Many gardeners are faced with shady spots in the yard that they may think are unsuitable for growing edible plants. Whether the shade is from trees up above that let through some light or tall buildings that block much of the day’s sun, these areas can still be useful to grow some food. Although lots of vegetables love 6 to 8 hours of sun, there are some that can take shade and still do well with as little as 3 hours of light.
In general, if you are growing a vegetable for the leaves, it can take less light. In most cases these are the “cut and come again” vegetables and herbs that will provide fresh eating throughout the growing season and beyond.
Mesclun and Asian greens do very well with just a few hours of sun, or intermittent sun and shade. Arugula, sorrel, lettuce, kale, endive, cress and collard and mustard greens all can take the shade too. Spinach and some other greens will actually bolt if they get too much hot sun, so they are perfect in a less sunny spot.
Have more shady spots? Most herbs will do well in these areas of your garden. All of the mint family, which includes oregano and balms, grow like weeds as it is. Other herbs that like shade include feverfew, thyme, hyssop, tarragon, parsley, stevia, chamomile, chervil, sage and chives. We plant herbs in containers and group them together. Shady garden spots usually require less watering, but containers require more, so keeping these plants happy is easy to do. Although basil prefers sun, planting it among your tomatoes helps give the plants just the right amount of light to prolong bolting, and keeps the weeds away at the same time.
Green onions can also take less sun than other veggies. Many of the root crops, such as potatoes, radishes, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, turnips and rutabagas can take some shade, but the harvest will suffer. Either they will take longer to produce, or the veggies will be smaller. This isn’t always a bad thing, as the smaller or “new” potatoes are a wonderful treat to harvest. Beets grown just for their greens are a healthy addition to any salad or as a side dish. If you want to grow more and larger root crops though, you will need to get them some sun.
Gardening Jones is a master gardener based in Pennsylvania. Learn more at her blog.
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