Many gardens have a variety of lighting conditions, from dappled shade under dense trees to full sun in open areas, with variations throughout the day. This is actually ideal for growing a wide range of vegetables including kale, spinach, lettuces and mesclun mix, celery, beets, herbs, and more.
I’ll walk you through how to make it work (and get lots of delicious veggies).
Many of these vegetables are also suitable for a winter vegetable garden.
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Growing in the Shade 101
- Once you determine the shade characteristics of your garden (I’ll describe them below), you can plan your veggie garden accordingly.
- If you are not sure about your light and shade conditions but want to get started anyways (cheers for enthusiasm!), consider starting your veggies in containers so you can move them around if they end up needing more or less light than you planned on.
- While sun-loving veggies (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, squash, watermelon, cucumber, zucchini (check out the delicious recipes here), to name a few) won’t thrive in heavier shade conditions, I actually avoid growing them in full, direct sun (more than 7 hours a day) because it dries out the soil. This list focuses on other vegetables but know these guys can tolerate some shade as well.
- The bonus is, providing some shade helps prevent bolting (premature flowering that makes the plants inedible).
Keep in mind that this list of shade veggies is generalized. First and foremost, always select vegetables that are suited for your growing region and be willing to adapt and experiment to find what works best for you.
I can’t list every possible vegetable, but this should give you ideas. You’ll notice natural groupings depending on whether the root, leaf, or bud is eaten.
Here’s a handy listing of organic seed companies in Canada and the United States. Find one near you!
Types Of Shade
It’s not easy to describe and compare types of shade but this should help you determine what you’ve got.
1. Partial or Half Shade
- 5-6 hours of sun per day, mainly in the afternoon when the sun is strongest.
- Garden beds that receive this same amount of sun in the mornings are considered ‘light shade’ and plants preferring half shade will not grow as large or quickly with the same amount of morning sun but they’ll still grow.
2. Dappled Shade, or Light Shade
- This type of shade is usually created by the canopy of trees overhead.
- Light still gets through but it’s not harsh and the total effect is less light than partial or half shade areas.
3. Open Shade, Full Shade, or Dense Shade
- Whether the shade is created from an obstruction like a house, or dense tree canopies overhead, these deeper shade areas are not suitable for veggies.
List of Veggies That Grow In The Shade
There is a hierarchy here, ranging from veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts that prefer a fair amount of sun (partial or half shade), to the salad greens (including mesclun mix) that do fine in dappled and light shade.
Afternoon sun is the strongest and preferable but you’ve got what you’ve got. Try stuff out and see how it works.
The amount of sun listed here is the minimum that will still provide a successful harvest.
This variety pack of organic seeds is excellent for shade conditions.
5 hours of afternoon sun per day
This group includes brassicas (edible buds).
- Brussels Sprouts
- Swiss Chard (stalks)
4-5 hours of afternoon sun per day
This groups includes many root vegetables.
- Pak Choy
3-4 hours of afternoon sun per day
Edible leaves enjoy some shade and this helps prevent bolting.
- Swiss Chard (leaves)
3 hours of afternoon sun per day
- Culinary Herbs
- Mustard Greens
2 hours of afternoon sun per day
There are some salad greens that do fine with minimal sun. If this is all you’ve got, try growing them and see how they do.
- Asian Greens
- Mesclun Mix
One of my favourite shade crops is mesclun mix (see the seeds here via Amazon.com) which is a bunch of different types of salad greens. Click here to see how I grow them all year round in my kitchen.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
- Seed Company Listings | Find an organic seed company near you
- Flowers you can grow in shade | Lots of colourful ideas here
- Herbs you can grow in shade | Several suggestions
- Delicious food you didn’t know are growing in your garden | Seriously!