Gardening Edibles in the Shade

10 October 2013No Comment

So, you don’t have full-sun areas in your yard to grow edible plants? Have no fear, as it turns out there are plenty of veggies, herbs, and even fruits that do well in limited sunlight. Actually, there are quite a few benefits of some amounts of shade, so look on “the bright side” of your shady yard.

Fortunately, there are also a few tricks you can try to increase the amount of light for your food-friends. One would be to try a reflective mulch; metallic mulches work well, even simply laying out aluminum foil helps quite a bit. Another trick is placing the plants near a white wall or other background. Consider painting walls if they aren’t a light color already. This will increase light but also air temperature near the plants.

Some greens that like protection from the heat actually do better with some shade than full sun (read below), and many warmer-weather crops can have their productive life extended by a bit of shade. And don’t forget, shade in the heat provides a haven for the hard-working gardener.

Needing 4-5 hours minimum of sunlight: peas and beans (try dwarf and bush varieties for best yield), root vegetables (will have to wait longer for crop).

Needing 3-4 hours minumum of sunlight: arugula, chard, most culinary herbs, kale, lettuce, baby mustard greens, scallions, spinach (New Zealand variety works well).

Needing 2 hours minimum of sunlight: asian greens (bok choi/pac choi, komatsuma, tatsoi), mesclun greens.

Arctic beauty kiwi is apparently a fruit tree that will do well in some shade, but remember you need more than one for pollination.

Some areas really are just too shady to grow foods, such as north-facing patches that have sun blocked by buildings all day, or other areas that just don’t get at least 2 or 3 hours of full sun. Keep in mind that dappled shade from trees (sunlight can filter through and areas can still be quite bright) are much easier to deal with than fully shaded areas. Get to know your yard and how many hours of sun are received at different points in the year. Sunlight can vary a lot seasonally!

Also be careful for slugs and snails because you know how they love dark, damp areas. Take special care to check for these crawlers often and handpick them off your food! Using reflective mulch helps deter these pests, too.


Good luck out there, and remember that one of the best things you can do as a YardFarmer is to experiment, have fun, and be patient!