Many readers ask how they can grow vegetables and fruit in the shade. A shady spot may not be the best place, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done! In this short video, we explain which crops grow well in the shade and how to make the most of the light that is available to get the most from your garden.
First, if you’re not already aware, most vegetables do need 6 to 8 hours of direct sun each day to thrive.
However, if you do not have this amount of sun, there are vegetables and fruits that can “get by” with part sun and part shade (3 to 6 hours of direct sunlight).
There is really no vegetable or fruit that will grow in darkness. Cress
Veggies to Grow in Shade
- Leafy plants such as lettuce, arugula, kale and chard are happy with just three to four hours’ sunshine a day.
- Broccoli and spinach will also grow well in partial shade. In fact, they may benefit from shade in hotter climates since they are susceptible to bolting.
- Beets and radishes may grow smaller roots, but they’ll still grow as well as produce leaves. Cabbage will also grow in shade, but they may not form tight heads.
- For areas that receive morning sun then afternoon shade, try vegetables such as celery, carrots and bush beans.
- Areas that are shaded in the morning but sunny by afternoon are great for climbing vegetables like outdoor cucumbers and beans that will clamber up supports into the sunshine.
Fruits to Grow in Shade
- Sour (acid) cherries actually fare better in shady plots as they don’t need the sun to sweeten them. Plus, they look very pretty when trained on a north-facing wall.
- Currants and gooseberries also grow and crop quite well in partial shade. Train them as cordons or as fans against a wall to ensure the branches are well spaced so light can reach all parts of the plant.
- Cane fruits such as blackberries and raspberries can also cope with some shade.
- Rhubarb is another great crop for a shady spot.
- In terms of fruit trees, pears and plums are your best pet. Pears do need a few hours of sun, preferable in the afternoon. Plums are a great choice for a landscape that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Just remember, many varieties of pear and plum trees need a cross-pollinator to fruit.
- Wondering about strawberries? Alpine strawberries are much tougher than normal strawberries. Try a variety called ‘Alexandria’ for shade.
What NOT to Grow in Shade
Heat-loving vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and squash or melon simply won’t grow without full sun. They need hot, sunny days.
Most fruit trees need LOTS of sun. Citrus, peach, nectarine, apple, and apricot trees all need direct sun and won’t thrive in shade.
Tips for Growing in Shade
- In all but the hottest climates, use the sunniest parts of the garden to start seeds in a seedbed or in pots or modules, then transplant them to another bed once they are larger and more able to cope with shade. Using grow lights indoors can give early-sown seedlings a boost.
- Reflect any available light into shadier parts of the garden by painting walls and fences white, or use mirrors and other reflective surfaces such as shiny metal or foil.
- Shadier corners are slower to warm up in spring and quicker to cool down in fall, so use cold frames or row covers to warm up the soil earlier and extend the growing season later on.
- Slugs and snails often lurk in shady areas, so use beer traps and delay laying mulches until the weather warms up.
- Leave plenty of space between plants to help maximize light penetration.
- Our online Almanac Garden Planner makes it simple to choose crops suitable for shadier spots. Click on the Custom Filter button, select the ‘Partial Shade Tolerant’ option and click ok. The selection bar will then display just those crops suitable for growing in these conditions. Easy!
Try the Almanac Garden Planner for free for 7 days! It’s ample time to plan your first garden.