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Shady Vegetable Gardens

Most people envision their gardens as being in full sun all day long, and yet there may be some of us that have more shade in our yards than full sunshine. Is it still possible to have a vegetable garden? I say yes, you can! You may not be able to have all of your favorites, but then again you may be able to grow plants that others cannot. Then you can barter with those in your community that need what you have grown for what you are not able to raise in your own garden – see my article “Bartering.”

So what can you grow in a shady garden? All varieties of lettuce, arugula, endive, cress, radicchio, Swiss chard, and spinaches; members of the cabbage family such as broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and Chinese cabbage are also able to grow in areas of limited sunshine. All plants do need some time in the sunlight, but those listed above are able to grow where other plants won’t. If your plants are growing under or near trees, they may be fighting for the proper nutrients to survive. A soil test kit is available at your local nursery or garden center, so test to see what you may need to supplement your soil with. Better yet, build a raised bed and, in the methods described in my previous article “Raised Bed Gardens,” be sure to add an organic, totally biodegradable weed barrier to keep the tree roots and sprouts from coming up before building the soil base for your plants. Then they won’t be competing for the nutrients from the trees.

There are plants that hate shade: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and all varieties of squash. So use your shady yard to your advantage and plant your sun lovers in pots – on bases with rollers for heavy containers – so that they can be moved around your garden area to maximize the sunlight you have available. Containers can also be used for those plants that are most delicate and need to be moved into the shade to keep them from burning. You may also consider shade cloth to protect your shade loving veggies.

If your garden area is only partially shady during the daylight hours, there are plants that will work well for you. Most varieties of greens like kale, mustard, and collards tolerate partial shade well. Some herbs will, too, such as mint, parsley, coriander [cilantro], thyme, and tarragon. Several varieties of peas and beans are also tolerant of partially shady conditions, as are many root vegetables. A few examples of these are potatoes, radishes, beets, turnips, onions, and garlic.

The value in knowing whether or not the plants you have chosen will grow best in the shade or in full sun is that, when you plant your plants in the areas that provide the right amount of sunshine, they will all produce at their maximum production. Knowing what your plants need will help you have a very bountiful harvest.

I think that all homegrown vegetables taste much better than their store bought relatives. Maybe it is because we know exactly what we have or have not used in growing them or because they were grown in our own gardens or the gardens of our friends. Most importantly, I believe they taste better because they were grown and tended by our own hands, with loving care and the personal touch that only we can give them. Knowing all we can about the vegetables we grow can only make the final outcome of our harvest that much better.

Help your garden out by knowing what it needs. Maximize your sunshine and shade; harvest early and often; replant those varieties that quickly go to seed in order to have an abundant supply all through summer and fall; freeze, can, and dry to prolong the pleasure of the harvest that God has given you.

Enjoy the fruits of God’s blessing and your labors!



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  1. I grow tomatoes and peppers every year, peppers don’t like the Texas sun so I grow them it part sun part shade, same goes for my tomatoes. My tomatoes will produce all the way till frost time in Nov. while those planted in full sun die by July or August. The peppers and tomatoes get 6 to 7 hours of morning sun by noon they are in the shade.
    Plants that need sun only have to have 8 hours of sun to grow, with the ones that can handle the hots part of the day can be planted in part shade too. Say the area is shady till noon time then from noon till sun down is sunny you can grow in that area.
    If your growing a plant that takes two years before producing like artichoke you’ll need to know how much sun the area gets in the winter. Yes, your shady and sunny areas change, along my fence line on the south side gets more sun in the summer than in the winter. So I would have to make sure I plant four feet away from the fence line for the plant to have sun in the winter. In the summer it gets full sun for about 10 hours then our red tips block the sun.
    With knowing your yard and how much sun and shade in what areas of your yard you can grow a lot more than you might have thought you could.
    People grow artichokes in border beds, they make an interest plant in the mix. Want to grow a vine on something or in an area that is seen, grow a passion vine, you get two bangs for your money and time, the flowers are beautiful and the fruit is edible, also called passion friut.I find these at local farmers markets.
    Rule of thumb all plants unless they are full shade only plants need 8 hours of sun.
    So with knowing this I hope it has helped make it easier to plant your garden than you thought.

  2. I am in Houston area. Original garden was behind property in empty lot, empty except for lots of China Berry trees. Left the trees on south side of garden strip, had great garden for 3 years, it declined and I stopped. This year, I moved to raised bed inside yard along fence this year; squash, tomatoes, cucumber and pole beans are looking great along east fence shaded from morning sun. Along south fence, not quite as strong growth but promising. These areas already show that in 90+ degree afternoon all leaves wilt/curl. Planted along west fence last and even slower growth but not as effected by hot afternoon.
    Unfortunately, did not plant until March 20 so lettuce, radish, peas and even carrot + onion are there but doing poorly. Need to get these in 2 to 4 weeks earlier next year.

  3. Here in zone 8b, “full sun” plants do well on 4 hours–likely to fry, otherwise. I use shade cloth to protect plants in the heat of the day where nature doesn’t provide. They will even do well with a lesser degree of shade left on all day.

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