17 Vegetables for a Shady Garden

Even Shade Gardens Can Grow Food and Cut That Grocery Bill

Savoy Cabbage (Brassica oleracea capitata var. Sabauda) 'Alcosa' F1, September
Cora Niele/ Photolibrary/ Getty Images

A shady yard doesn't have to dash your vegetable gardening dreams. There are actually a number of vegetables that will do quite well with just a few hours of sun each day. Though these partial-sun plants may not produce the bountiful harvests that they would in full sun, they will still do quite well. 

Vegetables That Can Tolerate Partial Sun

Most vegetables love the sun, and require a full day of good light to flourish.

However, if you have a spot in the yard that gets just 4-6 hours of sun each day, you can still have a great little veggie garden. Here are some plants that should thrive.

  • Asparagus: It will take two to three years before your asparagus starts to produce, but it's definitely worth the wait. Choose a good patch where it can run and grow, and you will be greeted with fresh stalks each spring. Asparagus plants can produce for up to 20 years!
  • Beans: Try beans that grow in a bush, rather than pole beans. These tend to do much better in the shade, and will grow quickly.
  • Beets: Root vegetables are perfect for those shady spots because the part we really care about is underground. Be sure to harvest the greens while waiting for the beets to mature. This is one plant that has very little waste.
  • Broccoli: In hot climates, planting broccoli in the shade prevents bolting (when the plant goes to seed). Be sure to harvest broccoli when it's about fist-size and before the buds open.
  • Brussels Sprouts: Though Brussels sprouts do best in full sun, they can be grown in as little as six hours of sunlight each day.
  • Cabbage: You will find that cabbage needs a bit more shade in hot climates, and that's great news for the shady yard. Cabbage takes up considerable space, and comes with more pest problems than most vegetables, so be sure to weigh those things before you decide to grow it.
  • Carrots: Give your carrots loose soil, so they can grow long and sweet. Carrot tops need a good amount of sun, so place these in the sunniest part of your shade garden.
  • Cauliflower: Cauliflower is related to cabbage, so the same applies here: hot weather equals more shade. They are not an easy plant to grow, so if your garden time and space is limited, you may want to skip this one.
  • Cucumbers: If you cannot give your cucumber plants at least six hours of sun in the garden, plant them in containers, so you can move them as the sun moves.
  • Peas: Peas prefer cool temperatures, so that shady spot in your garden is the perfect place for them, and may even extend their growing season.
  • Potatoes: While potatoes do enjoy the sun, you can get a decent crop in partial shade. Try to find a variety that's a bit more tolerant, and stick them in the sunniest part of your garden.
  • Radishes: Try to give your radishes at least six hours of sun. Radishes do very well in containers, so if your back deck or patio is the sunniest part of your yard, stick them there.
  • Rhubarb: A little afternoon shade is good for rhubarb, and will help to keep the soil from drying out. Wait a year or two to harvest, so the plants have time to get established. Then, you'll be all set to enjoy years of harvests.
  • Sweet Potatoes: This is another root vegetable that appreciates a break from the afternoon heat. There are many varieties to choose from, including some bushy varieties that are perfect for small gardens.
  • Turnips: Spring and fall are the best for turnips because they like cooler temperatures. You can even plan a harvest for winter when the rest of the garden's done. It'll help to break up the soil for the next growing season.

Vegetables for Mostly-Shady Gardens (Less than 4 hours)

For the really shady places in your yard, try one of these vegetables:

  • Salad Greens: Think spinach, Swiss chard, kale, mesclun, mustard greens, etc. These may not grow as full as they would in ​direct sun, but they will produce 'baby' leaves that are sweeter and more tender, and they won't be as prone to bolting.
  • Scallions: Scallions (also known as green onions) grow well just about anywhere you put them, so they're a good candidate for shade gardens. 

A Few Tips for Your Shady Veggie Garden

  • Vegetable plants will grow slower and produce smaller harvests when grown in the shade.
  • To maximize your harvest, leave extra space between plantings. This will make it easier for the sun to reach your plants and help prevent disease (from too-wet conditions).
  • Shade gardens do not require as much water as full-sun gardens, so be careful not to over-water.
  • If you want to grow vegetables that require full sun consider growing them in containers on a sunny porch or patio. Just be sure to stay on top of watering. Contained plants tend to dry out quickly. How to Grow Fruits and Vegetables in Hanging Baskets

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