This post may contain affiliate links, my full disclosure can be read here. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Would you love to grow a vegetable garden but think you can’t in your shady yard? It’s time to stop thinking like that because there are lots of vegetables that love shade to grow in!
It doesn’t matter if you live in the country or in town, buildings and trees can cast large shaded areas over your yard.
Thankfully there are many plants that love to grow in shade even with only 3 to 5 hours of sunlight a day.
When we first bought our home I was so excited to start gardening.
But it didn’t take long before we discovered that a lot of our yard was shaded during the best growing times of the day.
This is when I really started learning how to successfully grow vegetables in partial and light shade and learned that it has a lot of advantages. There are many vegetables that don’t need full sun to grow well.
In many cases growing in the shade can help extend your growing season because cool-weather plants will go to seed and turn bitter as the temperatures and sunlight get stronger.
What Type Of Light Does Your Garden Have?
Full sun gardens will receive direct sunlight for at least 6 hours each day. This can be in the morning or afternoon but the best growing results will be if your garden is in full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
If you live in a northern growing zone as I do then you’d be better off considering at least 8 hours of sunlight each day to be full sun. This is because the strength of the sunlight isn’t as strong further north than it is in the south.
Partially shaded means that your garden receives direct sunlight for 3 to 5 hours a day while the rest of the day it’s lightly shaded.
The garden could be sunny during the morning or afternoon, but wouldn’t be sunny in both. For at least half the day a partially shaded garden will have full to light shade.
This is the easiest type of shaded garden to grow in. Leafy greens, root crops will have no problem growing in part shade. If you have at least 5 to 6 hours of sunlight you can also get some fruiting plants like zucchini to grow too.
Lightly shaded gardens will get 2 to 3 hours of sunlight each day or could be receiving reflected light from a light-colored building. It could also be shaded from very tall trees without lower branches. This type of shad is often called dappled shade.
This causes the garden to be in shade but still seem fairly bright. If this describes your garden area you can grow leafy greens and root crops.
Deeply shaded also called full shade means that your garden gets no direct sunlight or reflected light at all or at least less than 1 hour each day.
Normally deeply shaded gardens are not a good choice for growing vegetables. If you really want to grow vegetables try something like rhubarb that is easy to grow and can get by with little light.
A better option would be to start an herb garden. Many herbs in the mint family grow very well with little sunlight.
Advantages Of Growing Vegetables In The Shade
When so many gardening resources keep saying that you should start your garden in full sun you might be wondering if shade gardening is really worth it.
Yes, it is!
There are many areas of our yard that get partial to full shade and we have been growing a lot of food in these areas for years.
There are many vegetables like root vegetables and salad greens that simply don’t handle the heat and strong sunlight of summer well. It can cause many plants to bolt (go to seed) and taste bitter.
By growing leafy greens in partial shade they will give you a longer growing period and this, of course, means a longer harvest too. The shade will help to protect plants from the hot afternoon sun, reducing watering needs as well.
Tips For Growing Vegetables In The Shade
- Grow vegetables that will naturally grow well in the shade. Don’t try to force sun-loving vegetables to grow in full shade.
- Prune lower tree branches or have higher branches thinned out to let more sunlight through to your garden. While you will still have a shady garden every bit of light that you can let through will help.
- Understand that for some crops you will have lower yields and sizes.
- Start your plants from seed indoors, you’ll get a faster harvest by setting out transplants in a shaded garden rather than trying to germinate seeds there.
- Look for opportunities to add reflective light to your garden. Painting fences or walls white will help to reflect more light back towards your garden. Using white colored stones as mulch in your pathways can also help to hold warmth and reflect light.
- Use high-quality soil for growing in. We’ve found huge increases in growth by growing vegetables in rich compost in shady areas. Whether you grow in the sun or shade focusing on soil health is very important.
- Keep an eye on your soil moisture. When you garden in the shade the needs of the plants can be very different from ones grown in a sunny area. The shade means that the water in the soil won’t evaporate as fast as it does in the sun, so you probably won’t have to water as often. However, if your shaded garden is under a large tree canopy you might have to water more often than you think because the rain won’t reach the plants as much. Also, the tree roots will be competing with the vegetables for moisture.
- Mulch your garden! It doesn’t matter if you are growing in full sun or shade mulching your garden really helps to keep the weeds down and hold moisture in the soil.
Vegetables That Grow In Shade
Before you decide what vegetables to grow it’s important to understand what vegetables will grow the best in the type of shade you have.
Partially shaded gardens are the most flexible to grow food in because they get more sunlight than lightly shaded gardens. This is why the list of vegetables that do well in them is longer.
Do remember that the vegetables in the light shade list can easily be grown in a partly shaded garden too!
Vegetables That Grow In Partial Shade
If you’ve been wondering what vegetables can grow in partial shade then this will help you make the most of your garden area.
The following list of vegetables will grow well in partial shade. This means that they will grow and produce with just 3 to 5 hours of sunlight each day.
Bush beans can be grown well in partial shade. The more sun they have the better but I’ve successfully had good bean harvests from plantings that had at least 4 hours of sunlight.
Beets grow very well in partial shade gardens. If your shade is very thick you’ll have lots of beet greens to eat but the bulbs will be much smaller than normal. But I love baby beets so this is my favourite size to harvest them at anyway.
Broccoli will grow well in partially shaded gardens, I’ve even had nice crops from garden areas that received no direct sunlight at all.
The less sunlight the broccoli recipes the smaller the heads will be but you can still grow lots of tasty broccoli with just a few hours of light.
Cabbage can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Plants grown in full sun will be ready to harvest sooner, but I find shade-grown cabbage is sweeter and full of moisture.
Carrots can be hard to germinate if the surface of the soil dries out. Growing carrots in a shaded area can really help with that.
Collard greens another plant in the brassica family taste similar to cabbage except that it doesn’t form a head. This leafy green is a great choice for your shade garden as long as it gets 4 to 5 hours of sun each day.
While normal onions really need full sun to produce good-sized bulbs. Green onions can easily be grown in partial shade.
Mustard greens are another must-have in your shade garden but they grow well in full sun too. These greens really do not grow well in hot temperatures so planting them in partial shade helps to keep them productive in the summer.
Snow peas are one of the easiest peas to grow. They can be harvest early because you don’t have to wait for the pods to fill out.
Any time pea is the size you like you can start harvesting. But you can also harvest the pea shoots and growing peas in a cool shady area will extend your harvest.
Radishes are really easy to grow in the shade. This root crop dislikes hot and dry conditions that can cause them to bolt too soon.
Radishes come in many varieties that have different colors and tastes. Try planting a few types so you have fresh radishes all season.
Turnips are another easy to grow root crop that grows great in full sun or partial shade.
Light Shade Vegetables
These vegetables will grow well in what’s called light shade, only 2 to 4 hours of sunlight. Many of the vegetables listed below will also grow under partial shade conditions depending on the time of year and your growing zone.
Arugula is a great choice for growing in a shady area. Strong sunlight and the heat of summer can turn this leafy green bitter and causes it to bolt early.
This tasty green needs only a few hours of sunlight to grow well. Endive will really appreciate the cooler temperatures of your shade garden as it will help to keep it from bolting too early.
Leaf lettuce grows really well in shaded gardens. Protection from the hot sun means your lettuce tastes sweeter and will be able to produce leaves without bolting for a longer period.
Kale loves cool weather and is often one of the first greens you can plant outside in the spring. During the summer growing kale in the shade will help to keep it sweet and tasting great.
Hot temperatures and long daylight hours are the top reasons spinach bolts in the summer. By planting it in the shade you can grow and harvest spinach for a much longer time.
Swiss chard is another leafy plant that enjoys growing in the shade. It may grow a little slower but I find the leaves are more tender tasting. You can also overwinter it and get an early harvest the following spring.
Remember that all backyards have their own microclimate. The type of shade you have in yours can still be very different from your neighbor’s yard. Try growing your own small shade garden to find out what plants grow the best for you.
Do you have tips for growing vegetables in a shady garden? Leave a comment below I’d love to hear from you!
Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.