Shady Gardening

Shade can be challenging to grow plants, let alone vegetables, but don’t fret! Here are seven tried and proven varieties that will produce in abundance even in shade! 

  1. Spinach can grow happily with very little sun. Because it can take so long to sprout, get a head start by planting these seeds indoors in pony packs. Since spinach matures quickly, you can directly plant new seeds in the ground every week or two for succession planting. The cooler conditions in the shade will delay bolting! Try good ol’ Bloomsdale Longstanding, or my favorite Monstrueux de Viroflay from France! 
  2. Swiss Chard comes in a variety of colors, though growing them in the shade makes the color pale a bit. I find the flavor of a shade grown Swiss Chard to be finer and less bitter than that of the sun grown. The one I prefer is actually the white stemmed Fordhook Giant. They will elongate slightly, but they’ll produce just fine in shade.   
  3. Leaf Lettuce also comes in a variety of colors, but I believe the green leaves of the Black Seeded Simpson and Oak Leaf grow the best. Again, growing them in the shade will prevent them from bolting so quickly! Head lettuce like Iceberg needs sun to form, so leave those to the sunny locations. 
  4. Green Bunching Onions (aka scallions) perform beautifully on the north side of my house. Storage bulb types need lots of sun, but we eat scallions for their leaves, and they enjoy the cooler ground that shade provides them.
  5. Peas will not produce in mass, but if you want a nice stir-fry or fresh salad now and then, snap and sugar peas will fit that bill! Sugar Ann is by far my favorite: easy to grow and sweet as candy. Cascadia is also wonderful. Be sure to stake them! 
  6. Potatoes, believe it or not, will produce in shady conditions! It’s recommended to pull them as baby potatoes when the flowers form on the plant, but you’ll be surprised by the amount you get! The trick is to start these a little later in the ground when the soil warms, or plant them in a pot or ‘Grow Bags’. Use varieties that won’t rot in cooler conditions, like Yukon Gem, Red Chieftain, or Red Norland. 
  7. Tomatoes. Plant of course in the sunniest location of your shade garden or ‘chase the sun’ with tomatoes by growing them in pots. Make this easy for yourself by placing your pot on a wheeled tray (found at nurseries). Simply move the plant to as much sun as you can throughout the season, but most importantly, choose varieties that will tolerate shade. Determinate tomatoes will be short, stalky, and perfect for pots. Select varieties that tolerate cooler conditions. Names with ‘cold places’ will give you a hint like New York, Mountain Magic, Black Krim from Russia, and Sub-Arctic.      

TIPS:  Water deeply, but less often in shady conditions to prevent rot. Paint that near-by wall or fence white to reflect more light. Add an extra 10-15 days onto ripen times. You’ll be surprised with the results! 

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