“Help, I want to grow my own vegetables but my garden is shady. I’ve heard fruit and veg like to grow in sunny places, can I grow anything at all?”
Vegetables to grow in shade
This is one of two questions I was recently asked and it’s a good one. Most of us aren’t blessed with the perfect growing conditions and if we want to grow vegetables successfully, we have to learn to plant to suit our circumstances.
Like many of us, fruit and vegetables enjoy soaking up the light and ideally, 10 to 12 hours will give them plenty to keep them happy. Unfortunately we don’t always get what we want. The following gives tips on the best fruit and vegetables that grow in shade so if that’s the kind of garden you have, why not give some of them a go.
There are varying degrees of shade and recognising what you have in your garden is a good start in helping you to create a vegetable garden.
I’m not aware of any fruit and vegetables that will grow well in gardens that are in full shade. If you know of any then please leave a comment below. If this is all you have, you might have to give up on the vegetable growing idea and join a community garden instead! There are however, some shrubs and ferns that will happily grow without much light; take a look at the RHS list if you need some help.
Partial shade is considered anything from two to six hours without sunshine. and it can be tricky for some vegetables and great for others. The time of the day your garden receives sunlight can be an important factor too. Spinach and lettuce can go to seed quickly if they get too hot so will appreciate a bit of shade, as will coriander and chard.
Dappled shade is often caused by hedgerows or trees where the light filters through. In our own front garden, the area that receives the dappled shade is quite bright as it’s south-facing. Trimming the hedges or carefully removing a lower branch or two or even raising the canopy of the trees to allow more light in to your garden can be a great way of brightening up the area. If you’re not sure how to do this yourself, seek advice from a qualified landscaper or horticulturist.
Choosing what vegetables to grow in a shady garden
If your garden is shady on and off throughout the day, you might like to try growing large leafed vegetables such as kale and cabbage, swiss chard and spinach or lettuce and rocket, whose large leaves will soak up the sun when they see it.
Dwarf, baby or early varieties of beans, baby carrots and even some bush varieties of baby tomatoes can grow well in gardens that are sunny in the morning but shady after lunch .
If your garden is shady in the morning and then bright later on, try growing peas and runner beans that climb on vines.
Most herbs enjoy sunlight but there are several that will grow well in shade, particularly coriander which again is prone to bolting, lemon balm and other herbs in the mint family.
Fruit that originates in woodland areas such as the different currants, gooseberries, blackberries, and raspberries should produce a good crop in dappled shade.
Fruit and flowers need sunshine
If you have to consider shade in your garden, keep in mind that anything we grow for fruit and flowers needs lots of sunshine but anything we eat with leaves or roots will tolerate varying degrees of shade.
6 Top Tips for Shady Vegetable Gardens
- Make sure your soil is as healthy as it can be. Shady garden plants will have enough of a challenge without adding an unhealthy soil into the equation. Add compost or well-rotted manure annually and practice good crop rotation techniques if you can.
- Keep up with the weeds. Plants growing nearby that we don’t need will compete for light, moisture and nutrients so if you don’t need ‘em, weed ‘em.
- Start vegetable seeds in modules and then transplant the seedlings outside when they’re larger. If you have a cold frame, move the seedlings into it before planting them out into the soil which will allow them to acclimatise. Starting seedlings indoors will give them a good start in life and a better chance of growth and survival.
- Watch out for slugs and snails who thrive in shady areas. Lay down beer traps or try any of the other methods mentioned in this ‘15 ways to deal with slugs organically’ article.
- Give vegetables lots of space. Airflow and too much moisture can often be a problem in shady gardens so make sure there’s lots of space between plants which will cut the risk of disease.
- If you’re surrounded by dark walls or fences, try brightening them up with white paint which will help reflect light around the garden. We tried this in Goresbridge Community Garden on the dull grey walls and the transformation was immediate. The light, wood chip paths helped too.
Have you tried growing fruit or vegetables in the shade? How did you get on?
If you’d like more tips about growing and cooking fruit and vegetables, sign up for the Greenside Up newsletter and you’ll receive monthly links to articles that can help you cook and grow your own more confidently and successfully.