By Joan Clark
If you want to raise vegetables, but don’t have a sunny spot to plant them, you’re in luck. There are many varieties of vegetables that grow in shade.
By shade, we mean two things. There is either partial sun or partial shade. The former implies the plant prefers at least four hours of sunshine per day but can handle more than that. And the latter applies to shade-tolerant vegetables that want less than four to six hours of direct sun.
The Best Vegetables For Shade
We’ll begin our list with plants that prefer shaded areas in your garden.
Bok choy – Chinese Cabbage
Bok choy, a type of Chinese cabbage, tastes delicious in soups and salads. And it’s effortless to grow in dappled sunlight or shade. It only needs two hours of sunlight per day to develop its characteristic green leaves.
Plant the seeds, or sprout it from roots in water in the spring or fall. Bok choy likes cool weather. And within a month and a half, it will reach to a foot or foot and a half in height. Then you can harvest it for your stir-fry.
Broccoli likes to grow in cold weather and doesn’t mind it if temperatures drop below freezing. Plant it in well-drained, rich soil. And choose an area with at least one or two hours of direct light. Or, instead of bright sunlight, you can make do with a few hours of indirect light, too.
While broccoli will produce in shady gardens, you won’t harvest a bumper crop. It is also excellent vegetable for companion planting next to carrots and onions. Both veggies also grow very well in shade. The heads will be fewer and smaller with less light. But that fact won’t alter the flavor at all.
Like broccoli, cauliflower prefers cooler temperatures. If the thermometer hovers in the 60s, you should get good results.
Cauliflower produces larger heads if it gets 6 hours of light a day. But it handles shaded plots, too. And when the heads are about 2 inches in size, you’ll want to aid in the blanching process.
That means pulling the leaves up to hide the heads and fastening them closed with a clothespin. This little trick makes the meaty part of the vegetable tender and white. Additionally, plant basil around your cauliflower and broccoli vegetables. These will repel mosquitoes and leaf bugs from your plants.
Garden cress loves moist soil, and it grows prolifically. It doesn’t mind if it lives in almost full shade. For these reasons, it’s ideal for container gardens.
Cress is so easy to grow that your child might raise some as part of a classroom project. And you could even sprout it in a tray on your kitchen countertop. Then use it to garnish a sandwich or spruce up your salad.
Also known as scallions, green onions are hardy, and they grow fast. You can sprout them from roots soaking in a container of water. Then transplant them to a soil in a plot with partial shade. In time, they will blossom. And this green onion flower is luscious in a salad.
If you leave the scallions growing in water only, they will weaken. But you can always replace them after a trip to the supermarket. Chop off the bottom about half an inch above the roots and toss that in the jar to start the next batch.
Recently, kale chips were all the rage. It seemed like everyone was baking these leafy greens with a little salt and olive oil. Once you try it, you might never go back to potato chips.
To grow your own batch of kale, plant it in early spring to early summer. Even if you plant in late summer, you can harvest after the frost comes. It tastes better after it survives a cold spell. And it only needs a few hours of light to flourish.
Of the many varieties of lettuce, most thrive in indirect light. This is another plant that grows well in an indoor container garden, not only outdoors in a plot. In fact, some growers will shade their lettuce to prevent it from burning.
Lettuce also prefers cool temperatures. And watch the leaves to see when you need to water. If they appear to be wilting, sprinkle them right away. The water will slow down the transpiration rate.
Radishes evoke a reaction. People either love them or hate them. If you adore radishes, then smile because you can raise them in shaded areas. The only consequence of less light is that their roots are smaller and their leaves are more abundant.
Sow radish seeds at the end of the summer or beginning of the fall. If you space out multiple plantings two weeks apart, then you can harvest continuously for a while. It takes radishes about three to four weeks to mature. Quick Tip: Add some periwinkle plants next to your radishes, these ground cover plants will keep bugs away from the radish leaves.
Popeye’s favorite vegetable, spinach, needs a few hours of sunlight to produce healthy, green leaves. But it thrives in spring or fall temperatures. Or if your winters are mild, you might harvest spinach then, too.
If you plant spinach near radishes, the radishes will keep leaf miners away. The bugs will eat the radish foliage above ground instead of the spinach, but that won’t harm the roots. And keep your spinach growing by only pinching off the leaves you want, leaving the rest for another day.
>> Further Garden Tip: 17 Easy to Grow Perennials for your Garden
Carrots and other root vegetables handle partial sunlight and partial shade with good grace. If you can provide them with six hours of light, they will grow faster. If not, you’ll have to wait longer to harvest them, and you’ll get a smaller yield.
If you plant carrots in rows facing east to west, other plants are less likely to cast shade on them. And keep an eye on the ground. If you can see the orange part exposed, cover it with soil or mulch. Otherwise, that part of the carrot will probably taste bitter.
>> Did you know: Mix old coffee grounds into your garden soil. It is the perfect fertilizer for root crops like carrots and radishes.
Peas don’t mind shade in the morning or evening but give them five hours of direct sun during the day. You can sow their seeds in early spring even if you expect another frost. Typically, this planting period falls around St. Patrick’s Day.
As the peas grow, water sparingly unless they appear to wilt. They are helpful to plants around them since they add nitrogen to the soil. And picking the pods will encourage new pods to grow.
>> Further Gardening and Landscape Tip: The Aucuba shrub is one of the best plants to grow in shade. The perfect kind of evergreen shrubs to mix up your garden.
Potatoes need partial sun with five to six hours of sunlight if you want tubers of a decent size. But if you have a sun-dappled spot with four hours of direct light, give them a try. There are several methods for raising them.
Some gardeners prefer to plant potatoes in a raised bed if their soil has poor drainage. Others like using trenches. These root vegetables like soil temperatures in the 40s and 50s F. And remember to “hill” them, or heap extra soil over their roots to protect them from sunburn which makes them taste bitter.
If you are wondering what to grow in the shady parts of your garden, there are at least a dozen vegetables that require less than six hours of sun every day. Some vegetables, like bok choy and green onions, flourish on much less than that. And many of the plants that like less light also thrive in cool weather.