It’s common knowledge that plants require light in order to sustain themselves. Sunlight is the essential element of photosynthesis. A less commonly known fact is that some vegetables actually thrive in the shade.
Most of them are herbs and vegetables that produce and store food on their leaves. Others are root vegetables. These plants will do well in shade, and normally, even better if they receive at least some light.
- Chives are known to do well in the sun, as well as in partial shade. Not as many flowers will appear in the shade as would in the sunny conditions, but it might be a good thing as too many flowers can cause chives to spread to unwanted places and occupy your entire garden. Chives require minimum of 3 hours of sunlight per day, and it’s better to start them from divisions, and not from seed when grown in the shade.
- Bok choy, more widely known as Chinese cabbage, has an open-leaved structure, resembling lettuce. It’s rich in vitamins A and C, and has great anti-cancer properties. It can be grown in shade during the summer, and it requires a minimum of 2 hours of sun per day.
- Tomatoes are probably the most commonly used garden item. They usually require tons of light, but they can be grown in partial shade. This also applies to cherry tomatoes, which do even better in shade than regular ones. Tomatoes require minimum of 5 hours of sunlight.
- Komatsuna, or Japanese mustard spinach, is ideal for shaded gardens, as it can thrive with just 2-3 hours of sunlight per day. The leaves can be used in salads, and stir-fries. The preparation method is the same as with the regular spinach, so you can even boil it. Komatsuna is usually grown in spring and fall, as it doesn’t handle heat and excess sunlight well.
- Cilantro is a great plant to grow in shade. Seeds can be sowed anywhere between spring and mid-autumn, and new batches can be introduced to your garden every two weeks. It requires 3-4 hours of sunlight.
- Oregano is best started from cuttings, and planted in spots that receive 3-4 hours of sun. When grown in shade, the harvest will be significantly lesser than in the sunlight, but the lack of sun will prevent flowering and unwanted spreading of the plant.
- Potatoes grown in shade won’t be nearly as big as the ones grown in sun. However, if they get 5 hours of sun, they will be the perfect size.
- Lettuce thrives in cooler conditions, so a slight shade is the perfect spot for it to grow. IF you want a continuous source of lettuce, plant the head-forming ones every two weeks. Make sure your lettuce gets enough water, and at least 3 hours of sun.
- Celery should be started indoors, from seed, and then transferred to your shaded garden. Make sure you don’t forget to water it, as celery loves moist soil. Harvest outer leaves when they get long enough, and plant it in a spot that receives at least 4 hours of sun.
- Kale is best planted in spring, and you can keep harvesting it well into the winter. It doesn’t stand heat well, as it makes the leaves bitter, and therefore the best place for kale during the summer is in shade. The leaves of shade grown kale will not be as big, but the taste will be more palatable. Make sure your kale receives some sunlight, anywhere between 2 and 4 hours.
- Carrots should be planted in well cultivated beds, with 4 to 5 hours of sunlight per day. Those grown in shade might look as baby carrots, even though they had plenty of time to develop. The taste will be amazing, so the tradeoff is worth it.
Growing vegetables in the shade has its positive sides for plants that don’t handle summer heat well. However, you should keep in mind that these conditions are not ideal for the plants. Light should be maximized with reflective surfaces around your garden. One of the best ways to achieve this is painting your walls and fences white.
The fact that your plants aren’t receiving enough day light should be compensated in other forms of nutrition – make sure your plants get enough water, and that they have the best soil.
Your harvests will be significantly reduced, and growing periods will be increased. Carrots and radishes, for example, take double the time to mature. The advantage or growing in shade is that your cool season crops will have a dramatically increased season, and the vegetables will always taste amazing.