Vegetables That Grow In Shade: How To Grow Vegetables In The Shade


By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden

Most vegetables need at least six to eight hours of sunlight to flourish. However, you shouldn’t overlook the shade-loving vegetable. Partially or lightly shaded areas can still offer benefits in the vegetable garden. Not only can shade offer temporary relief from intense summer heat for vegetables that like cooler weather, but shaded tolerant vegetables can actually be a source of both early and late harvests when planted in succession.

Growing Vegetables in a Shady Garden

Light conditions vary in the shady garden, depending on its source. While many vegetables need a lot of light, a select few will actually thrive in the cooler, darker areas of the shade garden. Therefore, it’s possible to grow vegetables in the shade.

Leafy vegetables like greens are the most shade tolerant while root and fruit crops, which largely depend on light for their flowers, require more sun. For instance, tomatoes and squash plants thrive in full sun most of the day. Potatoes and carrots grow well in sun for at least half the day. Leafy vegetables, on the other hand, will tolerate partial shade without any problems.

These can also be planted in succession, used as filler plants, and be picked anytime, so you have the opportunity to enjoy them from spring through fall.

Vegetables That Grow in the Shade

Here is a list of the most tolerant shade loving vegetable plants to put in the dark corners of the garden:

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Arugula
  • Endive
  • Broccoli (and related plants)
  • Kale
  • Radicchio
  • Cabbage
  • Turnip (for greens)
  • Mustard greens

If you have shady areas in the garden, there’s no need to let them go to waste. With a little planning, you can easily grow vegetables in the shade.

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Read more about General Vegetable Garden Care


Shade Tolerant Vegetables to Try

In this partial shade spot, a container is used to grow cherry tomatoes and chard.

For vegetable gardeners on mature lots, deciding what to plant can be tricky. Most vegetables need a minimum of six to eight hours of sunlight per day and the more sun the better, especially for things like tomatoes, squash and green beans. If your lot has lots of trees, it may be hard to get that amount of sunlight. But don’t despair! There are shade tolerant vegetables, especially if you have partial shade or dappled shade.

Here are a few of the shade tolerant vegetables experienced gardeners with shady lots recommend:

Fruits: Most fruits prefer full sun, but some can tolerate partial shade. Raspberries, currants, blackberries, gooseberries, huckleberries or alpine strawberries will work if you have a spot that is sunny part of the day, but not quite six or eight hours.

Chard and other greens do well in less sunny areas.

Greens: Many greens grow well in slightly shady areas, especially during the hotter months of the summer. They are among the most shade tolerant vegetables. Greens like cool weather and soil, so the shade may keep them productive longer. Best greens for shady spots include kale, spinach and Swiss chard.

Other vegetables: Broccoli, peas, radishes, beets, turnips and carrots can also grow well in lower sun areas.

Herbs: Some of the hardier herbs also do fine in partial shade, including thyme, mint (keep it in a pot unless you want mint groundcover!), parsley and garlic chives.

Is shade a problem in your vegetable garden? What do you grow in your shady spots?

In a pot on a shady deck, this apple mint grew beautifully.


Can You Have A Garden In The Shade

Can you even have a garden in the shade? The answer is a resounding yes! No, you can’t grow everything you could in a full sun garden but there are quite a few shade tolerant vegetables out there that you can grow to feed your family.

What Do You Need To Start A Shade Garden?

Starting a shade garden isn’t all that different than starting one in full sun,

  • You’ll need a spot to plant that is well-drained.
  • If you are planting directly into the ground, try to fertilize the soil and remove weeds before planting.
  • Just like any garden, you’ll need the proper tools for the project, check out our list of gardening essentials to help you decide what you need.
  • Seeds! As with any garden you are going to need something to plant in your new garden beds. Need help deciphering what terms like Non-GMO or Heirloom mean or just where to order seeds? Check out our resources on where to buy seeds!

Starting A Garden In The Shade

The first step in starting a shade garden is figuring out exactly where you are going to put it. If your yard has even a shred of light some of these veggies would do better off. If at all possible maximize the ability for light to reach your vegetables by:

  • Pruning trees so light can get through.
  • Painting fences, walls or even sheds a lighter color. Light colors reflect light better which will give your seedlings a little more light.
  • Consider using containers to grow shade tolerant vegetables so that as needed you can spin them so that all sides get a little light.

What You Need To Know Before Starting A Shade Garden

Not all of the vegetables on this list love growing in the shade, it’s really important to remember that and let them get as much sun as possible. If it’s not available don’t worry about it, you still should be able to grow and harvest these with no trouble.

Before you go any further now is the time to decide if you are doing garden beds the traditional way by tilling up the soil, no-till or raised beds. We’ve been experimenting with lots of different method’s of starting a garden and preparing your soil for planting, check out these resources:


Vegetables That Grow in the Shade

To make life a bit easier for you, we’ve put together this list of shade tolerant vegetables.

And just because these vegetables should grow in the shade in theory doesn’t mean that the particular variety you are using will thrive. Gardening is all about experimenting, so try some of these vegetables that can grow in the shade, but also watch over those plants and make your own notes about how successful it goes.

(By the way, if you’re stumped about where to buy your vegetable seeds, I personally love using True Leaf Market and Baker Creek.)

Arugula

Arugula can grow in Light Shade and Partial Shade areas of your garden. It’s a very fast growing, peppery salad green, and it’s one of the first plants you can direct sow in your garden. If you cut the leaves but leave the root, you can usually get a few harvests from the same plant. The downside to arugula is that it is quick to bolt in the hot summer sun, so giving it light to partial shade can keep it going longer.

Beans

Bush beans can grow in Partial Shade because they need at least 4 or 5 hours of sun to be productive. The less sunlight they get, the less beans will be available at harvest time. But if you really want to grow beans and you only have a shady garden for them, it’s better than nothing!

Here are my tips on freezing beans if you end up with an awesome green bean harvest.

Beets

Beets can grow in Partial Shade because they need about 3-4 hours of sunlight in order to be productive. The less sunlight they receive, the smaller the beets will be, but you can still eat the beet tops/greens no matter what. Fortunately, smaller beets are sweeter and tend to be less woody or tough, so it’s not a bad deal to try growing beets in the shade.

Check out this recipe for canning pickled beets if you want to preserve your beet harvest.

Bok Choy (and other Asian Greens)

Bok Choy and other Asian Greens can grow in Light Shade and Partial Shade areas of your garden. Depending on the variety, they need about 2-3 hours of sunlight to be super productive. Giving these greens some shade is actually beneficial if you want to extend their growing season into the hot summer months.

Broccoli

Broccoli can grow in Partial Shade because they require about 5-6 hours of sunlight. Broccoli can bolt in the hot summer sun, so it’s a great idea to give them afternoon shade if you can, especially if you live in a warmer climate. Broccoli is also a great choice for a fall garden.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts can grow in Partial Shade because they need about 5-6 hours of sunlight in order to be productive. They are a cool-season crop, so your partial shaded spots could be perfect for them, especially if it helps keep the soil cooler for longer.

If you love brussels sprouts as much as I do, make sure to try my Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe. It’s fantastic.

Carrots

Carrots can technicallybe a Partial Shade plant because they require at least 6 hours of sunlight. The trick with growing carrots in a shady spot in your garden is timing it correctly. If you’re growing your carrots in a fall/winter garden, you need to give them all the sunlight you can, so then they are a full sun plant. However, if you’re starting carrots for a summer crop, some afternoon shade can be helpful. You might have to experiment with growing carrots in the shade.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower can be grown in Partial Shade and they need about 5-6 hours of sunlight. They are a cool-season crop, meaning they love a cooler soil, so you might have the perfect partial shade spot in your garden to try growing cauliflower.

Collard Greens

Collard Greens are a Partial Shade plant and require 4-5 hours of sunlight to stay healthy and happy. They love a cooler soil and bolt in the summer heat, so give them a good partially shady spot to really let them shine.

Celery

Celery is perfect as a Partial Shade plant because while it needs about 6 hours of sunlight each day, it also prefers shade from the afternoon sun and heat. If you find the perfect partially shaded spot in your garden for celery, you can have some fantastic harvests. Cut off the stems and leave the root in the ground, and you can get a few harvests from the same plant.

Garlic

Garlic can be a Partial Shade plant because, while it needs at least 6 hours of sunlight to give you a great harvest, it’s such an easy going plant to grow, you can squeeze them in your garden spots that get some shade and you’ll probably still have success.

Here are my tips on how to braid garlic for storing it and giving your kitchen the perfect rustic look.

Kale is the perfect Partial Shade plant because it requires 4-6 hours of sunlight in order to thrive. Kale loves cooler soil and cooler temperatures and can even handle light frosts, so you can plant kale throughout the growing season in the partial shade for an almost year-long harvest.

Lettuce

Lettuce can be grown in both Light Shade and Partial Shade. Lettuce is the perfect vegetable to grow in the shade because it does not like direct sunlight. In fact, many gardeners will cover lettuce with shade cloth to keep it from bolting early. It only needs about 2 hours of sunlight to be happy, so plant these in your shadiest garden spots and see how much you get at harvest time.

Mustard Greens

Mustard Greens are a Partial Shade vegetable that prefers at least 3-4 hours of sunlight. You can grow mustard greens in the full-sun, however, they don’t like heat, so plant your summer garden mustard greens somewhere where they can get some shade from the afternoon sun.

Parsnips

Parsnips are a Partial Shade root vegetable that needs at least 4 hours of sunlight to be healthy. Parsnips can be a challenging vegetable to grow and they have a long growing season. Have fun trying to grow them in some of your partially shade garden areas and see what happens.

Peas are a Partial Shade vegetable that requires about 6 hours of sunlight. Growing peas in the shade is a bit tricky, and it kinda depends on your growing season. They will grow slower in the shade, but peas bolt quickly in full sun and warm-hot temperatures. So if your springs are almost non-existent but then you quickly go onto full-summer heat, you might find it a good idea to experiment with growing peas in the shade.

Potatoes

Potatoes are good with Partial Shade because they need at least 6 hours of sunlight. Growing potatoes with too much shade can make them sickly, but if you live in a warmer climate, you might find some shade from the afternoon sun a good thing for keeping your potatoes healthy.

Check out my Ultimate Guide to Growing Potatoes for more information.

Radishes

Radishes are Partial Shade tolerant vegetables that need at least 6 hours of sunlight. They are a cool weather crop and bolt quickly in the summer sun, so giving them some shade from the afternoon sun will keep them growing longer into the summer. You can also start them in a shady gardening spot in late summer for some fall crops, too.

Rutabagas

Rutabagas can be a Partial Shade plant because they require at least 6 hours of sunlight. They love cooler soil, so giving them some shade, especially in warmer climates, can help make them super happy and healthy. Keep in mind though that the more shade you give them, the smaller the rutabaga root crop will be.

Spinach

Spinach is the perfect Light Shade and Partial Shade vegetable. It only requires 2-3 hours of sunlight to be happy. Spinach loves cooler temps, and is the perfect early spring and fall crop. So planting it in the shade can help it stay happy and healthy for a longer part of the growing season.

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is a great Partial Shade plant that needs at least 5-6 hours of sunlight. They are super easy to grow and look so beautiful, so you should totally think about growing chards in any shady spot in your yard, even mixed in with a partially shaded flower bed. If you cut off the leaves but leave the roots, you can get a few harvests from the plants.

Turnips

Turnips, like their cousin-family Rutabagas, can be a Partial Shade plant because they need at least 6 hours of sunlight. They love cool soil so if you give them some shade, especially in warmer gardening climates, it can really help them be productive longer. Of course, just like rutabaga, the more shade, the smaller the turnip roots will be. However, you will still be able to enjoy eating some turnip greens.


Vegetables that grow well in shade

By shade, we mean garden areas with access to approximately 2-4 hours of sunlight each day.

Leafy vegetables readily fall into this category, and we all know how good those are for you!

As you are designing and planning out your garden, make sure to include a few of these shade loving vegetables.

19. Arugula (Rocket)

With every peppery bite, you can feel the strength of the sun in arugula. When it is grown in the shade, it will be exactly the same.

If you cannot live without it all season long, be sure to provide some shade for your garden rocket, so that it will not bolt in the heat.

It makes a great companion next to mint, spinach, carrots, dill and nasturtiums.

20. Brussels Sprouts

Another cool season plant that tolerates, even thrives in shade, is Brussels sprouts. They are tiny little cabbages that are perfect in coleslaws, steamed or fried.

Another benefit of growing Brussels sprouts is that they can be harvested well into the winter months.

Use their height to your advantage and plant a shorter season crop between the rows – peas and bush beans are a great start.

21. Kale

And another Cruciferous vegetable makes the list!

Not only are they good for you to eat, they ornate your shady garden as well. It is a win-win situation.

Especially if you just so happen to like kale chips.

Kale will tolerate cooler temperatures, and will provide you with nutritious greens late into fall.

22. Lettuce

For salads, burger toppings and lettuce soup, you’ll be happy to harvest handfuls of fresh leaves from your backyard garden.

Free ranging chickens and ducks love to forage for weeds, though they will be extremely grateful for the salad bar too, so make sure you have a fence to keep unwanted visitors away.

23. Mustard greens

Collard greens and mustard leaves are often left scorching in the sun. The edges curl and turn brown, it is not a pretty sight. Stress, in turn, leads to other potential diseases.

If you have a nice, shady spot with 4 hours or so of sunlight and are seeking a little green to spruce up the garden, these leaves are up to the task.

When they are ready to harvest, don’t forget to sautée your mustard greens with bacon!

24. Sorrel

Pleasantly tart with a lemony bite, many people shy away from this mouthwatering vegetable. Either because they are not familiar with it, or they’ve eaten it prepared in such a way that the absolute sourness took over the entire dish.

There are 2 shade-loving types to plant in your garden: French sorrel (Rumex scutatus) and Garden sorrel (Rumex acestosa). French sorrel is less acidic and should be appreciated for its refreshing tartness.

Another thing to appreciate about sorrel is that it just keeps growing. Cut a few leaves and they come back. Forget about it, and it will still be there when you dig it out from under the weeds. Sorrel is a true survivor – a plant that we all need in our garden.

Here is one classic way to cook sorrel, so you can fully appreciate the unique flavor:

25. Spinach

Grow spinach just once, and you will quickly find out that 2-3 hours of sunlight are more than enough to produce a generous green crop.

Of course, like most of these shade loving veggies, spinach prefers cooler weather, so be sure to plant it early enough in the season, keep it watered regularly and give it all the shade it can handle. This way you can harvest tender young leaves throughout the summer.

26. Swiss chard

If you are looking for a vegetable that is easy to grow, low-maintenance, yet productive and shade tolerant too, Swiss chard should actually be at the top of the list!

Not only is it vibrantly colorful in the landscape, it is beautiful on the plate and super nutritious, providing you with loads of vitamin A and C, as well as calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium.

Swiss chard is also rich in antioxidants and should be included in your backyard pharmacy among these other 7 medicinal plants.


Advantages of Growing in Little Shade

  • Growing is going to be a lot more succulent and that trademark bitter taste will be far less evident.
  • You’ll also have a lot longer window of time for growing for better growing opportunities.
  • And of course, your precious harvest will be spared the scorching heat of the summer sun you’d otherwise worry might wilt them.

There are three different kinds of vegetable shading gardens possible to set up, depending on the desired veg. These are the factors any gardener must carefully consider before deciding what kinds of crops to grow.

Depending on what you want to grow, and especially depending on the circumstances of your location, your choice depends entirely on the type of setup you build.

It’s important to pay close attention to what sort of sunlight you have where you are as opposed to how much shade you get.

You can grow anything you want as long as you allow for the conditions. Once you know this information, you can start to focus on what you’d like to grow and how.


Reflective Mulch Sources

Colleen Vanderlinden has been gardening organically for more than 12 years, and has been in love with plants for as long as she can remember. She currently rests her garden clogs on a quarter-acre plot near Detroit.

HAHAHAHA!! I was going to say I couldn't remember when I originally read this article, but then I read the comments. So probably in 2011. Anyway. I remember that the first year I tried this it was with some industrial foil glued to some luan wood and held in place behind my seedlings in my non-heated "sun room" that is actually just a porch with plexiglass sheets in the winter. Between Mr. Sunshine and the foil almost all of the seedling made it that year. I also put foil around my tree that year and got a decent crop in dappled shade. Now I use sheet metal stands and if it gets really cold I will use a heater on a timer. I now have 7 reflective gazing balls and all my elf houses have mirrors for windows under the tree in that bed. I love Mother Earth and Grit. You have given me so much wisdom since I started this journey back in 1989. I can't thank you enough.

I can't remember when I first read this article, but I have been using sheet metal for reflecting heat in my non heated sun room for about 5 years now. I started out with some foil glued to wood and it worked great. I start all my seeds indoors or in cold frames and use sheet metal or foil to get that extra heat. I have reflective gazing balls in my shaded areas and lots of mirrors for windows in my elf houses.

Arugula At least three to four hours of sun per day. Arugula welcomes shade, as this crop is prone to bolting as soon as the weather turns warm if in full sun. Asian greens At least two hours of sun per day. Asian greens such as bok choi (also spelled “pac choi” and “pak choi”), komatsuna and tatsoi will grow wonderfully with a couple hours of sun plus some bright shade or ambient light. Chard If you grow chard mainly for its crisp stalks, you will need at least five hours of sun per day if you grow it mainly for the tender baby leaves, three to four hours of sun per day will be enough. Expect chard grown in partial sade to be quite a bit smaller than that grown in full sun. Baby chard leaves are excellent cooked or served raw in salads. Culinary herbs At least three hours of sun per day. While many culinary herbs need full sun, chives, cilantro, garlic chives, golden marjoram, lemon balm, mint, oregano and parsley will usually perform well in shadier gardens. Kale At least three to four hours of sun per day. You'll notice only a small reduction in growth if comparing kale grown in partial shade with kale grown in full sun. Lettuce At least three to four hours of sun per day. Lettuce is perfect for shadier gardens because the shade protects it from the sun’s heat, preventing it from bolting as quickly. Often, the shade can buy a few more weeks of harvesting time that you’d get from lettuce grown in full sun. Mesclun One of the best crops for shady gardens. Grows in as little as two hours of sun per day and handles dappled shade well. The delicate leaves of this salad mix can be harvested in about four weeks, and as long as you leave the roots intact, you should be able to get at least three good harvests before you have to replant. Mustard greens At least three hours of sun per day for baby mustard greens. Mustard grown for baby greens is best-suited for shady gardens. Peas and beans At least four to five hours of sun. If growing these crops in partial shade, getting a good harvest wil take longer. Try bush and dwarf varieties rather than pole varieties. Root vegetables At least four to five hours of sun per day for decent production. Beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes and turnips will do OK in partial shade, but you'll have to wait longer for a full crop. The more light you have, the faster they'll mature. Alternatively, you can harvest baby carrots or small new potatoes for a gourment treat that would cost an arm and a leg at a grocery store. Scallions At least three hours of sun per day. This crop does well in partial shade throughout the growing season. Spinach At least three to four hours of sun per day. Spinach welcomes shade, as it bolts easliy if in full sun. If you grow it specifically to harvest as baby spinach, you'll be able to harvest for quite a while as long as you continue to harvest the outmost leaves of each plant.

Heres the list folks! Arugula At least three to four hours of sun per day. Arugula welcomes shade, as this crop is prone to bolting as soon as the weather turns warm if in full sun. Asian greens At least two hours of sun per day. Asian greens such as bok choi (also spelled “pac choi” and “pak choi”), komatsuna and tatsoi will grow wonderfully with a couple hours of sun plus some bright shade or ambient light. Chard If you grow chard mainly for its crisp stalks, you will need at least five hours of sun per day if you grow it mainly for the tender baby leaves, three to four hours of sun per day will be enough. Expect chard grown in partial sade to be quite a bit smaller than that grown in full sun. Baby chard leaves are excellent cooked or served raw in salads. Culinary herbs At least three hours of sun per day. While many culinary herbs need full sun, chives, cilantro, garlic chives, golden marjoram, lemon balm, mint, oregano and parsley will usually perform well in shadier gardens. Kale At least three to four hours of sun per day. You'll notice only a small reduction in growth if comparing kale grown in partial shade with kale grown in full sun. Lettuce At least three to four hours of sun per day. Lettuce is perfect for shadier gardens because the shade protects it from the sun’s heat, preventing it from bolting as quickly. Often, the shade can buy a few more weeks of harvesting time that you’d get from lettuce grown in full sun. Mesclun One of the best crops for shady gardens. Grows in as little as two hours of sun per day and handles dappled shade well. The delicate leaves of this salad mix can be harvested in about four weeks, and as long as you leave the roots intact, you should be able to get at least three good harvests before you have to replant. Mustard greens At least three hours of sun per day for baby mustard greens. Mustard grown for baby greens is best-suited for shady gardens. Peas and beans At least four to five hours of sun. If growing these crops in partial shade, getting a good harvest wil take longer. Try bush and dwarf varieties rather than pole varieties. Root vegetables At least four to five hours of sun per day for decent production. Beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes and turnips will do OK in partial shade, but you'll have to wait longer for a full crop. The more light you have, the faster they'll mature. Alternatively, you can harvest baby carrots or small new potatoes for a gourment treat that would cost an arm and a leg at a grocery store. Scallions At least three hours of sun per day. This crop does well in partial shade throughout the growing season. Spinach At least three to four hours of sun per day. Spinach welcomes shade, as it bolts easliy if in full sun. If you grow it specifically to harvest as baby spinach, you'll be able to harvest for quite a while as long as you continue to harvest the outmost leaves of each plant.

I have a columnar table showing the plant, the amount and kind of sunlight, and a detailed explanation. Mouselink: Ooops, huh?


Watch the video: Plants That Grow in ShadeShade loving plantsShade Loving VegetablesShade Garden


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