Do you have a shady spot on your balcony or in your backyard that could use a little bit of green? You’ll be happy to hear that even the darkest corners can contain the most beautiful gardens.
Shade gardens are made up of plants and vegetables that don’t require tons of sunlight, meaning that they can thrive even in less than sunny conditions. And whether you choose to grow in a container or in a raised bed, you’ll be shocked at just what beauty can come from a dark corner.
Ready to shine a light on shady gardening? Read on for our favorite tips and tricks on growing vegetables in the shade.
Let’s Talk About Sun Exposure
Before we get into the meat of this article, we need to define the different levels of sun exposure. For our purposes, there are three different tiers: full sun, partial shade, and full shade.
Areas that have full sun are generally defined as getting at least six hours of sun per day. Some vegetables enjoy a bit of light shade or dappled shade, but some require up to eight to ten hours of direct sunlight.
Partial shade refers to four to six hours of sunlight per day. The term is interchangeable with “partial sun.”
Full shade areas get fewer than four hours of sunlight per day. It’s important to note that these areas to get some sun and are not completely dark.
Vegetables That Grow In Shade
If you are looking to start a vegetable garden but are anxious about the lack of sunlight in your shady areas, there are several groups of plants that are the best vegetables for the challenge. Start by selecting seeds or saplings that fall into the following groups:
- Leafy Greens
- Salad Greens
- Brassica Family Vegetables
- Root Vegetables
- Shade-Tolerant Herbs
Leafy greens are hearty veggies that are less tender than their cousins the salad green. Plants include swiss chard, kale, mustard, collard greens, and bok choy or Chinese cabbage.
Salad greens are tender and sweet enough to be enjoyed raw–like in salads! Endive, lettuce, arugula, and spinach are considered salad greens.
Brassica Family Vegetables
Brassica family vegetables and hearty and do well in the shade. Try growing broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kohlrabi.
Root vegetables grow underground. They prefer to be planted in cooler soil, and the roots will embed themselves deeper into the cooler areas of their container. The shadier the garden, the cooler the soil, and therefore, they are a great option for areas with less sun.
Root vegetables include beetroot, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and potatoes.
Certain herbs are perfectly suited to shadier environments. Try planting chervil, chives, parsley, cilantro, mint, and chives. These varieties all make excellent companion plants as well.
In the miscellaneous category, we have peas and bush beans, onions, scallions, and leeks.
What vegetables can survive in full shade?
Root vegetables are the best bet for shade gardens, since they enjoy cooler temperatures. Leafy greens and Brassica family vegetables are also options, though they will take a bit longer to mature with less sunlight.
Which vegetables grow in partial sunlight?
Have a garden bed that gets more than four or more hours of sunlight per day? You should consider planting varietals that require partial sun. These include the Brassica family, salad greens and peas.
Growing Vegetables In Shade
So you picked out the vegetables to grow in your shady garden. What now?
Here are some of our best gardening tips for making the most out of your shade garden, including the tools you’ll need, the best time for growing, and when you should expect a bountiful harvest.
What kind of soil do shade-tolerant vegetables like?
Our best recommendation for shade gardens is soil or mulch full of organic materials. A combination of leaves, composted bark, and peat moss ensures that your plants get the nutrients they will need without those they typically gain from sunlight.
The Ideal Shade Loving Vegetable Growing Temperature
Shade gardens, unsurprisingly, like cooler temperatures. We recommend planting in cool season, preferably early spring, to make sure they get the cool weather they need. If you find yourself behind schedule, you can use a shade cloth to bring the temperature down. Shade-tolerant vegetables do not like temperatures above 95 degrees.
How Much Sun Do Shade Thriving Vegetables Need To Grow
The amount of shade that shade gardens need depends on the varieties of vegetables you have chosen to plant. Those that prefer full shade, such as root vegetables, need fewer than four hours per day. Partial shade vegetables like those in the Brassica family need between three and six hours for ideal growth.
How much Water Do Shade Vegetables Need?
Shade gardens should be fine watered once a week. However, if they are buried heavily under trees, you might need to check them more, as large branches can block rainfall.
Common shady pests include snails and slugs. You can get ahead of them by planting companion plants, particularly lemon thyme, chives, onions, garlic, and mint, whose smell will drive off some of the more common pests.
4 Tips For Growing Vegetables In Partial Shade
Looking for a quick and easy guide to grow vegetables in partial shade? Here are some of our more relied-on tips:
- Plan ahead. Shady vegetables like cooler weather. Make sure you are setting up your shade garden in the early spring in order to reap the best harvest.
- Pick the right soil. A mulch full of organic materials will ensure that your plants get the nutrients that they need, since they will not be getting many from the sun.
- Measure your sunlight. The success or failure of your shade garden will be determined by your, well, shade. Be sure that you are measuring the exact hours of sunlight that your garden will be getting, and pick plants that require either partial or full shade accordingly.
- Check for pests. Pests can sneak up on you! Check the underside of leaves and the roots for snails and slugs, and be proactive against them by planting companions plants.
What vegetable grows best in shade?
Leafy greens, salad greens, Brassica family vegetables, and root vegetables are your best bet for growing in either partial or full shade.
Grow Pro FAQs
If you are looking to plant herbs, try chervil, parsley, cilantro, mint, and chives. Leafy greens are also great for growing in the shade. Try salad greens, endive, arugula, swiss chard, mustard greens, collards, and kale. Root vegetables such as beets, rhubarb, rutabaga, carrots, radishes, turnips, and parsnips are also great for shady gardens.
The brassica family of shade-tolerant vegetables are good contenders for garden beds in partial shade. These include broccoli, kohlrabi, and cabbage, as well as some leafy greens such as kale, bok choy, and swiss chard.
Cucumbers need lots of direct sun and are therefore not good candidates for shade areas. You will also want to avoid eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers–if they do not get enough hours of sun, these are prone to pests such as snails and slugs.
Start Growing Your Own Vegetables In Shade!
Shop our garden kits!
Are you ready to brighten up a shady spot by growing your own food in a shade garden? We recommend our SuperHero Garden, which will provide you all the leafy greens you could dream of without much time in the sun.