Friday, May 18, 2012

Gardening in the Shade

When CT NOFA tables at farmers markets and other environmental events, a lot of people drop by the table and ask questions about gardening.  The complaint we hear so often is about gardening in the shade.  At-home food production is good for the planet and good for you, but so are the trees in your yard!  Many are turning to community gardens which have full sun, which is a great idea.  But even shady yards can have significant food production! Here is an article from Mother Earth News about gardening in the shade, and a list of the more shade tolerant veggies you can grow:

Shade Notes 
Growing Tips 
At least three to four hours of sun per day.
Arugula welcomes shade, as this crop is prone to bolting as soon as the weather turns warm if in full sun.
Asian greens
At least two hours of sun per day.
Asian greens such as bok choi (also spelled “pac choi” and “pak choi”), komatsuna and tatsoi will grow wonderfully with a couple hours of sun plus some bright shade or ambient light.
If you grow chard mainly for its crisp stalks, you will need at least five hours of sun per day; if you grow it mainly for the tender baby leaves, three to four hours of sun per day will be enough.
Expect chard grown in partial sade to be quite a bit smaller than that grown in full sun. Baby chard leaves are excellent cooked or served raw in salads.
Culinary herbs
At least three hours of sun per day.
While many culinary herbs need full sun, chives, cilantro, garlic chives, golden marjoram, lemon balm, mint, oregano and parsley will usually perform well in shadier gardens.
At least three to four hours of sun per day.
You'll notice only a small reduction in growth if comparing kale grown in partial shade with kale grown in full sun.
At least three to four hours of sun per day.
Lettuce is perfect for shadier gardens because the shade protects it from the sun’s heat, preventing it from bolting as quickly. Often, the shade can buy a few more weeks of harvesting time that you’d get from lettuce grown in full sun.
One of the best crops for shady gardens. Grows in as little as two hours of sun per day and handles dappled shade well.
The delicate leaves of this salad mix can be harvested in about four weeks, and as long as you leave the roots intact, you should be able to get at least three good harvests before you have to replant.
Mustard greens
At least three hours of sun per day for baby mustard greens.
Mustard grown for baby greens is best-suited for shady gardens.
Peas and beans
At least four to five hours of sun.
If growing these crops in partial shade, getting a good harvest wil take longer. Try bush and dwarf varieties rather than pole varieties.
Root vegetables
At least four to five hours of sun per day for decent production.
Beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes and turnips will do OK in partial shade, but you'll have to wait longer for a full crop. The more light you have, the faster they'll mature. Alternatively, you can harvest baby carrots or small new potatoes for a gourment treat that would cost an arm and a leg at a grocery store.
At least three hours of sun per day.
This crop does well in partial shade throughout the growing season.
At least three to four hours of sun per day.
Spinach welcomes shade, as it bolts easliy if in full sun. If you grow it specifically to harvest as baby spinach, you'll be able to harvest for quite a while as long as you continue to harvest the outmost leaves of each plant.

Many of these crops will grow more slowly in the shade, but you'll still ultimately have some homegrown produce - which is always better than none!
Happy gardening!

P.S. Visit our table this weekend at the Urban Oaks Green Faire (and meet our new intern Maya!) or the Girlscout Jamboree in Durham, CT.


  1. Great post … I have partial-shade areas that I've grown many of these selections with "good" results. And I choose those shady areas to grow lettuces all season … and extend the spinach into the warmer days of summer.

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