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Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden

Best Fruit and Vegetables that Grow in Shade

January 16, 2016

Vegetables that Grow in Shade

“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. 

Full shade

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.

Vegetables that grow in shade

Partial Shade

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

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.

Fruit and Vegetables that Grow in Shade

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.

Vegetables that grow in shadeMost 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Vegetables that grow in shade

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.


Vegetable Garden

Keep an eye on your seeds with a garden diary

February 28, 2014

garden diary

The Importance of Keeping a Garden Diary

One of the first tips I give to community gardeners when we begin is to keep a garden diary.

My last post mentioned one of my gardening dislikes but keeping notes in a diary is high up there in my likes, mostly because I have ‘a thing’ for stationary and in particular, pretty notebooks.

A seed diary, a garden work diary, a weather diary – it doesn’t matter how little or how much you add to your gardening notepad, the trick is to remember to do it.

Making regular notes about what happened and how your plants grew for you each year will help you to remember what went right or what went wrong in your vegetable garden and is an important step in the learning process. I’ve learnt so much from my mistakes over the years, but if I hadn’t written down the process, might never have remembered why!

garden diaryYour garden diary could include notes as brief as jotting down the variety of seeds you bought and whether all the seeds you popped into seed trays or modules germinated.

You might include notes on how long the seedlings took to push their way up through the soil and grow their first set of true leaves (the second pair of leaves you see growing on the seedling, the first set are known as seed leaves or cotyledon leaves), or you could include the name of the supplier and shop you bought the seeds from which will help you determine whether they look after the packets of seeds they sold to you.

Keeping a note of how well a particular variety of plant grew for you and whether you harvested lots from it, or whether the fruit or vegetables were the tastiest you’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing or the most mundane, will help you pin down seed varieties to grow again or recommend to friends.

If you’re following recommended crop rotation guidelines, it’s a good idea to mark in your diary which beds you planted your seeds or seedlings into, to help you keep track. Include a few photos or sketches too – I find taking photographs throughout the year is a great way of jogging my memory of final growing positions of plants, regardless of where I’d planned to plant them.

Keep a Diary - Polytunnel snow 28 February 2014

Snow on 28 February 2014
Polytunnel 2 degrees C overnight inside

Adding general weather conditions to your notes can help you work out when the last frost dates were, whether you had to cover plants or whether your success that year was as a result of non stop sunshine for days, or if the blazing heat caused every last one of your lettuce or spinach plants to bolt and prematurely flower.

Another tip is to keep a note of the compost you sowed your seeds into. I’ve found the brand can hugely influence how well and quickly my seeds germinate, again worth remembering for the next time.

Regardless of whether you keep your notes on paper in beautiful books (which I always return to, no matter how many gadgets I have), in simple copy books, recycled paper clipped together, or on your phone, tablet or computer, the main thing is to keep your notes up to date and to continue to do so, no matter how much bother it may seem at the time.

You’ll find you’ll learn so much more from watching and learning how your own plants grow in your own garden and by referring back to your garden diary than reading heap loads of articles telling you how to do it.

I’d love to hear how you keep a track of what’s growing in your garden. Do you keep notes on your computer or do you have a soft spot for beautiful notebooks like me, or do you even bother at all?


Grateful for a garden…

August 19, 2012

Well we’re home from our long trip away, the garden is a mass of chickweed, flowering vegetables and overgrown borders, but there is a lot to eat.

Vegetable Baket

Dinner: Potatoes, Kale, Courgettes, Mange Tout, Garlic, Carrots

I wont list how everything is doing in the vegetable beds, suffice to say there’s a fair bit of weeding and tidying to be done now we’re home.

Polytunnel - August 2012

For all the blue sky and hot sun, I’ve missed my garden. The flowers, the lush green grass we take for granted and sometimes complain about when it can’t be mowed due to the rain. I’ve missed the peace, the birdsong and the utter quiet at night-time. I’m grateful for everything the garden provides us with, whether it’s stunning blooms or oversized courgettes.

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

Hydrangia Macrophylia 'Selma'

Hydrangea Macrophylia ‘Selma’

Am I alone in my wistful musings? Do you miss your garden when you’re away or even  give it a second thought?



Bimbling and harvesting in the vegetable garden – early June

June 12, 2011

Just in case anyone’s under the illusion that we have the perfect garden, this is a picture of the wild area in our veg patch.

One day it may turn into a pond but for now it’s the place where all the wildlife hides, the insects buzz and the children’s balls get lost.

I love it as much as the rest of the garden, particularly when all the creeping buttercups flower.

No washing drying today… up in the clouds

Today was a peaceful bimbling day – tidying up, not too much weeding, a bit of sowing, listening to mellow tunes in my own head space.

I transplanted some cauliflowers a week or so ago and already the slugs have found them. Looks like the night time patrol will be starting up again very soon.

The bed above is waiting for the winter cabbages to grow bigger before they’re planted out.

The bulbs on the onions that were planted to overwinter are swelling nicely too.

I love the leaf shape and colour of this Bordeaux Spinach, but we’ve yet to taste it… maybe this evening it will grace our plates.

All the action’s happening inside the polytunnel at the moment. Here we’re harvesting lots of peas, perpetual spinach, scallions, beetroot, french beans, courgettes and herbs.

I love working in here as the scent from the herbs is so delicious.

The rosemary brushes against the leg as it’s passed and the perfume from the dill, tarragon, chives and thyme fill the air when a soft breeze blows in.

The dwarf French beans have struggled but are producing pods now.

I took a gamble and sowed them early, and they’ve had a tough time of it… they took a real munching from the slugs and haven’t grown very big, but good to see some flowers now and I’ve sown extra to replace the eaten ones.

One bed in the tunnel is taken up with squashes.. a couple of courgette plants, a couple of cucumbers and this year an unknown variety of something.

We dried and saved the seeds from a chestnutty flavoured squash purchased from an organic farm shop last autumn. Am thinking it’s a Blue Ballet but will have to wait and see… it’s looking very healthy though so fingers crossed.

A row of phacelia has been sown in front to attract pollinating insects inside.

To finish off my pottering, as a reward (as if I needed one after my peaceful day) some ripe strawberries were picked and shared. The runners from the outside patch were dug up and planted in the tunnel during the early spring producing the most exquisite flavoured fruit.


Cambridge Variety Strawberries
Still a few jobs to do, but feeling good for a catch up.
Vegetable Garden

How to Plan Crop Rotation in a Vegetable Garden

March 10, 2011

The Greenside Up Vegetable Garden Crop Rotation
Vegetables crops are grouped into families.  Crop rotation simply means that related annual vegetables are grown together in their families and their positions moved around the plot once a year (or more).

Why use Crop Rotation?

There are a number of reasons for rotating crops:

  •  It helps to prevent pests and diseases that live in the soil.  For example, two major worries in vegetable growing are clubroot disease in Brassica crops (cabbage type plants) and the nematode known as eelworm in potatoes.  If the crops are grown in the same place each year, the chances of these problems occurring are much greater.  By moving them around annually and only growing them in the same ground every four years of so, the pest and disease life cycles should be broken.
  • It stops the soil becoming drained of nutrients that the same plants would use every year.
  • Crops can follow each other that will benefit each other.  E.g., bean and pea roots hold lots of nitrogen.  If their disease free roots are left in the ground once the crops have been harvested, the Brassica that will follow in the next rotation will reap the rewards by producing lots of leafy greens. Also Brassica like soil that’s consolidated so by leaving the legume roots behind and thus causing little disturbance to the soil, the Brassica that follow will root better.
  • If vegetable families are grown together, it’s likely that the soil for each will need to be treated in the same way and that they will be prone to the same pests and diseases so can be treated together easily.

Important Families: (That are likely to be grown outdoors in a cooler climate)

Potato: Potato, tomato
Legumes: Peas, beans
Brassica: Cabbage, broccoli, swede, turnip & radish
Allium: Onion, garlic, shallot, leek
Others: Carrot, parsnip, parsley, and celery

Anything else can be fitted in such as sweetcorn, squashes, salads etc.

Basic Guidelines for Crop Rotation

The main guideline is to keep families together; if a section is to hold more than one family, try to keep those with similar growing requirements together e.g., potatoes and pumpkins like lots of organic matter.

  • Using a bed system can make planning a rotation easier.
  • Take lots of photos and make notes as it’s easy to forget where you grew something a year or to ago.

How to Plan A Four-Year Crop Rotation

The following is a guideline.  You may not want (or need) to follow this rotation at first.  However, after a couple of seasons you may start to wonder what can be planted in the gaps.  This should help with your planning. It’s a popular plan that many people use and has worked well for us.

how to plan crop rotation in a vegetable garden
People Like Bunches of Roses is an acronym I heard recently that may help you to remember the rotation.
Year 1:              Potato crops
Year 2:              Legumes (peas, beans)
Year 3:              Brassicas (cabbage type crops)

Year 4:              Root crops/others.

In this four-year rotation the potatoes and squashes are planted first (Bed 1) as the potatoes break up the soil nicely.

In year 2 the legumes (peas & beans) will be planted in Bed 1 as they will fix nitrogen into the soil for the Brassica (cabbages) that will follow.  Therefore in year 3 the leafy crops (Brassica) will be planted in bed 1 and lastly in year 4 the roots and others can be planted in bed 1 as they are the least demanding of the crops.

You may also find it useful to use a five-year rotation, rotating the Allium (onion) family separately.  Whichever you decide, avoid leaving the soil empty. Either cover it when not in use with carpet or similar or plant a green manure or a crop into it.

Bed 4:  Others (carrots, beetroot, parsnips, celery and sweetcorn,onions, garlic, shallots )Bed 1: (Early, main crop potatoes, pumpkins, courgettes, and tomatoes)

These are the biggest feeders.  In the autumn months (once the root crops have been cleared), apply well-rotted manure or compost or grow a green manure such as grazing rye. In spring, dig in the green manure (grazing rye) and if you didn’t have the opportunity to manure, or have sandy soil, apply manure or compost now, leaving a few weeks between manuring and sowing if you can.  After harvesting the potatoes, plant anything from the legume family.

Bed 4:  Others (carrots, beetroot, parsnips, celery and sweetcorn,onions, garlic, shallots )Bed 2: Legume Family (beans, peas, french beans and runner beans)

The Legumes.  These fix nitrogen themselves so do not require extra manure.  They will benefit from leaf mould mulch once they’ve been planted out however (to improve soil structure).  Once harvested, sow a nitrogen-fixing green manure such as winter tares, check the soil pH and add lime in the autumn if necessary.

Bed 4:  Others (carrots, beetroot, parsnips, celery and sweetcorn,onions, garlic, shallots )

Bed 3: Brassica (cabbage, swede, turnips, broccoli, and radish)

Leafy veg (Brassica & salads) like to follow peas & beans. Dig in the green manures (winter tares) or add compost (or well-rotted manure) in the spring prior to planting.  Mulch with leaf mould in the autumn

Bed 4:  Others (carrots, beetroot, parsnips, celery and sweetcorn,onions, garlic, shallots )Bed 4:  Others (carrots, beetroot, parsnips, celery and sweetcorn

Mostly comprises of root crops but miscellaneous crops fit in well here too. They don’t need much feeding, as they’ll use up everything that’s leftover from previous crops. Apply compost in the spring where Allium, celery, leafbeet and sweetcorn will grow.

Sow a green manure (such as grazing rye) over winter, ready for the potatoes in the spring.

Only One Vegetable Bed?

If you only have one or two small beds, don’t worry. Just divide them into four with bamboo or hazel sticks and plant your vegetable families in the different squares or rectangles.  You may also find that you plant more Allium (onions) than Brassica. It doesn’t matter. As long as you aim to keep the vegetable families apart for as long as possible, you’ll have done your best.

For a very easy to follow and simple visual explanation check out this great video from Monty Don on Gardeners World.

Do you practice this version of crop rotation or a different one? Do you find it works?


Preparing the vegetable garden for spring

March 7, 2011

So, I let you have a sneak preview of our veggie patch last week, before we started tidying it up and weeding it (I only dared to show you one bed).

After a ‘days honest work’, (as Mr G keeps saying), here’s the after.

I’m trying my hardest to resist sowing straight into it NOW, particularly as it’s such a gorgeous day. I’m trying to leave it alone to see what weed seeds germinate before I sow anything, and to let the soil settle again.

Two of the beds are heavily manured ready for the potato crops that will be growing in them in a few weeks time. Once the peas and beans are growing I’ll be mulching them with some home-made compost and I’ll be preparing a bean trench shortly in preparation for the runner beans.

I’m hoping that there weren’t any dreaded couch grass seeds floating around as Mr G strimmed, scattering tufts of grass all over my nicely weeded beds.

Just in case you’ve ever wondered why gardeners bang on about covering beds when they’re not in use, this picture demonstrates it exactly.

The middle of the bed had been covered with weed proof membrane several months ago and there’s not a weed to be seen.

However, the edges are covered in creeping buttercup, dock and couch grass. We’d laid the membrane down in between the pea supports last year to prevent the weeds growing in an inaccessible area. It worked a treat, and saved me a half hour’s weeding yesterday.

The children were all out on play dates so it was just Mr G, me and the dogs…. a peaceful, satisfying day listening to the birds, outside in the fresh air…..

… oh and with a cat who’d like to think he’s a bird too.