Kitchen Gardening

Vegetables That Dig a Shady Garden

Don't let a little shade get you down. Some vegetables are made for the shade!

Photo by Christina under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

If you’re a gardener that faces the challenge of a less-than-sunny garden bed, you may be bummed out by the idea of missing out on the sun-worshipping vegetables (like tomatoes). Let’s take a moment here to forget about what might not do well in your garden and what has the potential to actually thrive in it.

I’m not messing with your head; there are veggies that love nothing more than a garden that’s a little on the shady side. Of course, not all shade is defined the same way. You’ve got full shade (which would be the only real issue); part shade (which might mean morning sun and afternoon shade or the reverse); strong dappled shade; and light dappled shade just to name a few.

So don’t be too quick about writing it off. Shade on one side of your home won’t be the same as the shade on another, so microclimates should also be considered. For example, if you plant beans near a heat-absorbing stucco wall, that area will stay warm for much longer than a different shady area. This means that the plants grow (and produce) faster, which can make up for the some of the lack of light.

All this means is that you, dear gardener, get to experiment a little bit. The best piece of advice that I can give you is to find the plant varieties that do well in your region to begin with. Get ready to take some notes on these plants that were made for the shade!


Vegetables That Tolerate Some Shade

The group that does the very best in shady spots are the leafy green types. Think lettuces, spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, kale, mustard greens, celery, and collard greens. There’s plenty of herbs that have no problem with shade such as parsley, mint, thyme, cilantro, oregano, basil, and chives.

Bulb and tuber crops like onions and potatoes can sometimes pull it off. Be prepared to harvest a little later than normal and have a smaller yield. I’ve also had great luck with growing both carrots and radishes in light shade.

Both bush beans and peas can perform quite well in light shade. June-bearing and ever-bearing strawberries are perfect for gardens that have part shade. And if in the end you simply can’t resist giving tomatoes a try just one more time, then choose a cherry tomato variety that requires a short season.

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