Working with shade is a part of our lives as gardeners, especially for those of us living in the city. We’re restricted to the amount of space we have and need to tap into creative ways to grow our own organic produce. Some backyards are blessed with huge trees and consistent dappled shade throughout the day. Some gardens sit close to the walls of our homes and our gardens eventually fall behind the shaded curtain of the rotating sun. But don’t let these circumstances turn you away from growing food right out your back door. With as little as two hours of direct sunlight and a little creativity, you can grow veggies in more places than you thought.
When working with shade remember this rule of thumb: vegetables grown for their roots and leaves are the ideal choice. You can forget fruiting vegetables such as eggplants and peppers, as they need eight or more hours of sun to yield fruit. Also expect that the plants will not mature as fast as a crop would growing in full sun, and that you’re likely to yield less of a harvest.
First things first, choose the right vegetables. These include arugula, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, celery, endive, garlic, kale, leaf lettuce, leaks, mustard greens, spinach, peas, potatoes, radishes and watercress. A huge assortment! Herbs also grow wonderfully in a partially shaded garden. I’m so thankful for my huge bur oak tree that shades one of my veggie beds. It allows me to grow the most robust parsley for months on end without the leaves burning from over exposure to the sun. Other herbs to consider are basil, catnip, chervil, chives, lemon balm, lovage, mint, rosemary and valerian.
- Grow crops in containers so you can move them into a sunny locale as the seasons change. It’s amazing what you can grow in containers. If your only ‘outdoor space’ is a balcony, you can still grow food on it! As long as you get at least two hours of sun each day, that’s enough to save a few bucks at the store on buying herbs and you get the satisfaction of growing your own. Store bought herbs pale in comparison to the fragrant aroma and nutrition of that which is homegrown.
- If gardening next to a structure such as a garage, paint it white or a light color to bounce more light into the garden.
- Prune away low tree branches hanging above and thin out higher branches to allow more light to come down.
- No room for a dedicated area to grow vegetables? Get creative by intermingling the odd herb in here and there between other plants. Pack it in!
Advantages to Growing in Partial or Dappled Shade
- Partial shade provides an extended growing season, especially for cool season crops
- Leafy vegetables grown in shade tend to be more succulent, minus the bitter taste
- Growing vegetables in partial shade also means that water is less likely to evaporate from the soil as quickly as it would in a patch that receives full sun
- Afternoon shade protects our crops from the wickedly hot sun
- Less light means the plants are slower to bolt
Ready to greet the shade and start growing food? Now is the time in Houston to get your seeds in the ground for a delicious fall harvest. We have the tools you need at Buchanan’s Native Plants to get you started. Visit us for more or stop by the nursery to find seeds or seedlings of the above mentioned herbs and vegetables that thrive in shade. Happy gardening!