Not everyone is blessed with a bright, sunny spot for growing edible plants. Yet there are plenty of herbs, fruits and vegetables that grow in shade. The key to successfully growing edible plants in the shady garden can be as simple as choosing the right species.
Managing Shade Vegetables, Fruit and Herbs
Sunlight comes in many forms. It can be direct or it can be filtered through the canopy of overhead trees. It can be more or less intense, depending upon the time of day. Sunlight can also be reflected off nearby objects, such as a light-colored wall or body of water.
Before gardeners begin the process of selecting vegetables, fruits and herbs that grow in shade, it’s advisable to determine how much and how many hours of sunlight the garden receives. This can be measured using a light meter or by creating a sunlight map of the garden.
Fruiting vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers, require full sun or about 8 to 10 hours of sunlight per day. Cruciferous and root vegetables can be grown in areas which receive at least 4 hours of sunlight, while leafy veggies and many herbs need a minimum of 3 hours per day.
Selecting Vegetables that Grow in Shade
When it comes to most garden vegetables, the more sunlight the better. Even though many of our favorite veggies will grow with less than full sun exposure, productivity is often reduced. Additionally, shade vegetables can be in competition with trees for valuable nutrients and water.
Whenever possible, plant shade vegetables on the south side of treelines and buildings. Prune dead branches and lower limbs from large shade trees and amend the soil with plenty of compost. As an alternative, plant in containers which can be moved to catch more sunlight.
Garden Vegetables that Grow in Shade
- Brussels sprouts
- Mustard greens
- Ostrich fern fiddleheads
- Swiss chard
Many herbs, which are grown for their leaves, are fairly tolerant of low levels of sunlight. Sun-loving herbs that grow in shade may have a tendency to become more leggy, but frequent harvesting helps keep these plants compact. Experiment with growing these herbs in partially shady areas of the garden:
- Lemon balm
- Mountain sorrel
- Sweet cicely
Fruits that Grow in Shade
Gardeners coping with less than ideal amounts of sunlight can plant a variety of trees, bushes, vines or brambles which will produce fruit in a partially shady garden. When looking for fruits that grow in shade, consider these species: