One of the questions we’re often asked is ‘What can I grow in a shady part of my garden?’ Well, the answer is: a surprising amount! While shade presents a challenge, it certainly needn’t stop you from growing your own fruit and vegetables.
Maximize the Potential of Your Shady Garden
Even shady gardens will normally receive at least a couple of hours of sunshine a day. The secret to coping with shade is to make the most of these windows of direct sunlight.
In most climates seedlings need as much light as possible in order to start off strongly, so prioritize the sunniest parts of the garden for your seedlings. Grow them in pots and module trays within cold frames, or start seedlings off in a seedbed then transplant them to another part of your garden once they are bigger and better able to cope with lower light levels. If you're starting seeds early in the season, using full-spectrum grow-lights indoors can give them an early boost before you gradually introduce them to the outdoors.
Make the most of available light by reflecting it into shadier parts of the garden. Paint walls and fences white or add mirrors and other reflective surfaces such as shiny metal or foil to bounce light back into these darker areas.
It's important to remember that shadier corners will be slower to warm up in the spring, so use cold frames, cloches and horticultural fleece to warm up the soil earlier. They can also be used to extend the growing season later on in the fall.
Slugs and snails can be more of problem in shady areas, so set up plenty of beer traps and delay laying mulches until the weather has properly warmed up.
Vegetables to Grow in Shade
Leafy crops such as lettuce, arugula, chard and kale will be more than happy with just three to four hours of sunshine a day. For areas that receive morning sun then afternoon shade, try vegetables such as carrots, celery and bush beans.
Look for areas which receive sunlight above ground level. Areas that are shaded in the morning but sunny by afternoon are perfect for climbing vegetables like beans, climbing peas and outdoor cucumbers. Given the correct supports they can clamber upwards out of the shade and into the sunshine.
Allow plenty of space between plants to help maximize light penetration, which in turn will reduce the risk of disease.
Fruits to Grow in Shade
Currants, gooseberries and sour (or acid) cherries are the best fruits to grow in shade. Rather than allowing them to form bush shapes, train them against a wall as single-stemmed cordons or as fans. Training the stems this way ensures the branches are well spaced so that light can reach all parts of the plant, rather than just the edges. Walls and fences can also be painted white to reflect light back onto the leaves.
You can give your fruit a further boost by allowing a little more room than normal – an additional one to two feet (30 to 60cm) between plants will reduce any risk of further shading from neighboring plants. Soil in shady areas can be cooler and wetter, particularly if you have heavy soil, so before planting your fruit dig in plenty of well-rotted garden compost to help improve drainage.
Cane fruits such as raspberries and blackberries can also cope with some shade. Again, the secret lies in ensuring there is plenty of space between canes for light penetration and to avoid damp, stagnant air.
Choosing Shade-tolerant Plants
Our Garden Planner makes it very easy to choose crops suitable for shadier areas. Simply click on the Custom Filter button to the left of the plant selection bar, then select the ‘Partial Shade Tolerant’ option and click OK. The selection bar will then display only crops that are suitable for growing in these conditions.
If you have a shady garden then please let us know what grows well for you – just drop us a comment below.