to encourage below-ground growth.
Most important of all, make the most of what sun you have. If you’re lucky enough to have a few sunny spots that get more than 6 hours of sun, try growing tomatoes or other favorites in strategically placed pots.
With a little resourcefulness, you can have fresh vegetables and herbs from spring to fall ie year-round.
If you are wondering how to define what kind of shade you have?. Dappled shade is sunlight that filters in shifting patterns through tree branches all day. This is similar to woodland shade environments and the most common situation in suburban backyards.
Partial shade is up to 6 hours of sun with four or more of those being in the morning.
Full sun is 4 or more hours of afternoon sun or more than 6 or more hours of direct sun all day.