Best Vegetables That Grow In Shade

Planting vegetables that grow in shade can turn even the dimmest of gardens into a vegetable-growing powerhouse.

| March/April 2014

  • The soon-to-be shady space beneath pole bean frames is ideal for planting leafy green vegetables that grow in the shade.
    Photo by iStockPhoto/BasieB
  • Green cabbage is one of the many vegetables that tolerate partial shade.
    Photo by Rick Wetherbee
  • At least three hours of sun per day is all it takes to grow green onions and baby chard.
    Photo by Rick Wetherbee
  • A dappled shade environment could be the perfect spot for heat sensitive plants.
    Photo by iStockphoto/Sisoje
  • Even though its relatively shady, there’s no reason not to utilize the space beneath tomato cages. This might be the perfect spot for some culinary herbs of your choice.
    Photo by iStockphoto/NoDerog
  • Brussels sprouts can grow in some shade, requiring at least six hours of sun per day.
    Photo by Rick Wetherbee

Every year, I seem to run out of sunny garden spaces long before I’ve finished planting my veggies. The dozens of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, along with multiple varieties of summer and winter squash, take up the majority of prime garden space in the sun. I always thought this left me little to no room for growing leafy greens, broccoli and other veggie favorites. But not anymore.

Now I’m taking advantage of dappled sun and shady areas in the garden by growing a variety of vegetables that do just fine with only three to six hours of sun. I’m even growing veggies in perennial beds under renovation, with spaces left to fill until the new perennials are planted and grow to fit their allotted space.

Shady sites are something that most of us have in the garden. These light limitations are often the result of the canopy of a nearby tree, garden beds located on the east side of a wall or house, or a bed sheltered by taller crops, fences, sheds or other structures. These somewhat shady niches, however, serve as ideal sites for growing beets, leafy greens and broccoli. In other words, veggies grown for their roots, leaves, or edible buds and flowers are perfect candidates for shady spots in the garden.

Degrees of shade

Not all shade is created equal, coming in varying degrees, duration and intensity. Deciphering the clues to how much shade an area gets will help you know what vegetables are best suited for that site.

Your best bets are areas receiving partial shade or dappled shade. Partial shade areas receive sunlight for about three to six hours a day, whether in the early morning or late afternoon. Dappled or light shade refers to areas that receive filtered light through a tree canopy or overhead lath.

Areas receiving deep or dense shade have little or indirect sunlight, and may be located beneath a dense tree canopy or on the north side of a building or wall. It’s best to forgo growing veggies in this case. Save these areas instead for growing hostas, bergenia and other more tolerant perennials that thrive in deep shade.

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