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 a number of vegetables that will do quite well with a few hours of sun each day and some of them may surprise you.

Not only is growing your own vegetables fun, it is thrifty as well. Though these partial-sun plants may not produce the bountiful harvests they would in full sun, they will do quite well. Any little bit of food you can grow yourself will end up saving money at the grocery store.

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, then you can have a great little veggie garden. Here are a few plants that should thrive.

  • Asparagus: It will take a year or two before your asparagus is plentiful, but this one is worth the wait. Choose a good patch where it can run and grow and you will be greeted with fresh stalks every spring.
  • 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, you will want to plant broccoli in the shade to prevent bolting (going to seed). Be sure to harvest broccoli when it's about fist-size and before the buds open.
  • Brussels Sprouts: This is a tough plant that actually enjoys a little fall frost. Though Brussel sprouts are best in full sun, they do surprisingly well in the shade. Also, if you leave the plants in all winter, you may get a second harvest and they will produce seed pods that you can harvest and plant next year.
  • Cabbage: You will find that cabbage needs a bit more shade in hot climates and that is great news for the shady yard. They do come with more pest problems than most vegetables, but if you enjoy cabbage, it will be worth the fight.
  • Carrots: Give your carrots loose soil so they can grow long and sweet. The carrot tops do need a nice amount of sun, so place these in the sunnier spots of the shade. Also, don't try to harvest 'baby' carrots unless you planted a variety specific for it. Let you carrots mature fully and you'll be happy.
  • 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 you're up for a challenge, this may be a  good one to tackle.
  • Cucumbers: If you cannot give your cucumber plants at least six hours of sun in the garden, plant them in containers and move the pot to a sunny spot. They actually thrive in containers and you may have the best cucumber harvest yet.
  • Peas: Peas like cool temperatures and that shady spot in your garden is the perfect place. The shade will also help the plant last longer as pea plants tend to die out when the summer gets really hot.
  • 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 plant any potato in as much sun as you can.
  • Radishes: Make an attempt to give your radishes at least six hours every day and be sure to harvest before they get woody. Many spring radishes do very well in containers, so you can move them to a sunnier spot.
  • Rhubarb: Plant green rhubarb in your shade garden as the red and yellow varieties tend to lose their color in the shade. Green rhubarb tends to produce more as well, so you will be taking full advantage of what sun you do have available.
  • Sweet Potatoes: This is another root vegetable that appreciates a break from the afternoon heat and some shade typically does sweet potatoes well. There are many varieties to choose from, a few are even bushy and perfect for small gardens. Sweet potatoes are incredibly easy to grow and you might want to consider these over regular potatoes.
  • 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.

Discover which fruits grow well in the shade...

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

You will need to strategically place your vegetable garden, so save the best spots for the plants above. For the really shady places in your yard, try one of these or consider planting herbs that thrive in the shade as well.

  • 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.
  • Scallions: Scallions are onions that don't grow into a large bulb and they are one of the easiest plants to grow. They can do well in partial shade and you can even try to plant scallions you bought at the grocery store.

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 overwater.
  • If you want to grow vegetables that do require full sun and have a sun-filled patio or deck, consider growing them in containers

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