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Vegetables and Herbs for Growing in Shade

basil in shade
Basil growing in dappled shade.

A garden site that receives as few as two hours of direct sunlight a day can grow vegetables. A garden that gets only dappled sunlight during the day can grow vegetables.

Vegetable grown for their leaves and roots are the best choices for shady gardens. Salad greens such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and celery can be grown in shaded gardens. Roots crops such as beets, leeks, potatoes, and turnips can be grown in shady gardens.

Fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are not good choices for shady sites; fruit-setting crops prefer eight or more hours of direct sun each day. But some varieties of fruiting vegetables—determinate or bush tomatoes, for example, and tomatoes adapted to cool conditions—can grow where there are as few as five to six hours of direct sun.

Shade in the garden can be described as deep or full shade, light shade, or partial or dappled shade.

Deeply shaded or fully shaded describes a garden that receives no direct sun and very little if any reflected sunlight. A garden with deep or dense shade is not a good site for growing vegetables.

Lightly shaded describes a garden that receives an hour or two of sun each day or is light, airy, and well illuminated by reflected or indirect light for a good portion of the day. Reflected light might bounce into the garden from a white fence or building. Such a garden might sit under the shade of a high canopy tree or in the shade of a distant building. Leafy crops and root crops will grow in a lightly shaded garden.

Partially shaded describes a garden that receives direct sun for two to six hours and is lightly shaded or receives dappled shade the remainder of the day. A partially shaded garden may be sunny either in the morning or afternoon, but not both—the rest of the day the garden is in full or light shade. A partially shaded garden can easily grow leafy and root crops, and if the garden receives five hours of sunlight, some fruiting crops may grow there.

Leafy butterhead lettuce
Leafy crops such as Butterhead lettuce will grow in shaded gardens.

Vegetables and Herbs for Shady Gardens

Rather than choose crops that will struggle in a shaded garden, choose crops that are adapted to shade.

Vegetables. Vegetables crops that will grow in light to partial shade are: arugula, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, Chinese cabbage, corn salad, endive, escarole, garlic, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, leeks, mustard, New Zealand spinach, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, salsify scallion, sorrel, spinach, turnips, and watercress.

Vegetables that will tolerate light to partial shade include: bush beans, summer squash, and determinate or bush tomatoes adapted to cool regions or ready for harvest in 55 days or so. These varieties often bear the names of cool summer regions such as San Francisco, Oregon, New York, Russia, or Siberia, for example.

Herbs. Herbs that will grow in light to partial shade are: angelica, basil, catnip, chervil, chives, costmary, garden cress, germander, horseradish, lemon balm, lovage, mint, parsley, rosemary, sweet flag, sweet woodruff, and valerian.

Lettuce started indoors
Start crops for shady gardens indoors to speed harvest. Transplant seedlings into the garden when they are 4 inches tall.

Tips for Growing Vegetables in Shade

  • Choose vegetables and herbs adapted to shade; don’t try to grow crops that demand full sun.
  • Start crops for shady gardens indoors to speed harvest; germination and early seedling growth can begin under optimal conditions before transplanting to the shady site.
  • Expect slower maturation of crops and scale down expectation of size and yield.
  • Pruning away low tree branches and thinning out high branches will allow more sunlight to reach the garden.
  • Painting nearby walls or fences white will allow more light to bounce into the garden. Light colored paving on driveways or sidewalks adjacent to the shaded gardens will reflect more light.
  • Grow crops in containers so that they can be moved into sunny spots as the seasons change.

Advantages of Growing Vegetables in Shade

  • Leafy crops grown in partial shade will be succulent and free of bitter taste.
  • A partially shaded garden can allows for a longer growing period for cool-season crops.
  • Afternoon shade protects crops from the hot summer sun.

Also of interest:

Shade-Tolerant Crops for Container Gardens

How to Grow Spinach

How to Grow Lettuce

See Garden Products Recommended by Harvest to Table

 

 

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28 Comments

  1. My porch gets a lot of sunlight a big tree blocks most of it . Sunlight all day in the afternoon when the sun is shining on the west side of the building. I get 5 hours . Do you think that is enough time to grow a decent tomato . And what would be my best choice . Thank you for your help

    • Yes, 5 hours of sunlight each day is enough time to grow a small-fruited tomato. Try Sweet 100 or Yellow Pear. If you have room for two tomatoes, also try a larger-fruited tomato such as Celebrity.

      • Yes! We grow cherry tomatoes, japanese eggplant, bell peppers, all on 3-8 pm sun and 2-7 sun closer to fall. We use tomato tome for the tomatoes and fabric pots and they do excellent (aerated roots). Enjoy. Basil we grow on less than 5 hours in east facing window as they don’t really seem to like our afternoon heat (95+ plus degree days

  2. You have been very helpful. My garden started out with full sun,but the last 3 years it’s mostly shade. The trees are taller,and they are the frends next door. Soo I can’t cut or trim them. These articles help me allot. Thanks Barbara

    • Map the sunlight in your garden over the course of the day– in spring and summer. There may be spots where you can grow sun-loving vegetables in new planting beds or containers.

      • For a full shade garden try the following vegetables and see what flourishes: beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, Chinese cabbage, endive and escarole, garden cress, kale, leaf lettuce, mustard, New Zealand spinach, bunching onions, peas, sorrel, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips and watercress. And try the following herbs: angelica, chervil, chives, mint, and parsley.

  3. I found that mint, sage, celery, and kale grow well in the shade. Last summer I grew red potatoes in partial shade. This year I will try all the rooted and leafy vegetables like you suggested.

  4. I started a food forest. Removed the pines and other trees and made raised beds to plant all fruit trees and berries. By keeping the tops trimmed out so the trees get sun and air flow, I am able to plant lettuces, book choy, chard, and flowers everywhere. Peas grow up a westward shaded fence and cucumbers grow on another fence on the south side. Beans grow both in shaded areas (bush) and i have arches for the pole beans and purple beans. My pink celery grows with my carrots. Tomatoes everywhere with fencing cut and formed as a cage keeps my local squirrels from uprooting them. Also keeps the deer from eating plants. They have plenty of acorns out back. I am in south Ohio and we have had so much rain. My area I plant is in 6″-18″ of fresh mulch from the tree trimmers. A free resource you, too can have. If you see a tree service mulching limbs, stop, put your four ways on, get out and tell them where you live and you will take their mulch! Saves them from paying to dispose of it at the dump, like $300. To $500. And up! They will be happy and any mud holes can be eliminated. Do not till it in and pull back mulch and plant in the ground. Hope this is helpful!

  5. I live on a north facing apartment that gets just barely a few hours of early morning sunlight but mostly just warm air and indirect sun, what herbs/veggies would do best here? Thanks!

    • Experience is the best teacher when it comes to gardening. Keep track of the vegetables you try to grow and the success you have. Start with leafy crops–lettuces and spinach; from there try other cool-season crops–root crops. Summer and fruiting crops–such as peppers and tomatoes–will likely not do well.

  6. I had almost 8 hrs of direct sun and grew combinations of leafy/root vegetables and peppers/tomatoes too, and since I have tall trees (no covering the garden) they attract birds which are eating the leaves of the vegetable. Today I elected a tent like shade, em glad most of my vegetables are shade tolerance, but do u think I must move the tomatoes and peppers to sun or will they be fine,? Em also not sure rain water will penetrate the tent.

    • Yes, the tomatoes and peppers need full sun–8 hours each day–to ripen fully. If the “tent” you placed over the crops is a solid material, you can replace it with a mesh bird-netting. The netting will keep the birds off the crop and allow sunlight to reach the plants. You can place tall stakes at the edges of the planting beds and drape the netting over the frame. You can lift the netting when you want to water or harvest. Long pieces of foil placed around the garden may also reflect light and distract the birds.

  7. Hello! I live in London and am wondering if growing something in my shaded balcony is better than in my half shaded window sill ?
    Thank you so much!

    • Salad greens and root crops are best adapted to shady growing situations. Leafy greens and roots are edible as soon as they are large enough to eat. Fruiting vegetables–tomatoes, peppers, squash–require at least 8 hours of sunlight each day to bear fruit. Growing indoors under fluorescent lights–a simple shop light–may be your most productive course. Try growing leaf lettuce or spinach in pots on your shaded balcony and see how it goes. At the same time, plant the same crops in your window. You will have an answer from Mother Nature in 50 to 60 days. See the post How to Grow a Salad Garden for a few tips. https://harvesttotable.com/how-to-grow-a-salad-garden-in-10-steps-2/

  8. I have a garden that is surrounded by tall pin oak trees on the North, East, and South. In the afternoon it gets some sun before the sun gets too low to be blocked by trees on the other side of the street. Ferns do grow well there. I live in the Cleveland area.

    What vegetables could grow there? And of those which ones will the deer not eat?

    • See this link to our article called Vegetables and Herbs for Growing in the Shade https://harvesttotable.com/vegetables-for-growing-in-shade/
      Choose leafy and root crops for the best yield in a shady garden.
      Deer will eat most vegetables and herbs. Place a frame over your planting bed and drape it with bird netting to keep the deer back. A 8-foot tall fence will keep deer out of the garden but is often not practical for many gardens.

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