You’re home with time on your hands. A quick “in & out” stop at the grocery store is a thing of the past. And the price of fresh vegetables — yowza!
You heard somebody talk about growing a vegetable garden. Hmmm…
“A victory garden in these challenging times might be a good idea.”
But then you look around and see your outdoor space is full of shade. Maybe from the garage, a fence, or nearby buildings. Perhaps a leafy canopy from an old established tree shelters your yard from the hot summer sun.
Can you plant vegetables in shade?
While shade is a great way to keep the summer heat under control, it’s not so good for growing a vegetable garden.
You need information on vegetables that grow in shade — like now!
AND, while you’re at it, you don’t want to wait forever to taste the fruits of your labor.
Well, you’ve come to the right spot.
This article will give you 7 shade-tolerant vegetables that mature in 30-60 days, a 4-step process for getting them planted, and gardening tips to help your plants that grow in complete shade flourish.
Why only 7? Because…let’s start simple.
These are vegetables most people like, the best vegetables that grow quickly in mostly shade or full shade gardens.
Ready? Let’s begin.
Figure out the light: what vegetables can grow without sunlight?
To be honest, no vegetable can grow without light. But, there are some shade-loving plants that do well with limited sunlight.
So, Step 1: Figure out how much light the garden area you’re considering receives each day.
Watch the way the sun hits your proposed vegetable garden and loosely time how many hours a day the sun beats down on it (if at all).
Remember, sunlight changes during the different seasons but this will give a general idea of what type of summer light your spot receives.
There are 3 (or 4) basic sunlight conditions of prime growing season (June through August):
Full sun gardens receive at least 6 hours a day of direct sunlight. Choose some of these full sun plants if that’s the type of summer light your vegetable garden receives.
Partial Sun/Partial Shade
Now, a fine line separates partial sun and partial shade but there is a subtle difference. For our purposes, we’re going to consider them the same. But for your gardening knowledge…
Partial sun gardens receive 3-6 hours of direct sunlight but are shaded the rest of the day.
Partial shade gardens (sometimes called dappled or light shade) also receive 3-6 hours of sunlight, but it’s either morning sun or filtered light (generally through a canopy of tree leaves).
Full shade gardens receive only 2-3 hours of sunlight each day.
Full shade conditions, such as areas found under heavy tree cover or those on the north side of a building or wall, make growing vegetables in shade challenging. But, with prior planning and the right vegetables, you can make it a go.
If your chosen site is next to light-colored pavement such as a driveway or sidewalk, it’s even better; the reflected light will improve your “light time.”
And, if you decide to grow flowers in a full-shade garden instead of vegetables, these perennial flowers and herbs grow well in shade
Claim your spot & plant your flag
Ok, onto Step 2: Choose your shaded vegetable garden site and get it ready.
If your area is shaded by trees, consider pruning away low tree branches and thinning out high branches to allow more sunlight to reach your vegetable garden.
Just like light-colored paving on nearby sidewalks and driveways reflects light, if you paint nearby walls or fences white, more light will bounce into your shade garden.
And, to help your shade-loving plants thrive in their low-light environment, make sure to prep the soil by laying down good quality soil mixed with compost.
Think green: choose your veggies
Now the fun part. The down & dirty. The nitty-gritty.
Step 3: Choose your veggies.
As you go through this list of fast-growing vegetables that grow in full or partial shade, make sure you pick ones you and/or your family like to eat. Because, let’s face it, if you don’t like kale, there’s no reason to plant kale — even though you can. (But, seriously, kale is delicious!)
Keep in mind…
Vegetables grown for their leaves (think leafy green salads, swiss chard, spinach) and roots (beets, carrots, leeks, potatoes, turnips) are the best choices for shade gardens. Salad and cooking greens thrive on 2-4 hours of sunlight per day.
In fact, keeping leafy green plants shaded helps them last longer; hot sun turns them bitter and encourages them to bolt.
Root vegetables also do well in shade gardens, although more sunlight helps their roots grow. When grown in low light conditions, the edible “green tops” become the superstars.
And while “fruiting” vegetables like tomatoes and beans usually do best in full sun gardens, bush tomatoes and bush bean varieties have been adapted to grow in partial-shade gardens that receive only 5-6 hours of sunlight per day.
So, without further ado, here are 7 shade-tolerant vegetables that grow fast (30-60 days) to provide you with one (or more) delicious summer harvest .
Fast-growing vegetables that grow in partial shade (3-6 hours sun/day)
Beets: 3-4 hours of sun each day will produce delicious leafy beet greens with small roots; these “baby beets” have a sweeter flavor than the mature roots. Give your beets 4-5 hours of daily sunlight and enjoy the bigger, mature roots raw, cooked, or juiced. The greens of Early Wonder Tall Top beets will be ready for your skillet in 35 days, while mature roots take 50-55 days.
Tomatoes: Several varieties of tomatoes have been adapted to cool regions or for quicker harvest, which makes them great for shade vegetable gardens. Bloody Butcher, Siberian, Sub-Arctic Plenty, Stupice, and the heirloom Early Wonder tomatoes produce delicious-tasting fruit in less than 60 days.
Radishes: This easy-to-grow vegetable matures in just 30 days. Cherry Belle radishes tolerate poor soil and is great for beginners. The mild-tasting French Breakfast radish is oblong (making it easier to cut) with just a hint of peppery heat.
Fast growing vegetables that grow in full shade (2-3 hours sunlight/day)
Asian Greens: From mild to spicy, Asian greens (bok choy, mizuna, mustard, tatsoi, komatsuna) can grow beautifully in a full-shade garden. Whether you “cut-and-come-again” or wait to harvest the whole head, you can relish these greens all summer long. The baby leaves of Rosy Pak Choi are ready for snipping in just three weeks, Purple Mizuna in 40 days, and you can harvest Joi Choi bok choy in 50 days.
Kale: Kale is a nutrient power-house. This shade-loving vegetable thrives in just a few hours of daily sunlight. You can pluck the baby leaves from Red Russian kale in 25 days, mature leaves in 50. Lacinto kale (which flourishes in hot, dry climates) and Burpee’s Prizm kale both mature in about 55-60 days.
Leaf Lettuce: Lettuce tolerates shade extremely well, especially the loose-leaf varieties. With Freckles Romaine, you’ll be snipping leaves for salads and burger toppings in 28 days (55 days for a mature head). Burpee’s SimplySalad City Garden mix and SimplySalad Summer Picnic mix will have you tossing salad in 30-40 days.
Spinach: Another nutrient power house, many types of spinach mature in 40 days or less. Red Kitten (28 days), Regiment (37 days) and Double Take (40-50 days) are all good full-shade vegetable choices. Heat-tolerant Crocodile matures in 45 days although you can snip and enjoy tender baby leaves earlier.
Vegetable plants or seeds?
Finally, Step 4: Buy your “starter” and plant it.
Whether you start your vegetable garden from seeds or already established plants, it’s time to buy — and get them in the ground. Buying seed allows you to plant more often throughout the growing season (enjoying multiple crops), while already started vegetable plants shorten the time you have to wait to harvest (and relish) your goodies.
Remember, for best results, use good quality soil mixed with nutritious compost in your vegetable garden.
Tips for Growing Vegetables in Shade
Now, as promised, here are a few tips to help your vegetables grow in the shade successfully:
- First, choose vegetables adapted to shade. There are plenty of varieties to pick from and half the fun of gardening is choosing which one (or ones) to try.
- If possible, start seedlings indoors and transfer your vegetable plant after the last frost. The plants will be stronger and you’ll be that much closer to harvesting a mature crop.
- Remember that vegetables grown in mostly shade take longer to reach maturity than vegetables in full sun gardens. Keep realistic expectations of vegetable size and yield.
- Experiment with a small shade garden and figure out the best vegetables for you. Write your results in a garden journal so you can modify your semi-shade garden next year.
why Grow Vegetables in Shade, again?
There are several advantages of growing vegetables in partial sun or shade.
- First, you can maximize the space available for growing a vegetable garden.
- Second, partially shaded garden areas extend your cool-season crops from spring to early summer. As I mentioned before, shade prevents your leafy greens from turning bitter and bolting as temperatures warm up.
- Third, you can extend your garden season by planting a fall garden early under the dappled light of a tree. The vegetable plants will be well-established by the time the tree loses its leaves, giving a bigger yield and better quality of fall produce.
- And finally, since water doesn’t evaporate as quickly in the shade, you won’t need to water as often. (Although, if your vegetable garden is shaded by a tree, they’ll be competing for water. And, leafy tree canopies may prevent light rains from watering your vegetables.) Keep an eye on the water needs of your vegetable garden; water when the soil feels dry and mulch well to minimize water loss.
Enjoy your bounty!
So there you have it.
7 shade-tolerant vegetables you can plant now and enjoy in 60 days or less.
Now, maximize the extra time you have. Pick your spot and prepare your garden bed.
Head on over to the local garden center for your favorite vegetable plants or seeds.
Before you know it, that “yowza” price of fresh veggies will blur into a distant memory.
To your health!